Brink Review

Gaming


Brink
Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: Splash Damage
Versions: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC
Released: May 10th 2011
Price: $59.99 US, £49.99 UK, $109.99 AUS

Overview:
Your standard FPS doesn’t have a whole lot going for it in the way of variety. Sure you can put in a whole bunch of fancy weaponry but you can take most modern day FPS games and find that they are quite cookie cutter in assembly. Enter a warzone of some sort and it will all be the same, shoot this guy, move forward and repeat. But what if instead of just following that path you could find a path of your own and climb over obstacles with ease? With Splash Damage’s SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) system in place and focus on team based combat, does Brink set itself apart from the rest?

Story:
Brink takes place on a floating city known as The Ark. The Ark was designed to be able to comfortably house and provide replenish able food to five thousand residents at a time. However due to a catastrophe The Ark now boasts fifty thousand residents placing a severe lack of resources on the city, causing riots and starvation among the population. Some of these people have joined forces in what they are calling the Resistance. The Resistance believes that the only way that they can survive is to escape from the Ark and back to the rest of the world.

On the other hand The Ark has recruited their own Security force, colorfully named the Security. The Security is set on forming an ordered world on The Ark and the Resistance are their main obstacle in creating a peaceful, albeit forced, world. The game immediately asks what side the player wishes to choose upon start up with little explanation about the two forces as a whole, but in the end it doesn’t matter who you pick.

The story is split into two for each faction, with a number of missions being available for Resistance and the other half being for Security. Unfortunately the story, if it can truly be called that really is about as hollow as you can come. There is a bit of a twist thrown in with a couple “What If” missions for each side but the story is barely given any exposition. With minor cutscenes and dialogue before each “mission” starts there is little actual set up for the things that are happening.

The story doesn’t even get told through gameplay as the levels you play through in the story mode are quite literally the same levels you will be playing in Multiplayer mode, only occasionally minus the cut scene opening, though you can still choose to watch it and waste time if you feel like it. It is truly unfortunate that there is a barebone storyline here to go along with the single player mode as specially designed and routed levels could have made amazing use of the SMART system but unfortunately they feel like multiplayer with AI compatriots and a thin veil of a story.

Graphics:
Brink uses a unique visual style for its characters. As you begin your game and choose a side you will be presented with a blank slate character to work with. You can then select a basic facial structure to choose from, although the majority of them have rather strange looking faces with large noses, and then customize to your heart’s content from there. The only permanent features you select will be your facial structure and tattoos or scars.

Everything else is completely customizable across both factions as you will unlock more clothing and hair styles as you grow in level. This is definitely a highlight of Brink as you can make your character someone truly unique. You will be hard pressed to find another person who looks like your character (though if you do I would suggest shooting that disguised Operative).

The levels you battle in are all very well designed with a unique color palette that is bright and uses more than your standard brown and gray coloration that most modern shooters choose to use. Levels are designed for the character’s multiple body types in mind. Players can select from Light, Medium and Heavy styled body types, with Light users being able to climb up to different areas on the map that are otherwise unaccessible. There is always more than one route to your target and if you can master each of Brink’s eight different maps you will have a distinct advantage.

Audio:
Audibly Brink does a suitable job making the player feel like they are in a battle zone. Gunfire sounds fine, though explosions can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. While there is a severe lack of much narrative, what is voiced over sounds good enough to not be taken out of place. In combat if you change your objective your character will announce out loud to the team what they will be aiming for, which does help the flow of battle as your whole team will then now what you will be doing if you don’t have a microphone yourself.

Gameplay:
Now before you read this part of the review I’m going to come right out and say this first. Brink is an extremely fun game to play and once you get the hang of it, it is a joy to play. The SMART system is very refreshing to see and the combination of using it to take advantageous positions and navigate your way around an enemy force is something that I will never grow tired of.

Brink is truly a joy to play, especially if you enjoy team based combat. Even if you prefer the more solo route you can still find pleasure here, though the game clearly is developed for team play in mind. Now the reason I mention this first is because there are a number of issues with the title that hamper the otherwise stellar game that Brink could have been, which you can read below.

Weaponry seems to be fairly balanced with stronger weapons such as bolt action rifles only containing a low amount of ammo and a slow fire rate. Character buffs do end up helping however and although one would originally expect that a Soldier would be the best one to have in a fight it is instead the Engineer. The ability to lay down landmines and create turrets at will makes the Engineer a very helpful class to play as, right up there with Medics who can revive downed opponents and buff ally health. These abilities far outshine the Soldier’s ability to provide ammo packs and the Operative’s ability to disguise himself as a dead enemy.

