So. Brink, besides being what a racist caricature of an Oriental person would say is their favorite Doctor Who episode, is also a disappointing game. My feeling is that it needed to stick to its guns, or rather, pick a gun to stick to and then stick to it. Are you going to have a story or concentrate more on your round-based competitive multiplayer? I don’t think you can make them work together, they’re like the straight-laced young new detective teamed up with the cynical old-timer except without the opportunity for a buddy movie. If story matters to anyone it matters to single players, the co-ops are busy chatting amongst themselves and the competitives would rather focus on having the most headshots.
For me, Brink‘s biggest mistake is forcing the player to unlock everything. I don’t have a marketing degree but I would have thought you want your game to put its best foot forward and leave a good first impression, not dangle its content over our heads and say “Oh, you want this? Well, then dance for me. Sexily.” I’d have thought that if you want to rely on using customizable outfits to let players make their avatars distinct from each other then you should have started off with more than two outfits available from the start. Perhaps the engineers should have started out with the ability to build sentries or the soldiers should have started out with miniguns, or was this all part of the devious scheme to avoid getting compared to Team Fortress 2 some more (take a shot)?
Still, if you’re resigned to getting compared to Team Fortress 2, I think you should go in the other direction. Don’t have less character classes than TF2, TF2‘s already pretty streamlined (or at least it was before they started bringing out new weapons every other weekend apparently in paralyzed terror of people getting bored of it, and incidentally that’s three shots this paragraph so far). What you need to do is have more classes. Make it the MUGEN of class-based shooters. After all, there are many facets of warfare that the TF2 lineup doesn’t cover (four shots).
Here are a few possibilities I’ve come up with:
The Propaganda Artist
A good starting point for design is to take something that already exists in a game and find a new use for it. Custom graffiti tags have existed in Valve multiplayer shooters since the first Half-Life, but only the Propaganda Artist will employ them in gameplay. The Artist’s job is to take a candid photograph of a member of the enemy team who’s being a particular pain in the arse and get it back to base so he can create unflattering cartoons and then paste them all over the battlefield. The Artist’s teammates gain a morale boost as they realize that yes, he really is just a silly old bugger with a fat neck, and thusly shamed the victim will have no option but to slink back inside their base and cry, I would imagine. The Propaganda Artist’s other main duty is to remind his teammates not to sleep with the local women.
Balance is important, so this new alternative build for the Medic class would be the vital counter to the soul-destroying powers of the Propaganda Artist. When a soldier runs inside the base crying because the enemy team’s Artist depicted his receding hairline with particularly caustic accuracy, the Counsellor can deploy their thermos of hot milky tea to get them back into mental shape (the thermos being the Counsellor’s primary weapon, their secondary being a doll with which teammates can indicate where the enemy team touched them). The Counsellor also has an equivalent of the Medic’s ubercharge from TF2 (drink) with which he can put a teammate into a temporary state of total self-assurance previously seen only in American politicians.
The Crime Scene Investigator
With the success of LA Noire, and with mainstream gaming growing into a more sophisticated phase, team-based shooters should cater to people who prefer thoughtful, investigative gameplay. Many such games already have a system wherein player X can become a “nemesis” or priority target if they kill player Y enough times in a row, but with the new system, this will only occur once the Crime Scene Investigator has worked the scene, gone through the giblets, interrogated suspects, traced the footprints and bullet casings and left a fully detailed report on player Y’s desk. Primary weapon: Roll of yellow and black stripey tape. Secondary weapon: stern tone of voice.
Alright, Yahtzee, so you’re butchering a perfectly satisfactory action shooter to cater for adventure gamers, artists and social workers, but what about all the other genres of video game? Valid point, myself, so allow me to introduce the Pilot. Rather than storming from the base in an undisciplined mob like the rest of the classes, the Pilot’s experience involves taking off from the airbase, ascending to a height at which they couldn’t possibly be hit by any enemy unit, looking at the clouds for a while and then pressing a button when their targeting computer tells them to, whereupon their team immediately wins. Then the news media trumpets the victory, folks back home celebrate, and in that lonely bombed-out crater the first vultures fight over the eyeballs of a father of three.
The fierce and beautiful predator of the Indian subcontinent, the Tiger has the obvious benefits of wild unstoppable strength and razor-sharp teeth, but also has the ability to capture control points by widdling all over them, which has the added mixed benefit of making every other character disinclined to stand on that control point for a while. What the Tiger loses in long-distance attack ability it gains in the fact that it’s a fucking tiger.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.