Written : Monday, May 09, 2011
By: Dan Webb (GT: Webb x360a)
When a game comes along with a name like Brink, when it comes to review time it’s so easy to get sucked into incorporating lame segues into the review using the game name as a tenuous link to the subject matter. You know, “Are we on the Brink of greatness?” “Are we on the Brink of something special?”... Rather than get caught up in those tawdry and overused word games, we hereby promise to use no such nonsense in our final judgement on the title. A title that’s been hogging the internet tubes for quite some time now. With Splash Damage keen to put any association with the messy Quake Wars console port behind them, they’ve taken this behemoth on themselves this time and whether it will be a console hit remains to be seen. You could say that Brink is a bit of a Marmite game.
"You can even dress up like a funky new age chicken..."
Not Marmite in the usual respect, in that you’ll either love it or hate it – although I suspect there’ll be some truth in that – but Marmite in the respect that it’s a game of two different halves. One, which would be barely passable as a product of entertainment, which you’ll hate; and the other, one that class-based multiplayer first-person shooters should aspire to be, which you’ll love.
Set aboard the Ark, Brink looks to tell the story of two factions: the Resistance and the Security; and their story of survival in and around the world’s last bastion of hope. Both sides of the escalating civil war are fully playable, where you’ll basically play different sides of the same scenarios, and although the cinematics may be pretty and it’s neat to see your fully customised badass floating around in the background of said cutscenes, but that’s about all there is to the “story”. It’s forgettable, uninspiring and mired in bland characters with clichéd reasons for their plight. That being said, if you were planning on playing Brink for the story, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
Brink however is an unconventional game, allowing players to tackle the exact same scenarios alone, with co-op buddies or against every man and their dog, or so to speak. In attempting to merge the single-player, co-op and multiplayer into one neat package though, it only goes to serve two purposes. One, it reveals that it’s not even possible to do such a thing without one of them standing out like a sore thumb that’s been dipped in corrosive acid; and two, it just goes to show why multiplayer games are so successful – in short, the enemy AI is light years behind that of Pee-wee Herman’s IQ.
"Guys? Can't you read what it says on the bright yellow tape?"
Despite its bold claims, Brink is most definitely a multiplayer only game... and a great one at that, whether played publically or privately. Played in single-player, it’s completely unbearable, with the dense sidekick AI to frustrate you to the end of your tether and in truth, it’s quite a painful experience. Watching medics run past you as you lie downed on the floor or even better, watching them ignore objectives like they’re a 12 year old simpleton who has a sick bloodthirst to satisfy, is potentially the most frustrating experience since Wile E Coyote set off to grab himself a Road Runner. It’s Lemmings circa 2011. In co-op, it’s not much better, although you can at least rely on your teammates here, but shooting wave after wave of dim-witted and predictable bots is about as fun as it sounds... not very! Come launch day, if you’re planning on picking Brink up, I suggest jumping straight online, ignoring the story altogether and taking it as it comes against like-minded foes. That’s in any order, any map and not even paying attention to the “story.”
After being bribed into watching an insane amount of tutorials for XP, it’s only then how complex you realise the game actually is. Well, that’s how they want you to feel, but in essence, Brink is no more or no less complicated than any other class-based objective-based game. You’ve got 4 classes – soldier, medic, engineer and operative – each class has its perks and you have objectives to complete. No one class is overly powerful, although the operative seems to take a back seat to the medics and turret-happy engineers, and it seems that even with the perks, Splash Damage is right on the money with its balance. It’s a team game though and like any good team-based objective shooter, getting the balance of all of those classes in your team and co-ordinating like a well-oiled sex machine are the key to being successful. Splash Damage does a fantastic job then to bribe people with XP to help the cause, and with objectives needing a little from each class at some point or another, you can’t just disregard one class... you need to be prepared to change and assist your team.
Each class then has its own set of custom perks that range from turrets and mines for the engineer; and more bang for the soldier; to self revival and adrenaline boosts for the medics, and disguises and cortex bombs for the operative. You won’t be able to use the class specific skills willy-nilly though, as you’ll have to keep one eye on your reserve meter – which is self-regenerative – and their cooldown times. To get these perks, you simply have to level up with XP and for every level you advance, you get a token; then on every 5 levels, you go up a “rank,” where you can purchase the next tier of gadgets to assist you. Playing in multiplayer and allowing to select your rank only means that everything seems to be balanced, meaning you won’t get left trying to kill a dinosaur with a toothpick.
"Slide shooting has never been so much fun. Well, since Crysis."
It’ll be the character customisation though that you’ll invest more time in than the perks as they’re quite straight forward. Changing your character’s tattoos, scars, jackets, haircuts, face masks, etc. – of which there are a ridiculous amount of combinations – never gets old. You can even change the body type – heavy, medium, light – which affects your movement speed, the game’s free-running and your health. Despite all that though, you’ll have to stick to the male variety, as apparently, there were no women on the Ark... Noah would have been screwed!
