Brink is one of those games that is going to be a love/hate affair depending on who you ask. This is not your standard first-person shooter where fragging online with your pals will be the talk of the town for months, yet if you don’t have online your interest in the game will likely drop drastically. Brink is more akin to Splash Damage’s previous title Enemy Territory Quake Wars, or the more popular Team Fortress series. This is a class-based, objective shooter that requires communication, teamwork and dedication. If you enjoy those types, however, you are in for a treat as Brink is one of the most in-depth and customizable of its type to come along in quite some time.
The story is broken down into two factions, each with a series of campaign missions. You are part of the Ark, a giant man-made, floating city that was built as an experiment to sustain life in a mainly green environment. After years, the city slowly became disconnected from the mainland and turned into a warzone between the two factions as they vie for control. You can select between these two at the outset of the game, but you can play through either campaign once your character is created.
Sadly, the story feels like it takes a backseat to the action most of the time, and serves more as a catalyst to explain why you have to perform the objectives of the current level. I did, however, enjoy the “what if” scenarios that each campaign has, allowing you to see what might have happened had the events of the main story never come to pass.
Of course the story is just the tip of the iceberg here. Brink is a massive game, full of complex mechanics that require a lot of time and patience. In fact, when you first boot up the game it offers a training video, and I recommend you watch it. Not only does it give you 1000 XP to spend on upgrades, it will also give you a rundown of each game type, class and upgrade in the game. It is a lot of info to take in, and be warned the running time is quite hefty. Saying there is a lot to learn in the world of Brink is an obscene understatement.
For anyone new to the genre, let me give you a quick rundown of the basics. This is a class-based team shooter. This means each game consists of two sides and four classes to choose from. Each match has you working together to complete objectives such as escorting targets, stealing information, hacking items and the like. Each class has a specific role to perform and constantly going for kills is not the way to play this game. There is a hint that pops up during gameplay that states you should run more than shoot in Brink, and that is sound advice. Working together with your team and communicating are vital to success, which makes this a game to play with friends.
If you decide to fly solo, the game will likely wear outits welcome fairly quickly. The offline modes are nearly identical to the multiplayer experience, but with bots in place of human teammates. In addition, the single player offers up a series of challenges to test and refine your skills. The AI is fairly strong when compared to most games, but there were still occasions when they were completely focused on shooting enemies instead of concentrating on the objective. The challenges serve more as a training device to introduce you to each type of objective. Here, the AI bots will never attempt to complete any objective, giving you all the responsibility. These are nice and the bots are smart, but if you plan on buying the game and never playing online, you are missing more than half of the experience.
There are four classes to choose from in the game, and each is an important part of the team. The soldier is the typical grunt class that should be your frontline defense. They can take decent amounts of damage while dispersing ammo to teammates. The medic is the support class, healing teammates as well as reviving fallen comrades. The engineer is the ultimate handyman on the team. They can fix items, lay down mines and turrets and even build stairs to reveal alternate routes on specific maps. Finally, the operative is the spy-type class. He can disguise himself as enemy units to infiltrate, serving as the lead hacker of the team. All classes are integral to the team, and each one is actually fun to play thanks to the game’s solid balancing system.
Explaining every single upgrade in the game is impossible, so I will try to give a quick synopsis. The game has universal perks that you can add to each of your created characters. These should be familiar to anyone who has played an online game like this. These allow permanent upgrades such as reloading while sprinting, quieting your footsteps and being able to shoot grenades out of the air for quicker detonation. You can also upgrade each individual class with a variety of perks. This is where the depth comes into play as you can focus entirely on one class and fall way behind in the others if you don’t keep them updated. Being able to switch classes within the game on the fly is nice, but trying to manage each one can become tedious. Thankfully, you can create multiple characters and perhaps focus on one class at a time in that aspect.
Speaking of characters, the customization and creation is definitely in-depth. You have three body types and only a handful of faces, but the actual attire and trinkets you can apply really give your character a sense of personalization. You can also unlock new items as you level up giving you access to even more items to create your own unique avatar.
As for the gameplay portion of Brink, it is an interesting endeavor. The shooting itself feels a bit floaty at times making aiming more complicated than you might think. Using iron sights and crouching increase your accuracy ten-fold and knowing which weapons to equip and which ones you prefer is a game in and of itself. But as I have mentioned, shooting is not the focal point here. Brink introduces a new movement system dubbed SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain). Basically, this allows you to maneuver the environment by simply holding down the sprint button. This is also based on body type. Light characters are more agile and can wall run, medium characters can climb and hurdle over obstacles, while heavy types are limited to simply jumping and leaping over some objects.
My issues with the system emerged during sprints, as I suddenly found myself up on the wall or climbing over a ledge. For the most part though, it works great and provides a quick and easy way to get around the environment. When in action, it really is cool to see skilled users traverse the maps to get around and take down enemies. This can lead to the difference between completing an objective and simply not getting there in time.
Visually, Brink looks good but some pop-in and textures can spoil the look of the game. This can mostly be remedied by installing the game on Xbox 360. I love the unique character design mostly because it feels unlike most other titles on the market. The frame rate can take a hit in times of massive action, but remains consistent the majority of the time. Maps are varied enough to keep things fresh and the overall war-torn feel of the Ark is nicely presented. Sound is decent, but nothing to write home about. I do love hearing my teammates shouting their intentions when selecting objectives from the command posts. Also it is worth noting that the menu is slick and a visual treat with easy-to-find items; something that usually goes unnoticed.
I feel like I have said a lot about Brink, but at the same time not nearly enough. This is one complex game that will satisfy your need for class-based team shooters for quite some time. Unfortunately, the game will live or die based on its community and we will only be able to play ‘wait and see’ with that aspect until after launch. If you are in the market for the next great team-based shooter, you really can’t go wrong with Brink. It is a wonderfully complex game that has the potential to steal hundreds of hours of your gaming time if you have enough friends to enjoy it with.
Review copy provided by publisher.