Now we know, and we know well enough to be enormously excited about where UK studio Splash Damage are going now their young lips have been prised away from the id Software teat. "What we're trying to do with Brink really is create something that newbies can get into," says Splash Damage's mile-a-minute bossman Paul Wedgewood, "and that starts with co-op. We really believe that if we can get more people in through the co-operative mode they'll want to keep playing online."
The idea, essentially, is that going from single-player to multiplayer is no longer a leap - instead, it's a gentle staircase with a sturdy handrail. "The next thing you solve is the problem of people being outflanked if they've only ever played corridor shooters. What we do is slowly introduce ideas in the map that prepare you for multiplayer".
Documenting the near-future conflict between the anarchic, lo-fi Resistance and the slick peace-through-tyranny Security in a failing socio-environmental utopia known as the Ark, this is no series of random deathmatch arenas. You'll play through a story - two, in fact, as both factions are playable - interspersed with high-quality cut-scenes which reveal the Ark's secret past and desperate future. There are personal moments too. We're shown a sad'n'angry Resistance member revealing that his brother has joined up with Security, and worrying what would happen should he encounter him in battle.
And battle there will indeed be - you'll spending your time in Brink shooting a lot of dudes in large, objective-packed levels. Sounds an awful lot like a single-player game, doesn't it? Yet it's also a collection of tightly-designed maps in which you pick a class, join a team and vie with the opposing faction for points and kills. Sounds an awful lot like a multiplayer game, doesn't it?
It's both. Brink's aim is to tear down the church and state separation of single and multiplayer, so you're using the same disciplines, chasing the same goals and enjoying the same rewards however you play. This is, of course, the theory: other games are sniffing around the same idea, with Left 4 Dead arguably at the head of this young pack. With Brink though, there's a real sense of no compromise. This is not two separate modes which happen to be linked by persistent unlocks and experience points: it's one sprawling action game which you choose to play in your preferred fashion.
Want to play alone? Play alone. Want to play with a mate? Invite him into the match you're already playing. Want to play against potty-mouthed strangers? Take your offline match/campaign online and the NPC allies and enemies will be replaced with murderous humans as and when they arrive. The total headcount is sixteen, which some will feel is too low, but the two sprawling Portal-meets-Mirror's Edge-meets-Fallout maps we saw always seemed filled to ferocious capacity.
What's going to be key to ensuring multiplayer looks and feels like single-player is how well the game encourages teamplay. We've seen the likes of MAG suffer horribly because human beings are inherently selfish creatures - everyone heads off to chase their own glory rather than follow orders or help out their chums. "We reward you most for doing things that help other people have fun", says Wedgewood. "In essence we bribe people to help other people." The bribe being unlockables, an area in which Brink promises to go way beyond its contemporaries.
There's none of this 'would you like to wear green trousers or slightly darker green trousers?" tokenism. Instead, you'll create a avatar of your own, gloriously bought to life in Brink's wonderfully strange droopy-faced, gangly-limbed art style. With a few flicks of his gamepad, Wedgewood transforms the hulking weirdo he has on screen into someone unrecognisably different.
From the sweary t-shirt to the flame-flecked hockey mask, it's his character, not Brink Soldier #4. As you kill, assist and snag objectives, you'll earn experience points - which in turn open up new customisation options. "You do become a bigger and bigger badass as you play through the game," says Wedgewood. Your appearance doesn't affect your abilities, but your very flesh will scream how experienced a player you are.
Even weapons visibly transform into violent new absurdities as he applies modifications to them - scopes, stocks, tommy-gun ammo clips, six-vent muzzles... The guns might not be as openly insane in function as Borderlands' physics-defying arsenal of randomness, but they sure look the part. "You can create these really mad weapons," enthuses Wedgewood as he equips his Resistance goon with something apparently made from Meccano.
Special abilities come into play too, and these are improved by your level. As many of the better ones buff your team-mates rather than simply over-power their possessor, however, they shouldn't tip the odds in higher-level players' favour too much. The Operative class (read: Spy, who can also temporarily disguise himself as an enemy player), for instance, could treat himself to a spot of Comms, which lets him scan the body of a downed enemy, hack into his HUD and be very briefly informed as to where all his allies are. The Medic, meanwhile, could choose to buff allies' health, or to be granted a one-shot self-resurrection. The mentality behind the impressively large range of bonus abilities is variety, not advantage. Everyone's going to have a few cool toys which suit their own play style.
All these things - the classes, that clothing, those abilities - can be swapped out between matches and/or respawns. You're not locked into being something. Well, mostly. There is one immutable choice. That's your weight. If you're a fattie, you're staying a fatty. If you have the build of Old Man Steptoe, you're not going to be bench-pressing anything heavier than a kitten.
There are three body types in Brink: Medium, Agile and Heavy. The latter two are unlocked as you level up, and you can then choose to upgrade to one of them. While you can 'buy' an undo if you're not happy, realistically you're going to create several characters, one for each body type. These have dramatic effects on the game: Agiles move fast and can reach areas the others cannot, but Heavies can carry bigger guns and soak up more bullets. Medium's the best and worst of both worlds, which is why you'll doubtless gravitate to one of the extremes.
For raw damage and defensive grunt, you'll want to play Heavy. However, the appeal of the gangly Agiles is sky-high because of Brink's movement system. SMART is a one-button control that enables you to navigate over whatever you aim at. So, if there's a neat little sniper ledge way up yonder, you don't need to engage in a series of complicated bunnyhops and embarrassing pratfalls to reach it, but instead aim, hold run: your chap will gracefully make his own way there. The same is true if you're trying to reach lower ground, as you duck, dive and leap across multifarious obstacles.
Skinnies can cover the most ground, able to squeeze their scrawny, stretchy frames into places fatties fear to tread. "I'm really not forced to use these corridors and traditional routes." Just as well, as many of Brink's match objectives are optional. There are core goals to achieve if you're to win the map, but completing side-missions, such as snatching control of a command post or hacking a safe, will bless your chaps with bonuses. Going off-piste uncovers new routes too, with the in-game objective compass cannily recalculating new directions if it thinks you're trying, for instance, to sneak into an enemy stronghold from the rear.
Brink's cramming an awful lot of ideas into what, at first glance, is a simple Beat The Other Team setup. This superficial simplicity is artfully deceptive - even the interface is a stripped-back, slickly minimal affair which couldn't be a further cry from the infamous over-complication of Quake Wars' HUD. All of its ideas, and all its gorgeous photoreal-cartoon appearance, pale into insignificance in the face of that one key promise, however: single-player gamers will find themselves becoming multiplayer gamers almost without realising it. Brink might document a bitter conflict between a divided humankind, but if it works, it'll bring gamingkind together like never before.
Original article can be found here