At surface value, Brink might seem like it's just another FPS that's different purely by virtue of its quirky and esoteric art style, but in reality, it’s a lot more than just a shooter with a unique, stylised look. This is fast and frenetic arcade action cast firmly in the Splash Damage mould, taking what the studio has learnt from the Enemy Territory series on the PC and its other online multiplayer contributions, and striking out in its own direction.
That direction is a frantically paced squad-based, objective driven shooter in which you and your teammates coordinate during the campaign to complete missions in whichever order you choose. So far, so ordinary, you might scoff, but there's a lot more to Brink than setting charges and dispensing lead salads, although that is much of what we see during our look at the current build.
This is world exclusive new material we're being shown according to Splash Damage's CEO and Game Director Paul Wedgwood, who enthusiastically talks us through the demo. Using one of the several fully-customisable characters you can keep stored, we're taken straight into a Resistance mission entitled 'Day 2: Breakout', in which you have to rescue and escort a kidnapped pilot called Neschayev. This mission takes place at a Security tower during the game's overarching conflict in The Ark. Hacking safes and control panels is all part of a dynamic set of objectives that can be tackled in any order you see fit and an arrow at the top of the screen always indicates the best route to follow to achieve your goal.
Command posts can be used out in the field, enabling you to switch weapon load outs and classes on the fly via an intuitive radial menu. Far more useful than merely mixing up the game, switching classes gives you new abilities such as the Operative's disguises and homing beacons or the Engineer's mines and specialist equipment like hack tools or the Medic's life buff and self-resurrecting adrenaline shots. Combining classes will be the most fun, as you can use a disguise to slip by unnoticed, then hack open a locked safe and then perhaps heal your team, die and bring yourself back to life, all in one playthrough.
While all of this is undoubtedly cool, it's Brink's shooter mechanics that will make or break the game, and happily it all looks incredibly solid and wonderfully fluid. Extras like being able to peek out from cover or hold the game's SMART button to free-run through your environment by simply directing the analogue stick towards your destination initiating leaps, slides and vaults over obstacles with an absolute minimum of fuss, add to that innate fluidity. After all, Brink is an FPS, not a platform game, so Brink's SMART button cuts out any clumsy jumping around while simultaneously giving you the means to efficiently travel around a location at speed with ease.
The masses of customisation options run incredibly deep, even going so far as to have an impact upon your character and how he moves around or how much he can carry. Different body types such as heavy, medium and skinny have game-modifying effects, so a skinny character will have much greater agility and speed, but he's unable to wield the larger weaponry, whereas the heavily built characters can pack anything at the expense of their movement.
Once you've put together your very own stylised Resistance or Security aligned character before augmenting your weaponry with all manner of additional parts such as scopes, extended magazines, silencers and more, you're ready to hit the battlefield in style. The wealth of adjustable components is staggering, and the effects of your custom tinkering extend far beyond being simply cosmetic.
While the array of masks, shirts and other stylish articles of apparel serve to make your look unique, the weapon add-ons also grant varying attributes to your arsenal. Attach a huge drum clip to your rifle for instance, and you'll be able to fire off licks of bullets with reckless abandonment, whereas a gaffer-taped double clip allows for fast reloads although you'll have less ammo in the magazines. And of course, every one of Brink's weapons look suitable chunky and achingly cool, especially once you start adding muzzles, grips, scopes and clips.
The entire user interface is also very simple to use, and assigning the unlockable upgrades earned via the persistent character growth system - built around XP issued for kills and successfully completed tasks, which in turn gifts credits - looks to be a snap. These perks are mostly meaningful and worthwhile, such as the 'Sense of Perspective', which grants the ability to utilise a third-person view to bolster you combat intuition, or 'Battle Hardened' which gives you a handy health boost. Incidentally, there's a nice touch where you can tinker with your load outs during the game's pre-mission cut scenes.
Brink could well redefine the co-op shooter as we know it, and that's more than just brazen hyperbole. Every one of the game's maps will be unique according to Wedgwood, which will act as a mnemonic device for finding your way around, and Splash Damage's thinking-man's shooter approach looks as though it should pay off on the evidence of what we've seen of Brink so far. But that's all we can do for now, is speculate on how Brink looks. Until we get hands-on with the game, we won't know for sure, but the different style of gameplay on show looks (there's that word again) genuinely fresh and exciting. And that's no mean feat for an FPS.
Brink is tentatively pencilled in for an autumn 2010 release.