Bethesda came to New York City to show off two very different games coming in 2011 recently, and we got hands-on time with both of these disparate but anticipated releases.
Brink, from developer Splash Damage, is a dystopian first person shooter. While there is single-player combat, this game is built to be squad-based 8v8, even in the campaign, with players choosing to be in the Security faction trying to maintain the once-utopian floating city known simply as The Ark, or the Resistance, who are trying to find a way off the home they feel is more prison than saving grace.
Creating a character comes first, and in a primarily multiplayer game, it's nice to have a lot of options for customization. Between what you start with and the huge amount of unlockables, customization nerds will be in heaven here. From sword slash scars to face tattoos, covert gear to something that would fit more in a hip-hop video, from a young gun to a grizzled veteran, you even get to choose between a large group of voices, hats, and more accessories. Later you'll get to customize your weapons, as well, with abilities and upgrades that are specific to weapons or specific to classes.
As far as the classes go, those can be changed nearly on-the-fly within the game, so you're not locked into any one, but each has different bonuses and abilities that may come in handy at points during missions. Those experienced with class-based FPSes will recognize the names immediately: Soldier, Engineer, Medic, and Operative. You literally need a member or two of each class in order to complete any one mission, and each can pull up tasks specific to their station in the mission wheel. You can also use that to find the nearest spot that allows you to change classes as the mission, or your gameplay needs, dictate. The advantage to a class-based system is it allows those who may not be the best crackshot to still enjoy themselves in an FPS, and the change-ability is handled really well. This game definitely encourages teamwork, from the casting of players into certain roles, to the story itself.
Playing with a bunch of strangers is… somewhat difficult. You'll be much better off playing this game with your regular Halo or CoD buddies, or for you PC Gamers, your Team Fortress crew should feel right at home in the Brink world. Once you get into a teamwork groove, the game moves at a very fast pace, and the mission objectives are all quite satisfying when accomplished. In matches, you're in a constant tug-of-war against the other faction, as they try to complete objectives opposite your own, a fun dynamic to spice things up a bit.
If you're not playing this game with a full squad of humans though, it's hard to see a lot of value in it. Playing solo, your squadmates are controlled by bots, and they'll be cast in specific classes to help you complete your mission. Without the give-and-take and shifting combat plans that you get out of the human experience, though, the game's obvjective-based structure turns from exciting to humdrum in an instant. I really can't see going through this game alone being anything more than a grind, and at that point, why play? If you have a group of friends who can jump into the fight with you, this game will be worth the buy come May 17th, and should provide a great couple playthroughs in campaign plus near-endless multiplayer as you perfect and upgrade each class. That's it in a nutshell: Alone, Brink just won't have what it takes to pull you away from the other quality FPSes on the shelves, but with a group you'll find the experience to be completely different - and much more fun.
In a completely different realm of gaming, Hunted: The Demon's Forge comes from inXile Entertainment. The first thing action-adventure/RPG gamers will think when they sit down with this one is "medieval Mass Effect," and that's a good thing. The smooth combat controls found in Mass Effect 2 are mimicked a bit here, with an identical cover component, and similar ranged combat (though you're using arrows and magic instead of guns and biotics). There is a stronger focus on melee, with quick short blades, massive swords, and even an enchanted axe shown off in the intro to the game we played through.
The game puts you in the role of E'lara, the pretty and battle-hardened elven archer, or Caddoc, the grizzled warrior who prefers his enemies to taste cold steel up close and personal. Both characters have short and long-range weapons, though, so players of either style can have fun with either character. The big fun comes in the form of co-op; unlike many recent two-character action-adventure games, this one lets you play through the whole story with a friend taking the mantle of your companion. There are special co-op attacks, and having a buddy to help you solve the game's puzzles certainly comes in handy.
The combat of this June 3rd shipping title is already pitch-perfect. inXile can rest on their laurels with this one in that arena for the next few months, as it's easy to jump into and has the depth necessary to keep you interested. Melee is deliciously intense and graphic, while long-range with a bow-and-arrow delivers the satisfaction usually found with a sniper-rifle in these kinds of games.
Powered by Unreal Engine 3, the game looks fantastic. Spells are flamboyant and exciting, and part of that visceral combat experience is how enemies look as you tear them apart. They got the atmosphere of the "dark" ages down pat here, for sure. Sound is similarly exciting and engaging, including your sorcerer guide, played by geek superstar Lucy Lawless. She has the perfect voice for the witch who provides your magical assistance while also being conniving and entirely untrustworthy, and lends a little extra weight to a lot that otherwise starts off with some fairly standard tropes.
This is one that half an hour of playtime simply wasn't enough with, and one to watch for in June for sure. I can't wait to delve into the expansion and power-ups, and see what the world of Kala Moor has to offer for a weary traveler.