RPS At E3: Brink Revealed

By John Walker on June 3rd, 2009 at 7:00 am.

After a mysterious announcement of Brink last week, we tracked down Splash Damage at E3 to see the game running.

With over a billion matches played over six years in Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, London-based developers Splash Damage feel pretty cocksure of their multiplayer prowess. What makes Brink so interesting is that rather than simply repeating a tried and tested formula, once again they’re attempting something new. Brink is… well, this will take some explaining.

It’s certainly not a straightforward multiplayer shooter. But it can be played as a multiplayer shooter. Nor is it a straightforward co-op. But you can team up with up to eight other players. Nor is it a single player game. But you can play through the entire story-led solo campaign with AI buddies.

Some time in the future we humans struck upon the idea of creating an idealistic utopia, Ark, a “green vision” to contend with a world increasingly overwhelmed by environmental damage. It became the last refuge for humans after the reported rising of the oceans (an emphasis mysteriously put on the word during today’s presentation). However, as is so often the case with idealistic utopian cities, it quickly descended into a messy factional war, and now resembles a run down shanty town. Two factions remain, the Resistance (mercenaries rebelling against the evil dictatorship) and the Security (officials attempting to maintain or restore their law and order).

So what do you do in this Ark? Rather a lot, as it happens. At first glance of the FPS, it was hard to spot what was original about it. It’s 8v8 multiplayer, with the eight on each side working cooperatively. Beyond the game looking pretty gorgeous, it doesn’t seem like it’s doing anything special. Until you see the Objective Wheel.

Your team of eight, whether all human, some human, or just you and the machines, has tasks to complete. Many, many tasks. And many each. These aren’t objectives everyone works together on – instead you pull up the Objective Wheel (OW, because it’s funny in capital letters) to see what needs doing. Perhaps an enemy needs interrogating, or an engineer is needed to perform some specific tasks, or a robot needs escorting. Pick one, it becomes your task, the floaty compass pointing you toward it, and it may well effect the tasks available to everyone else on your team. Perhaps they’ll now have options to help back you up.

Part of this means being able to change class at any time you can find a terminal. Become a soldier and you’ll be tasked with blasting through enemies. Switch to engineer and you’ll have jobs like laying down turrets or fixing cranes. Find that the bot escort mission you were on isn’t making good progress? Switch out to another challenge and perhaps help clear the way. In order to pick things from the OW you’ll need to spend XP, which is earned by completing tasks and shooting the enemy. XP is also spent on new weapons and customisations for your character, which are persistent changes in the game world.

If you’re muddled about any of that, then frankly so are we. Quite getting to grips with how eight people choosing different objectives but working together is going to work we can’t know without playing it. But Splash Damage say they spend all day every day playing the multiplayer, and are confident they’re tweaking it to perfection.

Also of note is the SMART system. A quite astoundingly horrible acronym, standing for Smooth Movement Around Random Terrain (in the demo the terrain seemed remarkably predictable – no exploding turtles or pavements turning into soup), but a potentially excellent inclusion. SMART means the game is constantly calculating every potential next move you could make, and able to offer the “smartest choice of movement.”

In practise this means that when holding down the SMART button, you’ll automatically traverse the terrain without having to juggle the controls yourself. SD were quick to point out this wasn’t an attempt to simplify the controls for “newbies”, but rather to allow more complicated manoeuvrability. So yes, holding it down and run forward, and you’ll automatically jump fences, dodge furniture, etc. But apply it tactically and it can let you intuitively move in an intelligent way. See an archway that’s dangerous to run through? Look up as you hold down SMART and it will know you want to jump up and over it. Look down and you’ll feet-first slide as if stealing base. It means you can leap and glide around while focusing on combat. There’s still a hesitation here – the Assassin’s Creed Syndrome where you feel you’re uninvolved in the more fun acrobatics could still be a problem. Again, we’d have to play with it ourselves before we could know either way.

Eight player co-op multiplayer is an interesting mid-point between smaller co-op ‘offline’ gaming, and larger death matches. Even in single player solo you’ll have seven AI players on your side. There’s cutscenes triggered after completing sections to tell the larger story, and set up the next situation, which if played in co-op give your team a chance to spend XP, upgrade weapons, and so on, if they’ve seen it before.

Brink is looking like an interesting new angle on co-op/multiplayer gaming. A slightly bemusing one, certainly, but one I’m interested to decipher.

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48 Comments »

  1. Davee says:

    This sounds interesting. Also, OW? I lol’t.

  2. Tei says:

    Looks a enhancement of the anterior ideas, with new graphis style (that is always wellcome). From nazis, to stroggs and now lowtech cyberpunk…. a really good wellcome.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Seniath says:

    Purely superficial question, but what engine is it running on? Figure it’d be Gamebryo (being as Bethesda are involved), but it looks like UE3 in some of those shots.

  4. Monkeybreadman says:

    OW sounds interesting, SMART sounds…. you know…. smart. I take it uses the quake engine? Stable, good netcode, me predicts a good’un. HIP HIP…HAZAH!

    Not a superficial question Seniath, although where does Bethesda come into this?

  5. Deadend says:

    The OW system reminds me a bit of a new version of Quake Wars and Resistance 2 had going on. But maybe better.

