Given the amount of hype it’s received, odds are you’ve seen tons of promotional materials for Brink – an off the wall dystopian FPS by developer Splash Damage. By striking familiar cords with Mirror’s Edge, classic arena shooters, and Team Fortress 2, Brink is taking on the insurmountable task of attempting to appeal to just about every FPS fan out there.
If you’ve seen any screenshots, you’d notice that Brink has an awfully sharp aesthetic direction, but how does everything else stack up?
Brink takes place on a failing experiment/acropolis called “The Ark” – but you’d never know that it’s failing, because it looks so damn good. After you’re done oogling at the title screen, ss soon as the game boots up, you’re greeted with a choice of either joining the Ark’s military guard, or the lawless rebellion, and a giant, what feels like thirty minute intro video (I hope you cancelled your plans tonight!). While Brink will get simple as you go on, and will be fairly simple to jump into if you’ve played team based shooters, there are a lot of concepts and ideas built in that you’ll want to pick up.
Gameplay wise, Brink delivers in most places you’d expect it to. The controls are easy to pick up and master, running around in the game’s beautiful environments are a blast, and the game’s weaponry looks and feels great. You’ll get around in a Mirror’s Edge parkour like manner, hopping, sliding, climbing, and working your way around the game’s playground-like levels. Just like Team Fortress, your stature effects your ability to move about – you can choose the Scout-like light, the Pyro-like medium, and the…Heavy-like heavy.
All three are pretty fun in their own right, and like all team based games, you’ll definitely want to coordinate your choice between your teammates. In addition to the body types, there are four classes to choose from, that all offer different support and point roles. The Solider, Operative [Spy], Medic, and Engineer all function how they sound, and each has a unique buff to throw at their teammates to boost their stats.
Levels are set up in an objective based manner, and there is no difference between the single player and multiplayer aspect of the game. Yes, you heard that right single player haters, Brink has no true solo mode – every avatar will be replaced with an AI construct, and as humans join, they’ll take the place of said AI. Objectives range from escort missions, bombing runs, and hacking enemy computers. There isn’t anything here you haven’t seen before, but when coupled with the fast paced aerial antics of Brink, they effectively feel new.
In addition to the solid gameplay, if you’re looking for customization (aesthetic or otherwise), you’ve come to the right place. There are literally tens of thousands of different costume combinations to choose from, and tons of different loadouts/perks to jam pack your character with. For the most part, no two characters will look the same, and that’s most definitely a good thing. The satisfaction of customization is compounded by the excellent XP system. You get XP for just about everything, including helping out a teammate, injuring an enemy, or attempting to capture/defend any objective. While the level cap needs to be increased at some point to avoid the incredibly low ceiling, getting there is a blast, and you can always make a new character for all three body types.
Unfortunately, Brink suffers from a number of negative factors that detract from the overall package. For starters, the AI is unbelievably bad – as in, standing still in a corner away from an objective bad. What’s even worse is that somehow, someway, AI competitors can never really seem to kill each other, or capture/defend objectives effectively. Often times I’ve found myself, when other players have dropped due to connection issues, being the Rambo of the team, and having to complete every objective: needless to say that’s not really a recipe for a fun session if you’re having to do it multiple times.
Another deal-breaker is the broken difficulty of some of the objectives. Often times you’ll find yourself fighting over a chokepoint for what seems like hours, only to be bested by your own AI teammates, and invincible machine gun defensive turrets. All in all, I’ve spent many a match dying constantly (and instantly) to various firepower while my AI teammates run around like lost chickens – as previously stated, make sure you bring friends. Of course, some of these issues wouldn’t be so bad if you’re playing entirely with humans, which leads us to Brink’s next issue: online stability.
One major showcase of Brink’s poor netcode is the lack of lobbies. Because there isn’t any real way to screen your games outside of choosing what level you want to jump into, you could get stuck in a game with connectivity issues, or a low player count – of course, these issues are alleviated on PC, which houses dedicated servers. Fortunately, horrid lag wasn’t common practice, but when it’s there, it’s ugly – Splash Damage is promising some connectivity patches in the future, but as of now, there are some issues involved with playing online.
Overall Brink has a lot of good ideas, but fails to execute on a lot of other ones. Hopefully somewhere down the line lobbies can be implemented, and some of the reward ceiling issues can be fixed with DLC, before the community dwindles down.
Brink's visuals are pretty awe-inspiring - even if they took more than a few pages from Mirror's Edge's book.
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When you're just running, gunning, and jumping, Brink is pretty fun - then you quickly realize you have to deal with the level's map design, and wonky objectives.
Audio-wise, Brink doesn't really do anything right. The game's voice acting and soundtrack are mediocre at best.
Brink's replayability will be entirely dependent on it's community - you can finish each campaign in a little less than two hours, and both feel strikingly similar.
Brink shoots for the stars, but unfortunately comes up pretty short, mostly because of design issues.