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Posted on Mar 18, 2011 in Electronic Games

Brink – PC Game Preview

By James Pikover

Brink.  PC Game Preview.  Publisher: Bethesda Softworks.  Developer: Splash Damage. 

Most FPS games rely on players to make multiplayer gaming unique. Some have great environments, others offer interesting selections and placements of weapons, but ultimately each and every one requires action from the players to really take off. That means if players just want to shoot, the game turns into a shooting match. Even objective-based games can turn into non-stop skirmishes with no clear winner in seconds. That’s what Brink hopes to change.

Brink is a task-based cooperative FPS, which requires players to work together at every turn. There are no deathmatch games, no killstreak rewards, no individual awards whatsoever. At the end of the game, the only points totaled are based on what the team scored, not individual kill/death ratios. If you don’t play as a team, you will lose. Single-player is only for when the Internet is down.

This unique style of forced cooperative gameplay is made exciting by two main themes: constant task completion and mass customization. The first I played required delivering a robot from one end of the map to the other, while working through the opposition’s defenses. The second involved breaking a POW out of his cell and escorting him to safety.

Brink is the farthest thing from a dumb shooter I’ve ever seen, requiring the best players to not only play smart, but think tactically in real time, concurrently with up to seven friends.

Both of these missions are not as straight-forward as they sound. They can be – players can just have a firefight and the better team will win, or more likely it will be a draw at the end – but that’s not the point of Brink. Splash Damage built tools to get away from the constant firefight, giving players the opportunity to take on secondary missions through a simple on-screen terminal with the push of the button. Secondary missions like opening up or closing off sections of the map, unlocking terminals to change classes and add new spawn points, or to speed up the main objective. This task-based gameplay is the reason why kills and deaths aren’t even listed when the game ends. To Splash Damage, it doesn’t matter. Accomplishing the objective is all that counts.

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That said, there is still room for lone wolves in Brink. Going around running-and-gunning the enemy has its uses. Stronger players can achieve smaller secondary objectives singlehandedly, and depending on their class – soldier, engineer, medic, or operative – one can even hold key positions singlehandedly, long enough for reinforcements to arrive.
Accomplishing an object singlehandedly is possible because if Brink’s open-ended class customization design. Sure, character traits like facial features, tattoos, and gun modifications add a sense of propriety and individuality, but weapons selection helps determine gameplay. Classes aren’t fixed, and computer terminals on each level allow players to switch between classes and change weapons at any time in-game. The weapons you play with will affect the rest of your team, but thankfully those can also be changed at a terminal. Brink is all about achieving objectives, without obstruction.

Customization goes deeper than that, including a large selection of aesthetic-only gun add-ons, but what’s more intriguing is how class selection has to do with task completion. Certain side-missions require a particular class to achieve an objective, for instancerepairing a robot requires an engineer, or rescuing a POW requires a medic to resuscitate him. Communication is paramount. No team will last long if everyone goes their separate way.

Team play, customization, and task completion all feed into each other. Class selection determines what secondary missions are available to complete thus speeding up the primary mission. Weapons selected prior to the game will determine how players will engage in combat and how they will work with teammates. And what classes teammates play as and what weapons they use will influence your decisions too. Great teams will revolve around working together and not being a headshot veteran, much like the real world. Brink is the anti-hero FPS. No man is an island.

This system of play ensures both teams run in waves. At the end of each battle one side is almost always decimated. It’s a constant battle to reorganize, rearm, create new defenses and new perimeters, reengage, stall, flank and outflank, and advance. Games last anywhere from 10-30 minutes, but can presumably last much longer. How structured teams are and how well each is able to complete secondary missions and maintain position will most influence the direction of each match, and ultimately the strength of the teams.

From what I’ve seen thus far, Brink is one of the most demanding games set to release this year. It is so infused with a cooperative play style that nothing gets in the way of team play. Brink is the farthest thing from a dumb shooter I’ve ever seen, requiring the best players to not only play smart, but think tactically in real time, concurrently with up to seven friends. Every game could do it – with the right players – but none require or exploit that sort of think-on-your-feet gameplay Brink promises to provide.

Brink will release on May 17th. Brink will be published by Bethesda Softworks and is being developed by Splash Damage.

About the Author

James Pikover is a veteran videogame and technology critic, covering high-profile games and hardware from coast to coast. He’s managed to continue being a PC gamer—against all odds—in the face of a monstrous console generation. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

 

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