PAX East 2011: Brink Hands-On

In: Articles by Nick "Alsop Live" Dinicola

12 Mar 2011

One of my main goals at PAX East this year was to play Brink, the upcoming multiplayer shooter from Splash Damage, since my fellow GameHounders had made such a big deal out of it at PAX Prime last year.

After finally getting my hands on a PS3 version of the game, I can safely say it does not disappoint. Even if you’ve got high expectations, Brink will match them with ease.

Put simply, Brink is the game Medal of Honor wanted to be: A combination of the best aspects of Call of Duty and Battlefield: Bad Company that doesn’t feel like a clone of either game. It has a gluttony of guns and unlockables like Activision’s giant title, but takes things a step further by allowing you to customize your character as well.

Like DICE’s baby, you can choose from one of multiple classes, but for this demo I spent all my time shifting between the soldier and medic. One of Brink‘s most hyped features is the way it encourages teamwork without ever needing people to talk to each other, and nowhere is their work more evident than in these two core classes.

The soldier and medic classes can refill other players’ ammo and health, respectively, but unlike Battlefield you can’t just drop a health or ammo pack and run off. To give your support to another player you have to target that individual and hold down the square button. Depending on your class you’ll see a meter above every player indicating how much health or ammo they have left, so you always know whom to help. However, your support actions take time to recharge, so you can’t help everyone you see; you have to be frugal, waiting until someone is on his or her last bullet before refilling. All of this means you’ll always be on the front lines of any battle, even as a support class, which makes for a more frenetic experience.

At one point in the demo, my team and I were surrounded and I ran out of ammo. I was playing a medic, and rather than fleeing and turning Brink into a game of hide-and-seek, the XP reward for healing people was enough to keep me running around at point-blank range reviving my squadmates, who would then protect me. After a few minutes of dancing around enemies like this, someone refilled my ammo and I got back to killing. This same idea is applied to objectives, giving you more XP for doing a job no one else is doing. This is how Brink keeps people working together: Constant positive reinforcement through XP.

Brink’s second most hyped feature: It’s SMART movement system, which stands for Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain. What it means is that by holding R2 makes you run and automatically vault over objects as if you were in Mirror’s Edge. In practice it’s an ingenious way of innovating on something as simple as movement. Since you just hold a button, it’s very intuitive and will quickly make you see the environment differently. No longer are you limited to a horizontal plane, and stairs cease to be important. Even over the course of a single game, you’ll find yourself climbing boxes and jumping over railings without a second thought. And since it’s all automatic, you can stay focused on the gunplay even as you jump around like this was a platformer. If this were a platformer, this kind of hand-holding would make the game infuriatingly simple, but it works well in an FPS because it never takes your focus away from the shooting.

I went into Brink not knowing what to expect, but now I’m expecting great things.

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