The 2010 QuakeCon event is in full swing in muggy Dallas, Texas, and aside from offering numerous exciting tournaments to convention-goers, the event is also a place where members of the press can play a demonstration level of Brink, the next team-based shooter from Enemy Territory developer Splash Damage. While we covered the game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo and saw and played through a comparable experience, this time around, we've observed a fistful of new details that we'll cover here.
As we've mentioned in our previous coverage, the game offers a huge amount of character customization. Brink's characters are highly stylized and have cartoonlike builds reminiscent of the characters of Team Fortress 2. However, the game isn't flat-shaded and instead uses realistic-looking textures to adorn its exaggerated-looking characters. Each part of your character's body has numerous options, from face types that show varying ages and levels of scarring, to face decals that include fearsome tribal tattoos and masks, to a huge variety of body gear, including traditional police riot helmets, gas masks, body armor, biker-style leather jackets, and much, much more.
Because each of Brink's characters has several customizable points (face, face decals, hair, upper-body clothing, lower-body clothing, body tattoos, and so on), and because each individual customizable point has numerous options, it seems like it'll be pretty easy to create a distinctive-looking character to play as, particularly since there are also two entirely different apparel sets for the game's two factions of Security and Resistance. (While you must choose a side to play as in a match in Brink, your character isn't permanently committed to either side and may play a different side in another match.)
In addition to customizing your character's appearance, Brink lets you customize your character's primary weapon. The game has a wide array of different types of armament with varying statistics (including accuracy, damage, rate of fire, and ammo capacity), and while you can customize your character simply by choosing a specific primary weapon (for instance, submachine guns, as you might expect, have poor damage ratings but high accuracy), you can also further customize each weapon in your arsenal.
Weapons, like characters, have numerous customization points and can be outfitted with enhanced ammo cartridges, scopes, grenade launchers, stocks, and silencers, among other things, to further specialize your character's combat role the way you want it. In any case, most of Brink's weapons seem to be automatic or semiautomatic, and, like with such weapons in the real world, they seem most accurate when fired in short, targeted bursts (and seem far less useful when sprayed blindly). While we could just as easily have gone for a big, loud assault rifle with a higher damage rating, we instead opted for more of a finesse-based weapon, choosing the submachine gun with the highest accuracy and outfitting it with an extra ammo cartridge, scope, and silencer.
In addition to customizing your weapon, Brink will let you customize your persistent character by choosing various powerful abilities that grant additional bonuses and abilities in combat. These include "battle hardened," a handy skill that increases your maximum health; "combat intuition," a very useful skill that gives you a bright yellow onscreen cue if an enemy has you in his sights; and pages and pages of other skills that provide generally useful advantages, such as the ability to resurrect yourself should you fall in battle and abilities specific to your "archetype."
Brink has four archetypes, or character classes you'll recognize if you've played Splash Damage's other games: the soldier, the engineer, the medic, and the operative (essentially, the spy). As you might expect, they have roles comparable to similar characters in the Enemy Territory games. Brink uses context-sensitive commands to do pretty much everything in-game, including team-based support roles (all archetypes except the operative have some sort of direct team support ability, or "buff"). Using these buffs is as simple as getting your squaddies in your sights, then pressing and holding the X button (or square button on your PS3) until the action is complete. The game requires you to commit to most context-sensitive actions by pressing and holding the appropriate button (rather than simply tapping it once), but the current version of the game handily "attaches" you to whichever teammates you happen to be buffing in case they move--in which case, your character will automatically move along with them until you've completed your buffing.
Soldiers, for instance, are good frontline fighters who can buff teammates by supplying them with extra ammo. Similarly, medics can boost a teammate's health (or their own health) by using a health syringe or can revive fallen comrades by tossing them a resurrection syringe. Engineers can actually buff the strength of a teammate's weapon. However, each archetype has other abilities that can also be extremely useful. Soldiers, for instance, can plant explosive charges that blow open locked barriers. Operatives can hack in-game terminals to accomplish map-specific goals and can also disguise themselves as members of the opposing team using an enemy's fresh corpse, just like the Enemy Territory spy. Engineers have a huge bag of tricks, including repairing damaged tech on the map, disabling a soldier's demo charges, and deploying stationary antipersonnel turrets. And once you get some matches and some experience points under your belt, Brink's real variety will come into play, since you can use your experience to purchase archetype-specific abilities, such as enhanced healing skills or toxic bioweapons for medics, several alternate grenade types for soldiers, and many more.
And as it turns out, you can get experience points for just about anything and are not limited simply to killing off enemy troops. Brink has a context-sensitive command menu (which you can activate in the console versions of the game by pressing "up" on the D pad), which will give you a list of different short-term quest-like goals. You simply select the one you want to do, and a handy indicator arrow will appear at the top of the screen and direct you to the fallen comrade you need to revive, or the mechanized robot you need to repair.
Without further ado (to be fair, that was a lot of ado,), we jumped into a multiplayer session to try the game for ourselves. Brink will let you play team-based multiplayer games with other players and will also sub in as many computer-controlled teammates and enemies as needed to fill out the map. Our session took place on a level called Dirty Bomb, which tasks the Security forces to escort a track-wheeled repair robot across the map until it can cut through a secured structure to reveal a captured bioweapon, which the Security forces must then escort to a helicopter drop zone. The Resistance, of course, must defend the bioweapon by shutting down the robot and stopping the Security forces' progress.
As a member of the Resistance who just happened to spawn in as a medic, we figured we'd change archetype pretty soon to be an engineer so that we could lay down as many turrets as possible. Instead, we found ourselves sticking with the medic archetype because of how easy it seemed to be to do well with the profession, providing offline health boosts to our teammates out of combat and tossing reviving syringes to our fallen comrades under fire. This map had plenty of variety in terms of differing elevations and lots and lots of partial cover. With the combat intuition ability and a wary eye, we were able to zero in on exactly where fire was coming from pretty quickly, and the few times we did die were generally a result of foolishly taking on too many enemies at once or risking a revival of a fallen comrade while still under fire (which, if done successfully, nets you a huge "heroic" medic bonus).
Brink is the result of Splash Damage's years of experience making team-based shooters that strongly reward players for working together (rather than acting like a bunch of lone-wolfing jackasses), and it really shows. Brink not only offers intriguing variety and depth, but also highly evolved gameplay that seems to naturally nudge people toward being good team players. The game will be released early next year.