Brink is an incredibly schizophrenic game in many ways. It wants to be an overarching, cutscene driven story about the struggles of the Ark on which the game takes place, yet simultaneously be a fast paced shooter with the quick pacing and instant gratification that multiplayer focused games need to entice players and keep them around. It wants to offer the character progression and unlockable skill mechanics of an RPG, while offering the fluidity of movement and freedom of traversing the maps how you want in the parkour style made popular by platform adventures. The problem that Brink has is that these elements don’t quite join up as seamlessly as Splash Damage would like, leaving a sort of patchwork game that is by no means a bad one but does contain niggles that might put off players from a long-term investment.
The game itself takes place on an island location known as The Ark where a civil war is brewing between two forces – the Security who feel the people should remain on the Ark, and the Resistance who long to escape the Ark in order to seek out a new life. You, as a member of whichever team you happen to be fight on have to complete a series of objectives on every map in order to further the cause for your chosen side across a number of maps throughout the Ark.
After choosing a side, you can create a character and customise their appearance from a series of options, many unique to each team – and though the selection is fairly varied, it perhaps would have been nice to allow more customisation in terms of colour. Then you customise what skills your character has using the initial bank of points provided. Finally you choose a mission and whether to play it solo, with or against other humans or instead take on one of the ‘Challenges’ which allows you to unlock new equipment and weapons with which to use in the campaign portion of the game. Once in the campaign itself you’ll find yourself either attacking or defending objectives as one of four classes; Engineer, Medic, Soldier and Operative that will be very familiar to you if you’ve ever played any Enemy Territory game.
And this correlation remains true throughout the whole of Brink – understandable as it’s from the same developers – and this is essentially Enemy Territory 3 in all but name. Medics heal the team and provide health related buffs, Engineers build and construct turrets, objectives and mines, Soldiers plant charges, distribute ammo and generally form the brunt of the Attack force, while Operatives are required for hacking objectives and infiltration missions with the ability to disguise as fallen foes. It’s a tried and tested dynamic, and of course it shows with roles for nearly every kind of player, while the HUD display makes it relatively clear what roles are needed to complete missions, and a nice touch is the game highlighting objectives when selected to show exactly where each class is needed the most helping to focus the teams.
Even with this however, it can be quite confusing for new players to know exactly what’s going on. It’s all well and good having these things highlighted but it’s not always obvious exactly why this is going on. To their credit, Splash Damage have introduced some context through the exposition and cutscenes at the start and end of every match. However it’s hard to see how effective these truly are to most multiplayer shooter fans, who just want to get in and play. Gunplay itself is also incredibly fast and frantic and doesn’t quite feel solid enough at the moment. Shots do have a certain weight to them, but it can be hard to really see the difference between many of the guns aside from your burst fire/rapid fire options, even with the upgrades. The bars do give some information, but it’s difficult for the player to translate that into what that means in real terms.
It’s also fair to say that Brink isn’t the most polished game you’ll play this year. Granted, it manages to achieve an impressive feat by combining the first person action with free running, and the much touted S.M.A.R.T. movement system is impressive in that you can indeed clamber up walls and slide through narrow gaps, it can feel rather arbitrary at times – as if the environments are just blocking your way for the sake of it, rather than the maps feeling natural and fluid. It can feel really artificial when you’re blocked from going a certain route just because the game says so. In addition, at this stage netcode can be choppy at times, and although it’s a minor issue, it’s a shame that one person with a bad connection can drag a whole server down. You’ll really feel the brunt of this if it’s you, especially if you have no control over it. The XP system also feels a bit forced, and more convulted than it needs to be – especially when abilities are more tied to ‘rank’ which is apparently a separate thing that goes up in the same way. In fact, the only real use of your ‘level’ seems to be the difficulty of the bots in challenge mode. Since there’s no way to tell this until you do it, you might spend only an hour playing multiplayer and your level rises to a point where the challenges become frustratingly difficult to complete solo – but you’d have no idea until you went to play said challenges which feels very unfair.
Overall Brink is a good game. It’s a solid multiplayer shooter, but whether it can hold out for the long terms is going to depend on future maps – currently many do feel similar to each other. The Challenges are a nice touch to help hone your skills, but even when you know what you’re doing it can be easy to feel a bit overwhelmed and surplus to requirements if you’re on a good team. Conversely it can be all too easy to blame your teammates when you’re having a bad day. It’s a title that does come recommended and really shines when playing with a good, well co-ordinated team and it deserves to do well, there’s just a few aspects of the game that might not suit everybody’s tastes. Time will tell how long it sticks around.
Verdict: On Target
Platforms available: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Version reviewed: PC