Brink makes use of regenerating health but also has a very interesting character down system. If you are incapacitated from enemy weaponry you can remain on the ground waiting for a Medic to hand you a shot to revive yourself, or choose to respawn yourself. You have as long as you want to lay there waiting for a syringe but enemies can deliver the finishing blow through either further gunfire or melee attacks. Of course the same can easily happen to you.

Brink focuses on team gameplay with four classes available immediately to play. These classes are the Medic, the Soldier, the Engineer and the Operative. Each class has their own special skills and abilities that can be leveled up via skill points you unlock by leveling up. However, certain mission objectives can only be completed with specific classes.

Medics must heal downed agent objectives, Operatives place hacking devices on doors, Engineers builds shortcuts, roadblocks and disarm explosives while the Soldier can arm explosives. This means that you will occasionally find yourself full of a team with plenty of Engineers and Medics but no one willing to play a soldier, forcing you to use that class even if you haven’t been placing skill points into that class.

The game provides the choice to automatically start as a certain class, this way you can automatically be your favorite class that you have trained into. However if you have been a trained Medic with all of the trimmings, you may find yourself as a poorly skilled Soldier simply because your team lacks any Soldier willing to complete the actual objective.

Brink is focused heavily on the multiplayer aspect of things, meaning you will be spending most of your time either in co-op or online in matchmaking. Unfortunately there isn’t actually matchmaking or a lobby. Players can choose between two separate playlists, Objective and Stopwatch and begin a random session for either one, or choose what map they would prefer. This is all good but these two playlists are quite literally the exact same, except Stopwatch times each side as they take turns. There is practically one multiplayer game mode and it ends up varying depending on what levels you pick and what side you happen to be on.

Players are able to customize their weaponry through a bunch of different attachments options that change various statistics about your guns. These are unlocked through completing challenges that are given out immediately when you start the game up with three different levels that have to be completed. These challenges are relatively short and once completed offer really no motivation to complete again besides reaching a higher rank on the score leaderboard.

Of course playing with computer AI is a very big challenge with Brink mostly due to the fact that allied AI is absolutely terrible. There are a number of times that AI characters will simply stand in one place and not do anything at all, or blindly walk into an area full of enemies without actually doing anything. I experienced numerous situations where the AI would refuse to perform the objective they were assigned to do. Three AI controlled Engineers were simply standing around a ticking explosive and let it explode for no reason other than that some enemies were somewhat close by. Thankfully for most single player modes you can either do co-op or allow four others to join in Versus mode so you can actually have human controlled partners.

There also appears to be the occasional problem with game play lag, bordering on unplayable at times. This usually only occurs during multiplayer matches completely occupied with other players, while playing a challenge mode had no trouble at all. The issue here is that the connections for all the characters showed green bars but there were moments that the entire game would come to a standstill simply because of lag, only to resume a few seconds later like nothing happened. With a game focusing practically everything on multiplayer, laggy online servers are a terrible thing to experience.

Now finally as you kill enemies, repair things, buff allies, complete objectives etc. you will gain XP.  Enough XP provides you with a level up which is your standard run of the mill progression system. As I mentioned earlier level ups let you select different skills to buff up and gaining a Rank also provides even more powerful abilities that lower Ranked players don’t have access to. Now this wouldn’t be a problem, if you could get past level 20.

Character progression is capped at level 20 meaning that anything you do after that point counts for nothing XP wise. The maximum Rank you can obtain is 5 and once you have done that you will find little else to do with that character. With no way to reset your level back to 1 and gain some sort of bonus, your only other option is to make a new character from scratch. Although you are able to keep your level 20 character still this method of leveling up your players is definitely a roundabout way to handle max leveled players. Being as there is no way to change your weapons nor your character in battle, although you can change your class, it makes little sense to have more than one character unless you prefer changing your playstyle up drastically and build one from the ground up all over again.

Overall:
Brink has so many different things going for it. The SMART system is implemented very well and definitely adds a whole new aspect to your standard FPS. With so many different customization routes it is truly an interesting title to play, but it is a bit depressing that level progression is capped at such a level that players must make more than one character with no way to alternate between characters during play. Splash Damage is currently aware of the lag issues and is working on a way to repair them, so hopefully within a short time matches will not suffer critical lag spikes during full player matches. Brink is a shining example of what can be done to make a FPS different, if only that shine wasn’t marred with many different issues.

I give Brink
8-0-capsules-out-of-10

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