For the past seven weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to work with the legendary first-person shooter stalwarts over at Splash Damage with a single purpose in mind: The creation of the most tactically beneficial guide to Brink. This involved copious Campaign sessions, romping around every nook and cranny of each map, and figuring out optimal routes, sniping spots, and which augmented firearm caused the most mess. There was even time to outfit my Resistance freedom-fighter/Security police veteran with a variety of pleasing jackets, grotesque facial scars, and ludicrous beards. But that’s for the second and third blog posts. For now, let’s take a look at what’s in store for those seeking knowledge of the Campaign and Freeplay sections of the official guide.

Clocking in at over 270 pages of this 336-page tome, the Campaign and Freeplay information is by far the most important for those seeking to improve their shooting, maneuvering, and strategic prowess. In the game itself, you can play through the entire Campaign as part of the Resistance or Security factions, watching as a series of spectacular storylines unfold. Or, you can select “Freeplay”, which allows you to jump into a map and swap between teams. Early into the guide’s creation, we all agreed that as the tactics for the attacking and defending teams on each map are significantly different, we’d separate each map to focus on what each side was doing; effectively doubling the detail (and as I soon discovered, the workload too). This allows you — the reader — to understand all the necessary tactics your team can undertake when approaching a mission as one faction; before turning to the companion section later in the Walkthrough to understand what tactics the enemy is likely to be trying out; so you can counteract them. This flexibility underscores the hard work that Splash Damage and Bethesda have put into this guide. But what’s the actual information that makes this guide so invaluable?

To start with, every Mission has its own map. Floors are separated, so you can see how every staircase or ramp links together. The first half of each Walkthrough section highlights the areas of this map in detail. After a briefing from your faction’s leader, you receive a complete list of Objectives, as well as the optimal numbers of each Class type (so you know, for example, how many Engineers or Medics should be on your team while attempting every Core Objective). Then comes a description of every area within the map. This shows the entrances, exits, chokepoints, zones of interest, and other pertinent data so you can quickly learn whether the part of the map you’re looking at is a main thoroughfare, a place to camp, or a rarely-trafficked locale. Throughout the map location descriptions, there are specific box-outs showcasing the S.M.A.R.T. Moves you can attempt here; usually to climb to a cubby-hole; maneuver across walls; or up onto balconies. Each major S.M.A.R.T. Move also gets a “Body Type” flag applied to it, so you know instantly whether the move is possible based on the three Body Types you can choose for your character.

The second half of each map’s walkthrough comprises the tactics for every single Objective your team undertakes. In the sample pages shown in this blog post, you can see an example of a Core Objective in the “Container City” map. Firstly, you’ll see the title of the Objective (“Destroy the Gate”), which is the same as the in-game name, along with the in-game icon, and the optimal class for the job (in this case, a Soldier who sets a HE Charge on the gate). Underneath that are approximate times for this Objective (based off the median time a Light Body Type character took to reach an Objective from their nearest spawn point); as knowing how long each portion of an Objective takes is vital due to Mission time limits: Here, you can learn facts such as the time it takes to reach the gate (13 seconds), how long the explosives take to prime (seven seconds), how long the enemy takes to disarm the explosives if you let them (five seconds), and how long the HE Charge takes before it explodes (40 seconds).

Next come the overall tactics for completing this Objective, ideally in the most competent manner possible, based off weeks of gameplay, and months of playtesting courtesy of Splash Damage’s hardcore testers. Then comes a couple of box-outs: The first is “Automated Ordnance”, which details the best places to set up a turret, mine, or any other explosive device to help you and your faction. Any of these placements are also noted on the Mission maps. Naturally, you can turn to the opposing faction’s Walkthrough section to see where to expect them to place their ordnance, too! Finally, some cunning camping spots or locations to ambush the enemy are pinpointed. Then the Walkthrough moves to the next Objective, which is taken apart in similar detail.When applied to every mission and map, the Walkthrough provides a massive amount of helpful data which is designed to be easily delved into at certain points, or read all at once, from start to finish.

Join me next time, when I prep a variety of both stylish and hideous special outfits for my prime character, based off the mind-boggling sets of player accouterments that Brink allows you to access.