In the months and weeks leading up to Brink’s release, I had enveloped myself in the developer diaries and gameplay videos that had been released by the game developer, Splash Damage. I was intrigued by its originality; Brink ambitiously blended parkour-style movement, classed-based gameplay (ala Team Fortress 2), a blended campaign/multi-player experience, and a very stylized look. It was shaping up to be something new and wholly different from the standardized online experience of console shooters like Call of Duty or Halo, and it was a change I was ready for. Different doesn’t always mean better though, and trying out new gameplay approaches can be a gamble. In the case of Brink, there are a lot of hit and miss aspects (in terms of technical, design, gameplay, and overall approach aspects) that keep it from being an enjoyable game.
Brink takes place on the “Ark,” a large floating city that was originally constructed to be a utopia/resort, but has since became mankind’s last home after melting ice caps flooded the earth. You can play either as the Resistance – a group of old world refuges who are tired of being treated as second-class citizens or as the Security – a militarized police force who aim to maintain peace by any means necessary. Playing as either side, you can work to either escape the Ark in search of outside help or keep the peace by crushing the resistance.
In an effort to “unify” the Brink experience, Splash Damage boasted how they combined the campaign and the multi-player. In reality though, they just took the multi-player maps, replaced live players with bots, and added cutscenes between each mission to give the feeling of a cohesive story. Due to this setup, there are no memorable characters to speak of, and the whole story seems very impersonal and stripped of emotion.
From a technical standpoint, Brink has a number graphical, AI, and online issues that keep it from being a decent game. Slow texture fade-in is too common, and sometimes they never come in at all. The bot AI, while not terrible, is bad enough to makes the single player campaign a lesson in frustration. Friendly AI will often ignore main objectives, run into walls, and forget to fire at enemy bots, while enemy AI will continually poor into a single corridor to be slaughtered like cattle. Finally, there is the online multi-player, which is almost unplayable due to lag (I played it on the Xbox, but heard this was less of an issue on PC) and lacks basic features like a party system.
In terms of design, the Ark has a lot of contrasting detail and overall look depending on whose ground you are fighting on, and in that regard, it looks good. The maps are poorly designed though, and they feature a number of cramp corridors and choke points that make fighting or completing an objective dreadful.
Finally, there is the problem with the leveling system. In Brink, each level up provides players with points that can be spent on new abilities, and while some abilities are universal, most are class specific (medic, engineer, soldier, and rouge). Over time, players will decide on which class best suits them and start dumping all their eggs into that one basket. This would be fine, except different classes are needed for different objectives in each match, which makes the player’s one golden class somewhat useless most of the time.
Brink managed to get the essentials of gameplay down, the shooting feels solid and parkour-ing around the map to escape danger or reach an objective can be very satisfying. The character customization is also a well-realized aspect, from both a gameplay and an atheistic aspect.
In terms of a full priced game, Brink is a disappointment that comes up short on story and has a number of issues that need to be addressed before it will be able to amass an online following. With that said, the game has potential, and if Splash Damage manages to roll out the needed updates and fixes, Brink could at the very least make for a fun on-line FPS.