Further to the character customisation, if you work through the game’s ‘Challenges’ – short, confined scenarios that are meant to refine your skills in some of the aspects of the game – that involve escorting a bot and parkour, amongst others, you can unlock a variety of weapon customisation unlocks. Some of the unlocks are pretty cool – like the underslung grenade launcher – but in all, they don’t really change the guns that much, apart from making them look ultra badass. Despite having 3 levels of difficulty across 4 challenge types, there’s not much to them and you’ll only play them to unlock the specific weapon customisations/unlocks. That being said, they do serve as a good tutorial for the game. Much better than the 40 minute video lecture...
Outside the customisation of the weapons, the guns themselves are pretty much assigned to two classes: assault rifles and SMGs. Yes, there are quirkier weapons like shotguns, long distance high velocity round rifles, chain-guns, pistols and such, but you’ll often find yourself resorting back to the usual array of assault rifles and SMGs. The grenades play a big role in the grand scheme of things too, seeing as they are also on a cooldown timer as well, meaning you’ll have to stay on your toes. Cooking grenades is almost essential to using them successfully – take that as a bit of free advice.
Give the opposing computer AI a shotgun though and you’ll likely feel the wrath from a good 30 foot away... which is frustrating to say the least. They all control and handle like your traditional shooter though, with plenty of recoil for extended bursts, but with plenty of responsiveness and fluidity. Combine that with the game’s unique free-running SMART button, which puts you on parkour autorails, and you can be a deadly force sliding round corners pumping your foes full of lead. It’s uber-satisfying as well.
"One of the many badass outfits you can don."
Players can earn XP for various tasks like killing fools, detecting mines, disarming mines, primary objectives, secondary objectives – which assist your team – healing teammates, buffing teammates, capturing command posts – which assist your team with more buffs – and so on. The intuitive design of the game also means that players willing to do something for the greater good of the team – say, be a medic when your team doesn’t have one – will get rewarded with a bigger XP boost. Something that does the game a world of good. The list of things to do and how to play the game is pretty extensive in all though, meaning that with only 8 or so maps, you won’t get sick of them for some time – the maps are huge and multi-staged too, so fear not.
Considering it’s a very multiplayer centric game though, there are a few horrific oversights. Firstly, there’s no lobby system... which is about as criminal as it gets in this genre, so constantly backing out of games and then starting new ones and re-inviting friends does tend to get old fast. It’s not hard to play together, but it’s a massive inconvenience. And secondly, every time you level up and earn points to spend on abilities – AKA perks – you have to back up out of the game; even in the changeover between maps. It’s a huge, but simple oversight and backing out every time you level up so you can buy a new ability is more troublesome than it sounds.
Speaking of troublesome, the achievements are not... well, most of them. I’d say you could get 800 of Brink’s points just playing the game normally, making sure you use all the classes and their abilities of course. Completing the whole game – both sides – in Versus will come over time if you’re playing it the way it should be played, so then that only really leaves completing the 3 star challenges to be a little tricky... and it’s only tricky though as it asks you to complete them alone, something that will take almost godlike skills. It’s worth 100 points too. Coming from someone who’s more than competent in the shooter field and well-versed in the art of shooting from a first-person view, I can’t honestly see how some of them are doable. They are... but they’re not for mere mortals like myself or people with no patience.
Dare I say it though, but bar a few interesting design decisions and a single-player – and story – that I wouldn’t even class as average, Brink is undoubtedly a great game, based entirely on its multiplayer shenanigans. You could say it’s on the... cusp of greatness. You might say it’s on the... periphery of awesomeness. Or, some might even say that it’s sat on the... precipice between being a great game and an impressive game. Well, that’s what we Brink anyway... Dammit! I mean think... So close but yet so far.
The voice acting is competent, but nothing particularly dazzling. The music is nice though. Yes, I’m using the word ‘nice,’ what’s it got to do with you?
The bright levels and caricature character design allow Brink to stand out from the crowd. The lack of anti-aliasing, subdued textures and samey clean cut levels don’t.
When Brink hits its element online, it hits the ground running and then beats you in the face with awesomeness every step of the way. It controls are intuitive, the game is well-balanced and there truly aren’t that many better team-based objective multiplayer games out there. Just make sure you play it online... as we’re still trying to forget about the horrible teammate AI even now. Bloody Lemmings!
The single-player is naff. The co-op is decent enough. The multiplayer is excellent. Make of that what you will. Whether that equates to worth the full asking price is ultimately subjective though. I’d much rather have seen more maps than the single player story if I’m being perfectly honest. Oh, and a multiplayer-centric game with no lobby system? What’s all that about!?
Some might see Brink’s list as a little too simple, but it’s got an exceptional balance. There’s an achievement requiring godlike skill, one for the dedicated and the others serve the best interest of the game... and that’s working as a team. Carlsberg don’t do multiplayer achievements, but if they did, this would be it.
Billed as a game that will blur the line between single-player, co-op and multiplayer, Brink actually does the opposite and reaffirms the general consensus on Xbox Live that multiplayer is king. Frankly put, unless you’re playing Brink with and against human players, the game is mediocre at best. Get into a game with players that want to co-ordinate as a team against a group of like-minded foes, and Brink will almost certainly satisfy on every level. Well thought-out, balanced, with great level design and able to create moments that any other team-based shooter would envy; for a first stab on consoles, Splash Damage have a keeper on their hands in Brink. They can lose the whole “story” aspect now from here on out or at least make it a little more entertaining.