Brink • Page 2

Splash Damage on the edge.

Particularly so, because Wedgwood is playing using the "skinny" body type. Body types - the others are normal and heavy - are among the many customisation options that unlock for your character as you play the game. Heavy gives you access to Brink's most powerful weapons, while skinny increases agility and freedom of movement with SMART, giving access to escape routes, sniping and ambush points and stealth approaches to objectives (but restricting you to using pistols and sub-machine guns).

A skinny body type is therefore a natural companion for the tactical, sneaky Operative class, and that's the class Wedgwood spends most time demonstrating today. Like all Brink's classes and weapons loadouts, it can be switched at will during gameplay at any command point, as well as at the start of a mission.

Delving into the Operative's skills and abilities - those that go beyond simply being able to hack computers to complete objectives - we start to understand just how good Brink's class design and character development is. There are all sorts of clever ideas in the Operative's unlockable skills, from "sense of perspective" (a third-person camera which gives you more peripheral vision when sneaking) to "combat intuition" (alerts you when you're being targeted by another player) or "comms hack" (track enemy positions by scanning a downed opponent). You can even assume the appearance of a killed enemy, at the expense of being able to use your weapons.

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Security on the march.

The Medic gains on-the-spot self-resurrection so you don't have to return to the respawn point, Soldiers can learn to shoot grenades, while buffs are key abilities for all classes: Engineers can improve the power of team-mates' weapons, and Soldiers can act as walking ammo dispensers. Brink's skill design is clearly a cut above that of many shooter/RPG hybrids, honed by Splash Damage's long experience in hardcore clan warfare. All of this is attained by a mixture of level-up unlocks and shopping for upgrades with credits.

The same goes for weapons too, and Wedgwood shows us how the game's already chunky and appealing gun designs can be turned into mad, comic-book devices with the addition of scopes, dot sights, muzzle-breaks to reduce recoil, even John Dillinger drum magazines. Each gun comes in a battered Resistance version and a slickly maintained Security model that look and sound different, even if they hit equally hard.

We see two missions, one an attempt to break out a fellow Resistance agent, a pilot, from Security captivity, the other an assault on the core of a fusion-fission reactor. Wedgwood shows how objectives, classes and ammo can be switched quickly through a wheel interface, and how the arrow that points you to your mission objectives reacts dynamically to your movement through the map, changing to suggest a stealthier route if you head off the beaten path.

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The slightly cartooned art style works perfectly with Brink's brilliant character customisation and striking virtual fashions.

How the objective system will work in practice, particularly in co-operative gameplay, still isn't entirely clear. Wedgwood makes all the right noises - "We reward you most when you do things that lead to other people having fun," he says, explaining how the game will "bribe" players with XP boosts - but similar systems tend to meet with mixed success if the players using them aren't already organised, as MAG, among others, has proved.

But with its relatively small group sizes - eight-on-eight, or eight versus AI in the campaign - Brink is a much tighter, more focused game than MAG can ever hope to be. And maybe the XP bribes will work when the class and skill design is this good, the weapon unlocks this mouth-watering, the hunger to upgrade this strong.

It won't be possible to max out a character in one run through the campaign in single-player, and Wedgwood hopes that the desire to keep that character in use and take it as far as it can go is what will lead players deeper into co-op and, eventually, multiplayer - and Brink's brave vision for the future of the FPS will come true. He could very well be right.

Brink will be released for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in the autumn of 2010.

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