Sometimes, it's the little things that stand out. With Brink, it's the "vip" you hear as bullet fire whizzes by your head; it's the third-person camera perspective the Operative class can view the game in when hacking terminals; it's the Mirror's Edge-style movement, triggered from one, very S.M.A.R.T. button; and it's the cool hoodie you've customised so you look the part when stealthing about. But, as experience has taught us, so many good ideas remain just that, and fail to gel together into a cohesive, fun whole. Will Brink suffer a similar fate?
No, is fast-talking Splash Damage CEO Paul Wedgewood's answer. And to prove it, he plays Brink for half an hour at publisher Bethesda's Gamers Day event in France, showing an assembled throng of journalists that his shooter is not just great in theory, but great in practice.
I'm loath to say that Brink blurs the line between offline and online, because it's been said of the game a million times before, but really it's true. At its core Brink is an evolution of Splash Damage's still popular team-based competitive multiplayer FPS series Enemy Territory; eight versus eight, two rival factions, a near-future urban setting, impressive character customisation, persistent player progression and lots and lots of upgrades. But - and this is the cool part - it's a game that does its very best to fool you into thinking you're playing an entirely different game.
Say, for example, you start a Resistance mission on your lonesome. You'll be playing with seven AI-controlled comrades against eight AI-controlled Security bots. But if you're connected to the internet, those bots can be replaced by real world players who slot seamlessly alongside you, or against you, turning Brink from an offline shooter into an online shooter in the blink of an eye.
That, in of itself, isn't so revolutionary. Brink's genius, however, is in how it dynamically reacts to what players are doing and what class they're playing. Objectives, picked up from captured command posts, update according to the to and fro of the match and the class make-up of the players. Say, for example, you're playing as the Soldier class. The game will offer you objectives of the blowing stuff up variety, usually to be completed using the soldier's heavy explosive charge. But if you're a sneaky Operative, you may be offered a mission to hack a computer terminal. Or, if you're an Engineer, you may be tasked with placing landmines and turrets.
Brink is being built using a version of id Tech 4 modified so players permanently host servers just in case someone drops in to play
Why should I bother to do anything other than shooting people in the face? Good question. Splash Damage openly admits it'll bribe players with experience points to get them to do some of the more team friendly objectives. You'll get loads of XP for healing as the Medic, for example, for capturing command posts and, generally, for doing the kind of stuff that tends not to grab the headlines, but helps inch your team forward towards its ultimate goal.
Paul's shown Brink's good ideas off in previous demonstrations, but it's reassuring to see them come together. And it's even more reassuring to see that in focusing on making those good ideas as good as they can be, Splash Damage hasn't forgotten the bread and butter; Brink's weapons, from pistols and sub machine guns to assault rifles and grenade launchers, look and sound fantastic. Each has a unique impact and feel, and carries real, satisfying weight. Player movement, fuelled by S.M.A.R.T., looks responsive and fluid. For all of Brink's clever line blurring, simply running and gunning and shooting someone in the face looks like it'll be immense fun.