In this profession, itís almost second nature to play an upcoming game only to draw comparisons to competing products that have helped inspire it.
At times this can be something of a curse, with the all-too tantalising urge to utter the knee-jerk reactionary word, Ďderivative.í And for anyone playing Brink
, that competing product is one that has a lot of love in this industry - Valveís Team Fortress 2
Dismiss this title at your own risk, however, because Brink
is shaping up to be a hugely enjoyable multiplayer experience. There are obvious inspirations in Splash Damageís offering - from the different classes to the alternative missions, right down to the almost light-hearted character design style. But its approach is slicker, faster-paced and somewhat more refined in terms of presentation.
The action takes place on a futuristic city in ruins known as the Ark. The story goes that the artificial island was a result of great human accomplishment and a beacon of how far society had come technologically. Unfortunately for the rest of the worldís populace, the ocean rose and swallowed up the rest of the planet.
With a population of 5,000 turning into 50,000 thanks to an unprecedented number of refugees, the fear of a lack of resources forced the Ark to split into two factions - the Security forces that saw that the only way to save the city was to maintain order, and the Resistance of people who just want to live, man.
I was able to play a couple of games as both a member of the Security and Resistance and they each have their own visual style. The bulletproof vest-wearing Security forces are kitted out in lovely blue threads, packed to the nines with padded protection and ammo clip holsters. The Resistance are decked out in rather scutty guerilla gear, tattoos and grim headgear. But no two characters should look the same, which is why Brink
comes with a rather extensive set of customisation features.
Everything from your loadout to your perks can be tweaked to your heartís desire, as well as your characterís avatar. You unlock new styles, clothes and ability upgrades as you progress through the game, spending experience points gained from engaging in plenty of teamwork. And fixing up your weapons makes for an interesting balancing act - as you apply equipment such as silencers and duct-taped ammo clips, the statistics of that gunís effectiveness in the heat of battle rise and fall accordingly.
In terms of your characterís appearance though, only one modification has an actual impact on your gameplay - thatís the body type. Choosing a light, medium or heavy weighted build will dramatically alter your speed, jump height, access to certain weapons and health. Agility is also affected - in the game world, you can run towards high ledges to automatically jump up towards them, and slide around corners to avoid a hail of bullets. If youíre a beefcake, you wonít be able to do that so much - but you can pack some serious heat to make up for it.
When the time comes to jump into the action, you wonít be looking for online multiplayer lobbies. Splash Damage doesnít seem to believe in them, so instead Brink
provides a simple list of friends on your list who are currently online - by selecting their name you automatically jump into the same game as them. From there, itís a race against time for the Security and Resistance forces to overpower one another.
The second you spawn, youíll be standing in front of a desktop computer known as the Command Post. Accessing it will allow you to change your character class from a range of different types - Soldier, Engineer, Medic and Operative - as well as define your current objective. Primary objectives are highlighted in yellow, but you can select a secondary blue objective to busy yourself with instead to indirectly offer team support.
In the Container City map, the Securityís main goal was to escort a tank into the Resistanceís base and retrieve some vital documents. But these timed objectives are set for a long time - roughly eight minutes - on account of the fact that there will be lots of deadlocks and shootouts along the way. A secondary objective would be to create sentry points throughout the map so the enemy canít flank the team, or to take another Command Post at a certain location to create a new spawn point for your team.
For everything that you do, youíll earn experience points, be that assisting the main mission or by simply helping your teammates out - each character class has a proficiency in a particular skill that can aid another. So the Medic can chuck revival kits to fallen friendlies, the soldier is able to lob extra ammo to others, the engineer can buff weapons in a pinch and the operative can interrogate enemies for intelligence.
In the new map I played called Security Tower, this level of teamwork awareness was massively important as a member of the Resistance. To break into a high-security building and hack into a safe for sensitive intel to take back to base was no easy task when the enemy spawn points were frequent and always incredibly close by. Engineers could place sentry guns to break off the almost infinite wave of Security personnel while Operatives were able to disguise as the opposing team to better survive the safe-hacking process.
Both games ended in our favour, and that was thanks to the ease of working as a unit. In too many first-person shooter games, every man has an agenda and you only really get rewarded for your own kills and heroics. In Brink
, you donít have to be the ultra-aggressive, burly trigger-finger to benefit.
Sometimes, itís the little things like exploring maps for enemy intel and laying traps for the opposition that can bring the most satisfaction, and for as equal a reward. And that gratification is something that will make Brink
a highly desirably title when it launches on the 20th May.