Brink Preview: Gameplay and Moral GraysBy Jared Newman
After talking to Ed Stern for a few minutes about Brink’s plot, it was clear the game’s lead writer was ready to go down a rabbit hole. The poor guy, voice hoarse from days of E3 demos, stopped himself before diving too deep, but I was already having trouble keeping up.
Did you know, for instance, that there’s an organization called The Seasteading Instutute pushing for the kind of experimental, water-based community that ultimately becomes the battleground in Brink’s futuristic dystopia? The group, even addresses video game-based concerns with a blog post about Bioshock.
Brink tells the story of an experimental community at sea, intended to be a self-sustaining getaway for the privileged class. But as the world’s water level rises, refugees begin to arrive in droves and set up a ramshackle community around what’s known as the Ark. Soon enough, the refugees stop coming, suggesting a bitter end for humanity on land. Civil war erupts between the Resistance born of refugees and the Security trying to protect the Ark, and the player decides which side to fight on.
But there’s a twist to this tale: Neither side is necessary the right one, a point that us supposed to be illuminated once the player replays the campaign as the other half. That ambiguity allows players’ preconceptions to shape how they feel about the Brink’s themes of global warming and sustainability.
“The dramatic choice between good and evil is boring,” Stern said. “The choice between good and good is profoundly more interesting.”
Clearly, Brink’s developers want the game to make you think, even if on the surface it’s a straightforward, class-based first-person shooter. I got the same impression from Stern that I did in a brief interview last year with creative director Richard Ham, who after describing a long career working on well-known games, said “I want it to mean something.”
In play alone, Brink seems fun but not outstanding. The game’s main hooks are two-fold: a simple parkour system that lets you climb walls and leap obstacles just by holding a button, and the ability to switch between classes like Soldier and Engineer on the fly at designated control terminals. Otherwise, there are no fancy powers or duck-and-cover dynamics, just straight-up strafe and shoot.
The single-player campaign feels like multiplayer, with two teams scrambling to complete objectives within a time limit, both of them respawning after death. But this duality plays an imporant role in Brink’s plot, which casts both sides as justified in their actions.
Still, Stern said Brink won’t be troublesome for people who don’t care for narritive, likening the plot to “tits on a bull.” But it’s possible to go deep with Brink’s story, and hopefully people will when the game arrives in Spring 2011.