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Brink Hands-on [E3 2010]

Ever since Bethesda first showed off the concept of Brink I’ve been on-board in a big way. The game comes across at first glance as a merger of games like Mirror’s Edge, Borderlands, and Team Fortress with the customization of a Mass Effect. Everything shown in the trailers looked too good to be true, but I help out with hope against hope that the game would merge all these amazing concepts into one complete package that I would marry and grow old with.

The news is both good and bad. The alliance between those game types is there, the locomotion of Mirror’s Edge is fluid and there were no real snags other than trying to run up a wall without a ledge to grasp onto at the top… The level progression and instanced based gameplay is pretty sweet, and the mission wheel makes it easy to know what “quests” are available to you and where they can be found. The classes are unique and interesting, while doing fantastic job of varying of the game.

Brink E3 Screen 1

On the E3 show-floor there was about 45 minutes of Brink to be had. That included a tutorial level where you run a training course to get used to the features of the game, a level that takes place part way through the “story” of the game, as well as the option to play with the customization features that the game offers. So let’s go ahead and break those down in more detail as they came up.

The game’s tutorial level takes place in what would appear to be the belly of a ship, but is more than likely some containment unit or warehouse that’s been abandoned. It’s a large square room with a series of boxes placed through out to act as obstacles on your way towards a series of objectives designed to get you used to the mechanics of the game; most importantly switching between classes. Basically you’re tasked with a series of tasks you need to complete like: hacking a computer, planting a bomb, and guarding and objective. Pressing up on your d-pad will give you your “quest selector,” and opportunity to pick which job you want to do. After you’ve selected the job you want to do next the camera spins you around in the direction of that goal, and then provides you with a floating blue arrow indicator.

Brink E3 Screen 2

Different jobs will require different classes to complete them. As much as hot-swapping your classes to get everything done one-man-army style is encouraged, it’s not required. In multiplayer mode you can just have another player jump into the required role if it’s not your cup of tea. In the single-player mode you can just keep playing your class and the AI will eventually complete the class-specific objective on their own.

Along with objects, class-switching, and navigation the tutorial level showcases a little bit of what I was most excited for with the announcement of Brink: SMART or Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain. It’s the feature of the game where-in by holding down the sprint button your character will automatically leap over objects in your path parkour style, or under depending if you’re looking up or down. The style is amazing; it gives you that locomotion feeling of Mirror’s Edge, and then lets you work out how to apply it into combat situations. I found myself using it to get up to second levels quickly, or get the drop on people by getting around obstacles faster than the AI could keep up with. It’s absolutely the best part of this game for me so far, and that’s something considering how much I enjoyed everything else about the demo.

After warming up on the tutorial level the demo drops you into the campaign mode of the game. The mission that was playable at E3 featured a team of about 6 people breaking into a complex in order to do some damage. The skills learned in the tutorial were quickly put to good use as the campaign level involved everything from the tutorial used in a practical situation while trying to defend yourself from endless hordes of police officer types. Honestly I think anyone that enjoyed Borderlands or Team Fortress will probably get a kick out of the game. The archetypes are fun and unique, as someone that’s a fan of the ninja lifestyle I immediately fell for the fast ninja-ish recon type. Hacking the computer was my first task, and it worked out well for my class. When it game to blowing up the second objective however, I wasn’t willing to switch classes so I just made sure to keep the room clear while my AI squadron went to work completing my objectives for me.

Brink E3 Screen 3

Playing through the game will reward you with points that can be spent on upgrades and customizing your character and weapons. That happens to segue perfectly into the final leg on this video-game tri-pod: customization. There’s a lot of it. Like, a whole lot of it. When you pick your character you’ll be shown a few points that you can change. There are options to change your head gear, skin tone, jacket, shoes, pants. Which seems pretty good to start, but when you select one of those options you find they are just the main category that breaks down over and over again. Select the head and it breaks down into glasses, hair, hats, facial hair, etc. Then each of those has a full color wheel with every shade that you could imagine as a possibility. This means there are literally millions of combinations to ensure that your character is completely unique. Not to mention that as you progress through the game you’ll earn points to unlock new clothing, hair, and accessories to really make yourself stand out from the crowd.

Oh, and the guns? Completely customizable as well. You can select barrels, grips, clips, and sights, each with unique benefits and drawbacks. Once again as you progress your points can be spent here: upgrading your gun parts to make your weapon do exactly what you want it to.

Brink E3 Screen 4

Brink is a series of great ideas put together in an interesting and unique way. In full disclosure the game didn’t play as solid as I would have hoped; something about the gunplay feels a little off. I assume everything will get tighter coming to the release date, and if they can lock down the feeling of the game we’ll have ourselves a very strong GOTY contender from Bethesda.