    The SMART makes me think that the levels will be very cramped with things for players to use it on, I hope. As a few of the Screens look nice and full of objects.

    So long as the price is low and it’s as easy to get MP games going as L4D or Halo 3, it could be big, maybe.

  6. Turin Turambar says:

    So, ET:QW (it already had the objetive system where you could choose different tasks, and depending of your class, etc), with permanent instead of temporal XP (something… dangerous for a MP game), and with the Ass Creed movement system i didn’t like. Ugh.

  7. JohnArr says:

    They are on a version of the Quake engine, probably an upgraded and tweaked older version, rather than the new tech 5.

    Believe this is just Bethesda in it’s publishing/distribution role.

  8. Bobsy says:

    The dude in the orange shirt jumping over the fence looks incredibly familiar. Did he play a Strogg once?

  9. Ian says:

    I dunno what the hell will be going on in the game but it could be fun. :)

  10. Agrajag says:

    Seems like has a lot of “if this really works, it can kick ass” potential.

  11. CMaster says:

    Sounds potentially quite good – I like hte idea of more objective, misssion bsaed multiplayer games (my long running fantasy is something akin to multiplayer deus ex missions).

    It may however, not be easy to get into. Take Dystopia (HL2 mod). Awesome cyberpunk aesthetics. Really detailed objective based missions over maps with multiple routes to these objectives and sucsess. Confusing as all hell when you first pick it up.

  12. Choca says:

    Isn’t SMART Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain ?

  13. The Sombrero Kid says:

    This is almost certainly the logical evolution of ET:QW i’d reckon it’s in the same engine too, but vastly improved.

    EDIT: I meant to say i i think it looks fantastic!

  14. Optimaximal says:

    This sounds almost word-for-word like that (recently canned?) cross-play thing by Arkane Studios…

  15. The Fanciest of Pants says:

    Huh. Seems really interesting, lots of cool ideas here. As to execution, well.. we’ll see won’t we.

  16. dOjo_Snake says:

    Splash damage bombed with QW:ET a little bit. Too sluggish and not up to their previous standards. Lets hope Brink can do it right.

  17. Raff says:

    Getting lots of Shadowrun vibe from this. I LOVED Shadowrun! Glad people are still daring to make interesting multiplayer FPS’, anything like this without Valve written on it seems to bomb.

  18. teo says:

    id tech 5?

  19. Xercies says:

    So its ET:QW with Assasins cCreed springled in…not that original…

  20. MultiVaC says:

    My rule of thumb is that if the concept of a multiplayer game is so convoluted that I can read an article about it and not know what the hell they’re talking about, it’s probably not going to work. And from the sound of things, John doesn’t even seem know how the game works.

  21. Surgeon says:

    Sounds quite unique. I really liked the objective based game play in ET:QW.

  22. Ashurbanipal says:

    Multivac,

    I have a hard time believing this could occur so frequently that you’d need a rule of thumb for it.

  23. Count Zero says:

    Setting is definitely intriguing, I’m curious if they’ll develop the story or just use it as a background for all the carnage… I’ll be following this one

  24. MultiVaC says:

    Well, The Crossing was the one that started the rule, and I’ve seen plenty of overambitious mods that fell into that sort of thing. But I will admit that this is really the only remarkable example since The Crossing.

  25. Switchbreak says:

    Those characters look like what would happen if Earthworm Jim and Marcus Fenix ever mated.

  26. Rei Onryou says:

    As long as its a return to the style of W:ET (vehicles = boo) but with lessons learned from ET:QW, I will be a happy boy. Splash Damage know how to make a good multiplayer game.

  27. SpoonySeeker says:

    What exactly is the random wheely-gear thing stapled to the bottom of the assault rifles supposed to be for?

  28. Fumarole says:

    Why does everyone’s head/torso proportion look so out of whack?

  29. Brass Gerbil says:

    I like the original look and feel of the IP — as opposed to “Star Wars: The Old Age Home.” Nice to see something original in an E3 that seems flooded with “2″s and “3″s and reboots and remakes.

  30. Tei says:

    @SpoonySeeker: Decoration, but you can think is the “grenade launcher” part of these weapons.

  31. dozilla says:

    nice to see SD tying out something new, with an all new IP. Although it sounds a bit strange, I like what I’m hearing about it. I do however enjoy having team based objectives, this might work better, as the tasks seem to all be for the same overall objective, giving a sense of team based play. Very interesting.

  32. Lack_26 says:

    Yey, finally a new idea (well, apart from all those other ones). Most of this year feels like sequels.

    I certainly like the art style here and the Smart button sounds interesting (if they can pull it off).

  33. viscioN says:

    @SpoonySeeker: helical magazine

  34. vicx says:

    I don’t wanna a be a big dude with a tiny head. somewhere there was high water mark for 3d player models and heads have been getting smaller ever since.

  35. Smooth says:

    @SpoonySeeker

    That’s a shotgun, not a rifle.

  36. Jetsetlemming says:

    So is there destructible terrain to make SMART a worthwhile development time investment, or is it nothing but bullet point on the back of the box fodder.

  37. Mafia Wars Cheat says:

    Great game play. nice grafx, awesome audio

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