I give Brink a lot of credit. It has had quite a bit of development time, looks action packed according to the game’s trailers with its highly stylized caricatures and environments, features a unique parkour movement system, includes an RPG-like ranking system with new weapons and abilities, and welcomes team based multiplayer combat. Everything lines up very well on paper, but unfortunately, the final product is a different story.
Even the story starts in an interesting direction. In the near future, oceans start to rise so an “Ark” is created to retain life. But as more and more people seek refuge in this Ark, it becomes heavily over populated and chaos ensues. Brink opens the game by having the player select which side to fight for. The problem is the player has only been exposed to a simple opening cutscene so choosing a side is quite difficult. While this decision making process does not nearly carry as much weight as in games like Mass Effect or Fallout 3, the pressure to make so strong a decision with little background information is intimidating.
After selecting a side, the game gives the player the option of watching a gameplay tutorial video for bonus experience points. Any newcomer who wants to get the most out of the game will of course want to watch this. The game fails to mention that the video drags on forever and some of the information even repeats itself. Instead of watching one thirty minute video, why couldn’t the video be broken down into bite sized chunks and properly labeled: combat, classes, abilities, objectives, etc? The system forces the player to sit through 20 minutes of video if the ending wants to be re-watched. The idea of having a long tutorial to explain every aspect of the game sounds great on paper, but again, is executed poorly.
Brink is not like other recent FPS’s as it mandates teamwork over all else. Experienced Halo or CoD players can probably hold their own for a while going solo in team games, but in Brink, it practically guarantees death. Instead of focusing on kill-to-death ratios, Brink players need to cooperate for the greater good.
If I had to sum up Brink in one statement, I would probably call it an unorganized Star Wars Battlefront. The point of the game is not to rack up a certain amount of kills; it is to complete objectives and secure capture points in a constant team environment.
The four character classes, weapons, mission objectives and abilities all act like one giant rock-paper-scissors balancing act. While this keeps the gameplay balanced, the overall atmosphere, speed and effects just seem plain weak. For example, shooting enemies feels like you are shooting a squirt gun and grenade explosions seem like New Year’s poppers. I chucked a nade at the feet of four clustered enemies expecting an Overkill, only to be disappointed when no one fell from the small sparking explosion. Getting jolted when taking a killing bullet is a nice touch, but so many players in a small space makes this death animation feel a bit unfair. And most levels are too claustrophobic.
The parkour movement system acts as one of Brink’s highlighting features but mimics the uneventful and sloppy firefights. Sure, sprinting and leaping over the occasional countertop or gap is cool, but chances are you are going to run into at least a couple of enemies before you can climb and find a tactical advantage point. Each of the game’s environments are not really designed to take advantage of the parkour system either. Alternatively, some areas will look climbable but will not be interactive. The parkour system as a whole is a giant missed opportunity.
Each character class retains balance with one another, secondary objects are usually tied in seamlessly with the main objects, and even abilities, like healing, hacking, or planting explosives, are a great way to keep the player guessing and thinking strategically. But all this thoughtful game design suffers when the overall atmosphere and lack of combat personality struggle to extend beyond the “spawn, shoot, die” repetition.
Without question, the first thing that gets noticed about Brink is the weird character art. These disproportioned characters are actually just gross. Big noses, skinny heads and lanky appendages are more distributing than entertaining. And why does everyone talk with a Jamaican accent? The game’s music also seems to try a little bit too hard; every time you die (which will happen quite often) the player has to listen to this female moan Church hymn song that will quickly grow tiresome. And while the overall “hey, let’s all seek refuge on this island” plotline is pretty cool, the narrative between each mission is very difficult to follow thanks to a nameless cast of characters. You will be more distracted by the awkward look of the character design than the nonsense story arc.
Needless to say, this game was designed for multiplayer and that is when the game reaches its peak. The single player, although entertaining for a while, will turn into frustration as there is really no way to control your AI bots which results in uncoordinated chaos. Single player relies more on luck than skill and dedication. Enemies feel like they take way too many bullets to take down and there is never enough ammo in your clip. Don’t be surprised if you have to reload two or three times just to take down one enemy; but I guess this is where the team based balancing act comes into place.
Brink breaks my heart. It has all the ideals and elements to create a balanced and enjoyable multiplayer experience, but just lacks that final coat of polish that puts the shine on the packaging. Playing multiplayer with a group of your buddies might be good for a few hours, but in the end, you will go back to the Left4Deads, Halos and CoDs.
Not As Good As: Star Wars Battlefront (original Xbox), The Orange Box
Also Try: paintball (in real life)
Wait For It: Rage, Skyrim, Hunted, and the New Vegas DLC.
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