Brink Hands-on Preview

Brink has come a long way since I last saw it at QuakeCon 2009. Sadly, I missed it on E3 2010, but I finally got a chance to jump into a session with three other human players and friendly bots against a gang of AI opponents on Container City, the map that can be seen in this (old) trailer below:

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I was playing on the PC version, but using an Xbox 360 controller. The developers wanted to show off how well they've mapped the game's complex systems to the controller and I'm happy to report they were successful. Many actions are context sensitive based upon what the player is looking at instead of relying on different buttons for each possible action. This bodes well for the console version, but the PC version will most certainly still support mouse and keyboard control.

After E3 2010, I expressed concerns about Brink's objective system, though I had not played it at that point. I was worried that it would lead to teams not communicating since objectives would be handled by the game itself. Now, having played the game, it was immediately clear to me that those concerns were unfounded. The game's dynamic objective system works extremely well. It will direct players that may not be communicating with each other to work closely toward the objectives at hand, but organized groups of players and clans will benefit greatly from further coordination and ability use.

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Most of all, the gunplay feels solid and satisfying with different weapon types presenting different uses, strengths, and weaknesses. While the game balance is still being tweaked, nothing felt too overpowered or underpowered. Also, since health and movement are determined by the player's size and not the class chosen, different combinations present different gameplay experiences--a skinny medic will be better suited for healing on the frontlines, while a heavy medic might want to hang back and hand out boosts.

Splash Damage is doing something interesting with weapon unlocks, tying them to challenges designed to teach the game's mechanics and systems. The early levels of the challenges are easy, allowing players to jump in, learn some things, and come away with a shiny new gun. The later levels are challenging and will be tied to leaderboards and further unlocks. It's reminiscent of StarCraft II's challenge system for teaching multiplayer mechanics. Splash Damage CEO Paul Wedgwood admits that it is basically "bribing" players with weapon unlocks, but it will help teach players the game.

Brink is expected to release in the first quarter of 2011 for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.