Wishing we could get the lead out.
Gaming’s seemingly endless utopian outposts often place a premium on fueling the future, and it’s no different with the Ark, the floating metropolis at the center of Brink’s narrative. But the best-laid plans have invariably fallen victim to random acts of ruin—as they often do in the wild world of gaming—transforming the altruistic outpost into an overcrowded military checkpoint. Thus, the stage is stereotypically set in Splash Damage’s futuristic squad-based first-person shooter.
And, just like the Ark, here’s a shooter that strives to blend the best the genre has to offer into a defining experience: You’ll find a nod to DICE’s parkour powerhouse Mirror’s Edge in the game’s SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) System; a handy class-based structure ripped from the likes of Team Fortress 2; and a robust, upgrade-driven experience system that does its best to give the Call of Duty franchise a run for its money.
But, just like the bubbling civil war upon the Ark, many of Brink’s core elements—while competent—end up butting heads in an oft-awkward identity crisis that detracts from the game’s finer points. Take the SMART system, for example. You can vault over, around, and on top of nearly everything in the beautifully articulated environments, but a lack of simple features like wall-running and polished collision detection makes the whole system feel more like an afterthought than a core mechanic. I often found myself stalled on simple boxes or accidentally vaulting surfaces I wanted to stay on, so I ended up abandoning the idea of acrobatic excellence very early into my time with Brink.
The game’s command-post system feels like another half-baked idea. Not unlike the Killzone franchise, Brink uses posts to refill ammo, weapons, and swap roles in the aforementioned class system, but their value’s ultimately diminished by a lack of necessity. Each mission features class-driven objectives, but the game’s lackluster teammate AI encourages you to play the role of engineer 90% of the time. Capturing posts fails to push up your squad’s spawn points, which means you’ll spend a lot of time running back to the action in Brink, which ends up becoming more of a chore than I would have liked.
Speaking of the class system, Brink offers a host of upgrades, including a ton of awesome outfits, a diverse selection of weapons, and a boatload of class-specific abilities that can definitely add some spark to the in-game combat. Once you get over fighting as a futuristic cowboy or über-indie Juggalo–esque insurgent, the seams start to show, though. Classes lack any real weapon restrictions, and the skills aren’t really game-changers, meaning that you feel less like a highly trained operative and more like a swap-happy Swiss Army soldier mid-battle. To top it all off, picking your own poison in the weapon department doesn’t quite do it, either, as heavy weapons end up lacking the necessary punch to balance out their considerable reload times. In the end, I switched back to the guns I started with, adding disappointment to the realization that the weapon add-ons weren’t much help, either.
That said, unlocking these add-ons via the game’s tutorial-esque challenges is a novel, rewarding way to earn accolades. These missions—playable solo or with the help of up to four online teammates—do a great job of introducing the game’s core mechanics and prepping you for the challenges of the game’s robust campaign mode, which allows you to play 8-on-8 online in an effort to destroy or defend the Ark in the ongoing conflict. When playing with friends, this aspect’s one of my favorite parts of any game in recent memory, and the replay value’ here is just sick. With 16 challenges, 20 story-driven missions, and a fully customizable suite of one-off options, Brink’s designed for veteran shooter fans who know the importance of working together—and I can’t say enough about how well it comes together with an experienced team of hitters.
When you’re offline and on your own, however, Brink’s busy AI stumbles a bit. Enemies take a whole frickin’ clip to put down, and given your boys’ tendency to ignore targets in their direct line of fire, you’ll really miss playing with actual human beings. What’s more, teammates tend to funnel into single entry points near objectives rather than spreading out, and lack the type of gun game their enemy counterparts bring to the table, meaning that while you’ll routinely finish at the top of key stat categories for your selected class and kills, you end up spending a good 30% of the average match on your back, waiting for a medic. I still had a good deal of fun in single-player, but if Brink had been tuned just a bit better, it would’ve been a great experience online or off.
Unfortunately, though, this game just doesn’t quite do “great” often enough to knock the top dogs off their comfy online pedestals. I loved Brink’s storyline and visual style, as well as its strides in variety, atmosphere, and teamwork—but the sad truth is they’re often overshadowed by a messy mix of mechanics that seem more like boxes on a checklist than tightly integrated keys to a successful mission. If you’re a shooter devotee, Brink’s a definite must-play—its nagging shortcomings may not bother you—but if you’re looking for the Next Big Thing in multiplayer gaming, you just might find the title’s hints of greatness a touch too ironic for its own good.
SUMMARY: If you’re a shooter devotee, Brink’s a definite must-play, but if you’re looking for the Next Big Thing in multi
–player gaming, you may be disappointed.
- THE GOOD: Visual style, full online co-op through campaign
- THE BAD: Inconsistent difficulty, loosey-goosy specializations
- THE UGLY: Teammate AI has trouble tying its own shoes