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Brink – SMART System

Brink, a new first person shooter developed by Splash Damage, creators of the cult-popular Enemy Territory games, and the more recent Quake Wars, is a new take on a tried-and-true set of gameplay mechanics. Adding parkour and intelligent objective assignment to its long list of features makes for an interesting team-based shooter in and of itself, but when combined with the jump-in, jump-out blending of single player, multiplayer, and cooperative play, makes an oddly enticing combination that is hard to ignore.

The essence of Brink comes from the SMART system. This system essentially adds a parkour mechanic by adding context specific actions based upon your sprint, crouch and jump buttons. When you sprint into a railing, if you are looking over it, you will automatically vault over it. When sprinting near a low obstacle, if you look up slightly, you will hop over it like before, but if you angle slightly down, you will automatically slide under it. Vaulting and mantling gives an oddly satisfying way to traverse the levels, which are built in a manner that gives you mostly free movement within its bounds, which are rather wide. 

Another noteworthy feature in Brink is the ability to blur the lines of gameplay, allowing players to jump in and out of a singleplayer game, turning it into a co-op game, and eventually into a multiplayer game if you allow players to join as enemies. Hopefully, this will allow a group of players to play co-op in different games on different sides, and get matchmade into a versus game. Objectives are also equally intuitive, adding an AI commander which will value different main and secondary objectives with XP based on how much the team needs each objective done. For instance, if a team is having trouble defending a particular area, an objective to lay down mines or build a machine gun nest may open up for the team's Engineer. A Medic can activate an automatically-appearing objective that will lead him towards downed players that are calling for a revive syringe.

The SMART system also allows you to use your crouch button to do a running baseball slide (which can actually act as a melee attack which will knock down enemies for a short time), and jumping near walls will have your character wall-running and wall-jumping to boost your speed. Many advanced actions are limited to light bodytypes, which have slightly decreased maximum health and can only carry light weapons. Medium bodytypes are limited to simple vaulting and mantling, and a wider variety of weapons, while heavy characters can only vault over waist-high obstacles, can only climb low ledges, and can access any weapon in the game (and can actually carry most primary-only weapons for other classes as secondary weapons).

Overall, Brink is, hands-down, one of the most original groupings of ideas that have surfaced in the shooter world in the past year or two (barring, perhaps, Bulletstorm's "kill with skill" mechanic). I have personally not been excited for a first person shooter in a long time, but Brink may scratch the itch that has been bothering me for some time now, and I imagine I am not anywhere near the only one. Brink will be released in North America on May 10, and internationally May 17. It will also feature Steamworks, and can be preloaded on Steam right now.


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