Over the course of the last few days, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a ton of producers, play a zillion games, and witness a million more previews. After a while, one begins to notice certain attitudes from the developers that actually provide a ton of information about their products without much being said.
Games you know that will sell well to the public, but have poor demonstrations, naturally lessen the enthusiasm. On the other hand, games you may not know anything about suddenly pop-up on the public’s Christmas list due to their solid presentations. And I’ll be the first to admit, Senior Producer Greg Hounsom sold me on the game.
While it’s impossible for me to know how Brink will do once it’s released, it is a game that instantly went from invisible to a massive fleet on my radar.
Because of global warming, a fraction of the population is forced into a utopian society called The Ark. Through the course of time, The Ark has become overpopulated and is sharply divided between the “Have and Have-nots.” Thus the world of Brink is divided into two factions: Security and Resistance.
Factions aside, the game is divided up into four classes: soldier, medic, engineer, and operative. Each of the classes have distinct abilities that are used to accomplish specific objectives. For example, the soldier can set explosives to knock down walls or obstacles that will open up access to computers or broken valves for either the operative to hack or the engineer to repair.
When a player completes his objectives, he’s granted experience points that are used to purchase a variety of items. The use of the experience points, the purchasing power of them and the layout of the menus is what really grabbed my attention in the demo.
When a player wants to upgrade a weapon, he’s brought to a menu that shows the gun and all the different points on it that can be altered. The standard machine gun, for example, has at least five different points on it that can be changed: e.g. barrels that add more damage and precision, a variety of grips that increase stability, et al. In honesty, I was extremely impressed by how well the menus are laid out and how easy they are to navigate.
As well, players can purchase a number of different moves that add to their abilities and the functions of their weapons. While appearances are strictly aesthetic, there is a variety of clothes and styles that give the player the opportunity to personalize their character.
The hallmark of the game is the SMART System. Similar to Mirror’s Edge, players have the ability to quickly climb up and jump over obstacles that would normally require a jump + crouch combination. Depending on the character’s build determines how agile he is. Obviously, big guys have difficulty moving as quickly as smaller guys, but are able to take more damage.
As I played through the demo, I found that the mechanic was very subtle, as if it was as natural as running and jumping, and due to level design, it was extremely useful. On the other hand, being the focal point of the game’s marketing, it didn’t stand out enough. In fact, I was more impressed with the customization (mentioned earlier) than I was with the SMART system.
Currently, matches are comprised of a maximum of 16 players, and aside from using experience points to purchase new items, they’re also used in a leveling system. Whether you kill an enemy or complete an objective, experience is continually awarded. Generally, leveling based shooters tend to put a sour taste in my mouth, but Hounsom assured me that players will be paired according to level and that it’s the devs priority to keep games balanced. Likewise, those who enjoy a challenge will be able to join games above their standing; let’s just hope it’s not the other way around.
Brink will be released sometime in the Spring of 2011, and I’m dying for a beta release to keep me fulfilled. Until then, everyone will just have to suffer.