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Bethesda's Brink Could Use Some Explaining

This shooter from Splash Damage looks a lot cooler than the previously released media lets on.

You'll be able to customize your own character along the way.
You'll be able to customize your own character along the way.
There's a cool-looking first-person shooter behind the teaser trailer and the handful of nondescript screenshots that Bethesda has released for Splash Damage's newly announced game, Brink. This game is not about a guy's bleeding eye or a handful of dudes standing around. At E3, Splash Damage is actually playing the game in front of people and discussing it along the way.

Brink takes place on a floating city called The Ark. Once a place of luxury for the idle rich, the rising seas caused by global warming have left it as the only livable place on the entire planet. So it also gets boarded by groups of refugees, setting up a class conflict and the game's main struggle--Ark security forces versus a scrappy resistance. You'll be able to create a character and place him on either side of the conflict. The game will have a story for each side of the fight.

The game seems to have a robust character creator, with a lot of unlockable items to help decorate your dude. In addition to cool character models, the rest of the graphics also look really nice. There's a cool, slightly futuristic aesthetic to the look of the environments and the areas being shown--a nearly abandoned airport and a docklands area referred to as Container City--are bright and colorful.

As a first-person shooter, you can expect the basic set of movement controls, like strafing, jumping, and ducking. There's also a special button referred to as SMART, or Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain. This is also the sprint button, and it has a kind of Mirror's Edge or Assassin's Creed thing going on in that it helps you automatically deal with things that get in your way, like office furniture or low railings. Rather than using the jump button or being forced to strafe around an object, sprinting just sort of automatically mantles or runs over reasonably-sized objects. You can also use it for bigger obstacles. In the airport, for example, the developers showed off a metal detector. If you sprint at the detector while looking at the metal crossbar sitting at the top of it, your guy will automatically reach up and grab that top piece to climb up and over the detector. If you look at the floor, he'll automatically slide under the beams of the detector. It's pretty cool in action.

The structure of the game is also a little different than the average first-person shooter. Brink takes Splash Damage's long history in making class-based multiplayer games and applies many of the same techniques to the story mode, which can be played alone or in a co-op group of up to eight players. This is a class-based game that lets you alter your abilities and weapon loadout to switch between, for example, a demolitions expert or a quiet stealth guy. The class you're currently playing gives you access to different objectives. So a demolition player may get asked to knock down some walls or take out other objects. A stealth guy may be ordered to get around behind the enemy to shut down some security systems. And so on. The main idea is that every class and every player on the team will have a unique task. There will be four classes to choose from, and players can switch at set points on the map.

Players will also be able to compete against other humans, of course. But the concept of encouraging players to work together seems to be Brink's main goal. If you've been playing Brink by yourself and getting better at it, the game will eventually entice you--or even bribe you to get online by informing you that it thinks you're ready... and that it'll give you an experience bonus if you complete the next mission with the help of human players.

It's conceptually interesting, and the nuts and bolts of the shooting behind those concepts looks to be sharp, as well. So the currently released assets might not show it, but you should probably know that there's a very cool-looking game behind the weird "bleeding eyeball" teaser trailer that was released. The game is currently scheduled for release in Spring 2010.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+