Bethesda Shows Off Brink
Very rarely are we surprised at things that show up at E3. Sure, there are a few things, but for the most part, leaks have always killed most of the suspense of E3 for me. So imagine my surprise when I went to my Bethesda appointment and was brought into a room where I saw the word BRINK on the flat screen. I had not heard of Brink up until this moment, so it was nice to have a surprise thrown at me. So far it is a pretty interesting premise and setup, but has a while to deliver the goods.
Brink is being made by Splash Damage, the folks that started off creating a little title called Enemy Territory: Wolfenstein and then moved on to Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. Lead producer, Paul Wedgewood took a small roomful of journalists on a tour of the world and features of Brink.
The story of Brink takes place on Earth, sort of, as long as a huge floating city far above the ground is still considered Earth. The floating city is called the Ark, and it is a new place for humanity to start over and learn from the mistakes that destroyed the planet below. It is suppose to be a peaceful and serene utopia, but with most utopian dreams, some feel that the conformity of things is too rigid for their liking. This is where your character comes into play.
The first key utility in the game that comes into play is the SMART system. The SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) system is programmed to analyze the terrain around you on the fly and allow your character to interact with it with the push of a button. To give an example of how it works, think of a recent game where a small pile of rocks impedes your progress and an invisible wall does not allow you to go past it. Not in Brink. Almost any direction can be used as a path to get somewhere. Obviously there are borders to an area that you are in, but you can go anywhere inside of that level if you can find a way to use it. In motion it reminds me of Mirror’s Edge, and how you would use the terrain to get to other sections of the level.
Yes, in Brink you start off as an employee of the security forces that protect the ark and its citizens, and you are going up against and as yet named resistance group that feels the government is not being totally up front with its decisions and actions. It is a bit generic, but as Paul Wedgewood mentioned, it is still pre-alpha for the title, so titles and factions could change.
We then got to see one of the first levels that are under development, which takes place in Container City. Container city was a storage facility for when they were building The Ark. All the materials that were needed for construction were put here. After it was built, and refugees from Earth wanted to come to The Ark, they turned Container City into a refugee camp. It is here where we are introduced to the meshing of single player and multiplayer, classes and mission structure. It sounds like I am grouping a bunch of stuff together, but really; Brink is designed to change between all these elements on the fly.
Our character had been given a mission to infiltrate the refugee camp and find a reported dirty bomb that was going to be used against The Ark. We were in a group of six security members that were each being controlled by members of the Bethesda team back along with Paul Wedgewood. Now you could be playing this mission in single player, but other players can drop into and out of the game at will. That does not sound all that special until he brought up the command screen that showed all the different team elements that you can change to on the fly. We started off as a general soldier trying to break through a bulkhead door that was the entrance to the camp. We were not having a lot of success with that, so on the fly, we switched to a scout type class that allowed our character to use the SMART system to go up and around the bulkhead, using stealth to our advantage. When you switch class types like this, your mission objectives change, and in this case we got a new mission arrow that told us to go around and hit the enemy from behind. These class switches can be done whether you are in single player or co-op. It felt a little like Team Fortress 2, except you did not have to die to get a chance to switch classes. Just bring up the command window and switch.
After working our way around and getting the bulkhead open, we then switched to a heavy weapons class, which gave us a whole new set of mission types. The mission types also show off the games upgrade system, which is based on prestige points. Each sub mission for each type will have an amount of prestige points assigned to it. You can see what each mission will gain you. The more difficult a mission, the more points you will get. It allows for players to choose how difficult they want to make the game. Again, in co-op, each person can work to a set of objectives, allowing a sense of teamwork, by choosing the mission types they want to play through.
Nearing the end of the mission, we switched to an engineering class, and selected a mission to gain access to a computer to get some information on where our dirty bomb container was in. When we found the container and we waited for our automated drone to get the thing opened, Paul mentioned that at this point, Brink was in pre-alpha stage of development. He also stated that the game was going to come to PC, which is their main platform for development up to this point, but would also be coming to PS3 and 360 as well. Splash Damage had been looking at expanding development to all mainstream gaming devices, and felt that Brink was the perfect game to do that. He also stated that there was no true lead platform, as they wanted to shoot for platform parity, and not saying that the best experience would be on “XYZ” platform.
Our demo ended with us entering the dirty bomb container only to be presented with a shot of our team from the perspective of the bomb, but it looked like a green glow was emitting from the bomb. Also, it did not seem like a bomb, but something the team was not expecting, as our squad leader left us with the comment, “Lower your weapons, and safety’s on. Control, what did you say we were looking for?”
After leaving the presentation for Brink, I have to say that I was very intrigued with the concepts that Splash Damage was shooting for with this title. The ability to change classes and mission types on the fly was pretty cool, and the movement around the terrain was a nice change from the handheld guiding that you normally get in a standard FPS like a Gears of War or a Halo. I think that the biggest issue right now for Splash Damage is being able to pull this off consistently throughout an entire game. They have taken on an awful lot of different game mechanics and meshing them together can be problematic. Also, if the focus becomes to co-op oriented, you might find it hard to play with the style you want if everyone on your team is trying to do the same thing as well. But with a Spring 2010 release date, Splash Damage has a lot of time to hammer out the details and play balancing to make the gameplay gel together nicely. Thanks to Paul, Alistair, and Tracy for getting Aeropause into the Brink presentation, and we look for more looks at this title over the next several months of development.Tags: bethesda, brink, co-op, container city, fps, multiplatform, multiplayer, preview, single player, the ark