Long read: Who is qualified to make a world?

In search of the magic of maps.

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A closer look at the sprinting man's shooter.

"Alright!" cries supernaturally chipper Splash Damage CEO Paul Wedgwood towards the assembled journalists. "If you go into customisation, you'll be able to change anything about your character that you like. We've unlocked everything and bumped you up to level six, so you'll be able to select all of the content."

Loading my character, I find myself face-to-face with a cross between a Somalian pirate and Stig of the Dump. The journos who used this terminal before me have buried my blank canvas under dreadlocks, a plaid shirt, cargo pants, £3000' worth of tattoos and about 80 kilos of military accessories.

Sighing inwardly, I first go to pry off the man's gas mask, which ends up revealing a terrifying mask of clown face paint, smeared over craggy, elderly features. I slip the gas mask back in place. The next minute before the match begins I spend simply tinkering with the various textures for my shirt and shoes. Much safer that way.

Brink is nothing if not colourful. Both literally - in the stark blacks and blues of its Security side, the kaleidoscopic hues of the rag-tag opposing Resistance, and the heavy-handed palette of the maps where they fight - and metaphorically.

Sliding into somebody's legs knocks them down briefly. Very briefly. Probably leave the heroics to somebody else, eh?

Fittingly for a game about civil war on a day-after-tomorrow floating city (turned day-after-tomorrow floating refugee camp as the rest of the world floods), Brink's voice acting provides a chocolate box of accents to choose from for your character, with similarly multi-cultural cutscenes. It's oddly heartwarming to hear an American, African and an Irishman arguing over the finer points of their mission. Speaking of cutscenes, it's during this playthrough that I see one of Brink's opening cinematics for the first time, which tells the story of the game's city, The Ark, through a beautiful scale model which warps and grows as a narrator walks you through the place's troubled history.

That Brink should boast all of this incidental charisma feels like a very smart move indeed, because while the campaign of the game itself can be played in single-player, there's no getting away from the relentlessness and panic of Brink's multiplayer-style missions. Rather than the Battlefield-inspired landscapes of Splash Damage's last project, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Brink's maps more often resemble the close-quarters claustrophobia of their first game, the critically-acclaimed Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. With Brink, Splash Damage is taking the intensity and variety that made them famous, and doing its best to repackage it with more than a little charm.

The new mission we play is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. As opposed to the tight angles and cramped streets of Container City, the map Splash Damage had previously trotted out most often, we play a Resistance mission to recover a prisoner from a gleaming, Security-controlled section of the Ark full of wide-open courtyards and foyers.

The guns! The faces! The clothes! It's the most seductive ugly world ever!

Sound pleasant? It was brutal. Think the Normandy Landings. Corners and tight passages are what you want as an underdog. Wide-open spaces are just meet-and-greet zones for defenders and attackers, with the difference that attackers have to actually cross those spaces and the defenders let their bullets do the talking.

The other exciting difference was that Brink's different body types were available for us to play with. While everybody has to choose to play either a Soldier, Medic, Engineer or sneaky Operative, this is a dynamic choice and can be switched at various command terminals during a match. Your body type is a little different, and like the range of perks you unlock, can only be changed between matches.

Medium body type is what you'll be familiar with. This is the default choice, leaving you as a stocky guy who can run, slide, vault and climb using Brink's SMART system (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) competently, but there are two other options that get unlocked at slightly higher levels. Heavy body type turns you into a boulder of a man with a little more health than usual and who can carry Brink's array of heavy weapons, ranging from grenade launchers to miniguns and machine guns to gigantonormous automatic shotguns. The trade-off is that Heavy body types climb about as well as oiled elephants, leaving certain shortcuts and even whole pieces of the level inaccessible to them. They also don't slide so much as they fall over with style.