While Brink does include offline challenges and singleplayer modes, the multiplayer mode is clearly where the real meat of the game lays. The experience feels slick and stylish, and has several neat touches that set Brink apart from the glut of other online FPS games clogging up shop shelves.
Movement, for example, is an important part of Brink, and players are able to perform a number of parkour-style moves as they navigate the colourful environment that the Ark provides. The obvious comparison here is Mirror's Edge, although the vaulting, jumping, sliding and leaping actions don’t quite feel as well polished as they did in EA’s 2009 release.
This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, however, as most of the rough edges of the parkour movement are more than made up for by the fact that you can shoot while you’re sliding and vaulting. It’s undeniably cool to be able to dash across an open courtyard before sliding under a broken fence, all the while unloading with your assault rifle, only to hear it click dry just as you scramble back behind cover.
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Splash Damage was also quick to draw our attention to the multiple objectives which are present in Brink's multiplayer mode - an evolved version of the system seen in Quake Wars. The way this works is that, while each team still has a single overriding objective which they need to achieve, there are also a number of other, optional objectives for each class - though there also some available to all players. Completing these will either hinder the enemy in some way, or make victory easier for your team.
These optional objectives take the form of small tasks, such as building machine gun nests or hacking through side doors to open up alternate routes to the main objective. It’s a refreshing approach to the increasingly predictable online FPS experience, and provides a chance for teams who are struggling to crack through a defence to attempt to break the deadlock.
There are some familiar elements to the online play, though, such as the four classes that are available to play - soldier, operative, medic and engineer. Each has its own range of special abilities and upgrades that, while being fairly predictable, are at least well thought out and balanced.
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One fly in the ointment, though, is that online matches are limited to 8v8, which is disappointing for PC players used to larger matches. This is largely remedied through the size of the maps, however, which are smaller and more intimate than those seen in most online shooters. In practice, we rarely noticed this restriction as the action is concentrated and frantic, meaning you’ve got little time to worry about anything other than where to find the next bit of cover.
Brink looks like it’s shaping up to be a slickly fun shooter that, to its credit, also shows an attempt to offer interesting and innovative developments to the tired FPS genre. It’s not problem-free, but we still found ourselves sorry to give up the controller when our time with the game came to an end.
Brink is being developed by Splash Damage and will be published by Bethesda on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on 20 May 2011.