We’ve been following the development of Brink with a keen eye for a little while now, so when publisher Bethesda offered us the chance to get hands-on with the game, we jumped at the chance. Developed by the London-based Splash Damage studio, Brink is a fierce multiplayer shooter that paints a stylish - if bleak - picture of the not-so-distant future.
Unusually for a multiplayer game, the storyline is a big part of Brink. The human race has been pushed to the edge of desperation by a global environmental crisis that’s seen the melting of the polar ice caps lead to rapidly increasing sea levels worldwide. As a last resort, humanity builds a self-sufficient city designed to float across the rising oceans - the Ark. Stargate Atlantis fans are probably shivering with anticipation already.
Brink picks up a long while after this event, however, with the Ark in a serious state of disrepair and drifting aimlessly. Cut off from the mainland and with diminishing supplies, the security forces aboard the Ark are struggling to keep the refugee population in check. Eventually the decision is made to put the dissenters down for good in an attempt to regain control of the Ark and salvage the situation.
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This is where you join the fray - at the tipping point of the conflict between the security services and the armed populace. You’re immediately made to choose your loyalties too, with a stark, simple choice presented straight after the intro cutscene - Option 1: Save the Ark, Option 2: Escape the Ark.
Whichever side of the conflict you choose, you‘ll be confronted with a frankly bewildering array of character customisation options and choices, some of which affect the way you play the game and some of which are merely cosmetic. As usual, progressing through the game rewards you with XP with which you can unlock more options to differentiate yourself from the crowd in online battles.
One of the key ideas behind Brink is that it melds together the multiplayer and singleplayer modes seamlessly, enabling players to quickly switch from singleplayer, to co-op, to multiplayer, all with the same character.
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Players cam also carry their XP and items across between the three modes, so any upgrades you earn while playing online can be used in your singleplayer campaign and vice-versa. This also means that those who choose to concentrate on the singleplayer campaign won’t have to drop down to the lowest rung of the XP ladder when they start exploring the rest of the content.
XP and equipment can be earned through a number of offline challenges too, rather than just through killing opponents. These are similar in nature to the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Special Ops mini missions and, while unlikely to be anything more than a distraction, they still offer a good way for rookie players to get to grips with Brink.