The last time we saw Brink at E3 2009, Bethesda put a lot of emphasis on the Splash Damage shooter's extensive customization options and SMART parkour system. This time around we had the chance to try things out for ourselves during a hands-on session with the game at E3 2010, which also included a small online multiplayer mission.
To recap the story briefly, Brink takes place in the year 2035 in a floating city called The Ark following the Earth's near-total destruction. Two warring factions, the Security and the Resistance, are going head-to-head in a bid to outdo each other and take control of the city. You'll be able to choose between these two factions when playing through the campaign. Once you pick a faction, you'll also be required to pick a class of combat: engineer, soldier, operative, or medic. Each class comes with its own skills, abilities, and preconfigured weapon layout. You will be required to switch between classes during gameplay, depending on what each mission demands; this can be done at special command posts throughout the levels. You will earn experience points during combat and missions, which can be spent on upgrading and customizing characters, as well as unlocking new abilities and missions. Weapons are also fully customizable through the use of experience points: you can change the damage level, range, accuracy, and stability of your weapon as well as purchase new ammo and different stocks.
Our hands-on session on the PS3 took us through one of the game's introductory training maps, where we played as part of the Resistance. Our objective was to plant a charge inside a power station and destroy it. We found our objective by looking at the objective wheel, which we accessed by pressing up on the D pad. Because all the game's levels are objective-based, this wheel makes it easier to keep track of what your current objective is and what objectives you can switch to depending on how many missions you have unlocked. Interestingly, the levels can be played in both single-player and multiplayer modes, meaning that you'll always have the same objectives. We started the level as a soldier class, with a bigger, more powerful set of weapons than our teammates. There are 24 weapons in the game, but since you can customize them, you'll probably end up with a lot more. We led our team through a couple of firefights and into a small hangar. The controls were simple to master (and even then, there are enough onscreen instructions that you'll never be left guessing what to do): L1 to target, R1 to shoot. Pressing the triangle button on the controller will lead you to your weapon inventory, and you can pick from either the preset choices or your own customized models.
At this point in the demo we had to switch to the engineer class in order to achieve our immediate objective of hacking through the base system. We quickly located a command post and changed our character class to engineer. The next stage took us through a series of interconnecting pipes on a higher platform, where we finally got to try out the SMART control (smooth movement across random terrain). This sounds complicated, but it's very easy to perform in the game. All you have to do is hold down the sprint button (L2) while moving forward; this will allow your character to do those cool parkour moves, traversing across giant gaps and anything that requires more than a jump. Unfortunately, you don't get to see any of this happening because the camera is always in first-person mode.
Before jumping into the multiplayer map. we had a brief look at the character customization. In the space of a few minutes we turned our character from a Mohawk-sporting, tattoo-wearing, chain-sporting punk into an Upper East Side prep-school kid with an off-putting British accent (yes, you can change characters' accents). Suffice it to say that we had a lot of fun with this aspect.
Brink will offer eight-player co-op and online multiplayer. We jumped into a session with a few other journalists where our objective was to hack the system of another power plant and blow up the reactor core. Because you'll play the main campaign with a team, there aren't a great deal of gameplay changes in the multiplayer mode. We made it through to one checkpoint but got shot down by the enemy. At this point we could have either pressed down on L to call a medic or respawned from the beginning of the map. We chose to respawn and play through again as a medic, to see the differences between the classes. While playing as a medic, we were called to our fallen teammates several times, which made for a good break from all the combat. However, we constantly had to run back and forth from a health post to recharge our medic supply, leaving us more open to attack.
Our demo ended when our team achieved its main objective, taking us back to the start. We should have left it there, but we returned to the character customization menu one last time to try out a few new accents before we left.