Brink is built for multiplayer.
I’ve been pondering how to begin this review, and that first line keeps coming up in my head. Brink seems to have been built with multiplayer, and only mutliplayer, in mind. That’s not to say the lone wolf won’t find something to like in it. In fact, there’s probably a lot for them to enjoy. However, the lone wolf won’t find the deep, involving single-player campaign that will have them avenging their lost family, bringing time-space bombs onto motherships or nurturing potential love interests. What they’ll get is an involving, addictive game that’ll keep their itchy trigger fingers satisfied and, perhaps, appeal to their desire to play their way. For those who aren’t lone wolves, well, be prepared for one hell of a game.
In Brink, you’ll be playing either the Security or Resistance factions vying for control of the Ark, a vast futuristic floating city bobbing somewhere out in the trackless ocean. Security represents the power structure of the Ark, while Resistance is a straight up terrorist group. When you opt for a campaign mission, you’ll be asked to choose a side and get that faction’s take on the following battle.
Into this scene, you will insert your character. It’s not uncommon for modern shooters to incorporate RPG elements. In Brink, you’ll be earning XP, leveling up and buying various perks. However, it’s your character that levels up, not you as a player. It’s a significant difference. You choose the character to play in the mission much like you’d choose the character to play in an MMORPG. Your characters start at level zero, and the more you play, the more they’ll level up and the more you’ll be able to customize their appearance and abilities to your liking. You want a shirtless guy covered with tattooes with a neon green mohawk who can shoot grenades in midair and reload while sprinting? You can do that in Brink.
If you’ve played Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory or Team Fortress 2, you’ll be right at home with the gameplay in Brink. Splash Damage, which developed Enemy Territory, also developed Brink. As I said before, when you start up Brink, you’ll be taking your character into battle. Once he’s in there, however, you’ll have a choice of four classes to play. Unlike TF2, your character’s class has nothing to do with his appearance.
Soldiers can plant explosive charges on key areas of the map and give teammates extra ammo. Medics can revive incapacitated teammates in the field and provide health boosts. Engineers can repair machinery, disarm mines and provide damage boosts to teammates. Operatives can disguise as dead opponents and use hack boxes.
As you level up, you’ll be able to buy more abilities. For instance, engineers with the appropriate perk will be able to drop turrets. Operatives can buy a perk that will extract information out of downed enemies in order to have all enemies light up on your teammates’ radar. If you don’t like the way you bought your perks, no problem. There’s a “sell all” option that will allow you to start from scratch.
You can change class on the fly, but only at special areas of the map called command posts. There are command posts near where your side spawns that are heavily defended, but there are a few neutral posts in every battlefield that you’ll be able to use if your side controls them. The command posts in the field also provide boosts to your teammates, so while they’re not absolutely critical to your success (I haven’t seen a game yet that requires you to have a certain number of posts in control to win the game), they certainly help.
Many games have sprawling maps that have multiple objectives. For instance, there may be an ultimate goal, and there are several other things you can do, like holding a bridge or repairing a machine gun nest, that can contribute to that goal. In Brink, the game knows what needs to be done and rewards players who accomplish these goals. There will always be a main goal, like defending a key location. Just being near this location will give you extra XP every few seconds. However, if you’re a fair bit away from the main objective, you can press up on the D-pad, and it will bring up a radial menu that will show you what objectives there are available and how many teammates are on each goal.
So if you bring up the objective menu and find that there are already four people on one task, you might highlight a different objective to accomplish. For instance, say you kill an enemy while defending a main objective while playing an operative. If you’re quick, you can bring up the objective menu, highlight the “disguise yourself as the enemy” task, and then do it right there. While you’re disguised as the enemy, you may take that as a good opportunity to highlight the “capture enemy command posts” mission and sneak behind enemy lines to do it. If you’re a medic, you’ll be able to take missions to revive teammates. As a soldier, you may take a mission to give ammo to a friend. You’ll get XP for everything you do in Brink, but you’ll get more XP if you use the objective menu and “declare” you’re doing it.
Campaign mode in Brink is also mutliplayer mode. Unless you specify otherwise, by starting a campaign mission, you’re also opening it up for people to jump in. The whole process is seamless. If you lack the required number of people playing, bots will jump in. The bots are often so good, you won’t be able to tell them from real people except for perhaps a tendency to get hung up on the architecture of the level.
Speaking of architecture, be prepared for some first-rate maps. There aren’t a lot of them, but they are deep and varied. Cover is always available, and the game’s vaunted parkour system is so good, it makes you wonder why other games haven’t done it before. If you haven’t been keeping up with Brink, your ability to parkour is dependent on the body type of your character. Slim body types have the least hit points, but they’re able to vault, jump and slide across the battlefield like it’s their personal playground. Medium body types can vault high obstacles, while heavy body types with the most HP are slow and have to take the long way around.
I’ve been plenty enthusiastic about Brink, but it does have some glaring issues. First, while it deserves kudos for minimizing the amount of time you’re NOT playing the game (I’m looking at you, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood), it does so at the cost of having any sort of lobby system at all. If you have a party, one party member has to join a game and then invite the rest of the party in. I never had an issue where this forced the party to split into separate groups during my playtest, but I’d have to think that would be a possibility. There are major texture pop-in issues that make Brink look like a game that may have been rushed out the door. Lag also proved to be a major issue in a few of the games I joined. Lastly, while it’s fun to build a tweaked character to fill a certain role, class-specific perks will be useless if you choose to switch classes during the game.
If you can overlook these issues, there’s always something to do in Brink. You can build a cadre of tweaked characters and pick a different one each mission. You can play the same one over and over again if you like. You can stick doggedly to the main missions, or you can freelance and take on side missions. You can go around the wall or over the wall, camp out or parkour, fortify or probe defenses. No matter how you play, there’s going to be something for you in Brink.
Rating: Classic – These are the games that you’ll want to play again and again. Buy it and hang on to it.
Reviewer: Alex the Producer on Xbox 360
Special thanks to Cubninja of Co-Optimus.com for being a great teammate during pre-release.