Brink Review (PC/PS3/360)

June 1, 2011

PC, PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

With the first-person shooter market being what it is, innovation is a near-necessity to grab a gamer’s attention. The Halo series raised the bar on multiple levels. Brink (or BRINK, as its name is stylized) has high ambitions when it comes to inventiveness, adding parkour elements to the team-based shooter formula. Splash Damage, the company who also brought us the Enemy Territory series, clearly has the team-play formula down, and is taking a bold new leap with BRINK. The creativity is there, but does it deliver, or fall flat?

Story: 3/5

Perhaps intentionally, BRINK’s story is simple, and not particularly unique, but is enjoyable enough to pull the player through the single-player campaign. In the BRINK universe, the majority of the world has been overtaken by a massive flood, leaving what’s left of humanity to fend for itself. A lucky handful of survivors escaped on The Ark, a massive, self-sufficient city afloat on the sea. The player soon realizes that not everything is peaceful here – the Ark Security force tries to maintain order amid uprisings in the slums, but a growing Resistance force is trying to break free of The Ark’s oppressive grasp and escape to what remains of the outside world. As things begin to reach a boiling point, the player must choose whether to Save The Ark (by joining the Security force) or Escape The Ark (and join with the Resistance). The decision doesn’t carry any significant weight, as the player is allowed to undertake each faction’s campaign missions in any order they choose, even switching sides between missions.

The story doesn’t split the player between “good” and “evil” factions per se, as each campaign is tailored to that faction’s viewpoint as the fight rages on.  The Security missions are primarily geared towards preventing the Resistance from committing dangers to The Ark’s community at large, as well as preventing the spread of news of The Ark to the outside world, with the fear that this will bring raiders and other dangerous elements to the city. The Resistance, on the other hand, will be trying to break free from Security’s oppression and escape The Ark. As the player achieves continual success in their campaign, the enemy faction will become more and more desperate in their actions; you may be surprised what they’ll do by the time the final missions come around.

If the campaign’s story does one thing particularly well, it’s the way it gives the player a sense of attachment and continuity between missions. Players will begin to notice the same characters in each mission. These characters also have dialogues in brief cut scenes before each mission begins, and will have some very poignant issues on their mind. The voice actors portray their emotions very effectively, and you’ll actually get a sense of the moral dilemma of conducting a raid on a Resistance slum, or on fighting against Security when one of your teammates’ brothers has joined up with them. Aside from these cut scenes, however, little more than fire team banter is heard during a match, and much of the characters’ personalities begin to fade away as you focus on what they’re saying, not how they’re saying it.

Gameplay: 4/5

BRINK attempts to make many gameplay innovations, and for the most part, they’re successful. One of the main features BRINK brings to the table is its S.M.A.R.T. movement system, standing for Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain. In simple terms, as long as the player holds down the sprint button, the game will try to predict where he is trying to move to and will act accordingly. Jumping across gaps, climbing walls, and sliding under low-hanging obstacles are all done with a single button press. More complex moves, such as wall jumping, are still up to the player to perform. However, the S.M.A.R.T. system does a great job of immersing the player in the combat, eliminating the need to worry about running into obstacles. The system isn’t perfect, and the player may still get caught on edges occasionally, but for the most part it’s a success.

BRINK also features an extensive character customization system. Players are allowed to not only choose the clothing and gear their character wears, but can also pick from a variety of weapons and even body types. Some of the appearance options, such as tattoos, are permanent, and must be chosen carefully. When a character is first created, the first step is to choose a character’s face and voice, and these choices are permanent. Players can then choose clothing and facial features to apply to their character. Only a few items are unlocked at first, but as players gain experience (see below for more) and levels, they can unlock more features and articles to customize their character with.

BRINK features many types of weapons as well, from assault rifles and SMGs to shotguns and pistols, and other exotic weapons as well. Many weapons are unlocked at first, but more can be gained by completing challenges in-game. Each weapon can also accept four types of attachments, namely top (sights), front (muzzle attachments), bottom (grips, slings, and under-barrel attachments), and magazine (rapid reload, larger magazines) attachments. Unfortunately, all of these attachments are locked to begin with and must be unlocked by completing challenges. In fact, it’s recommended that a new player complete these before doing anything else, as they’ll not only grant a lot of rewards, but also help introduce the player to many of BRINK’s core gameplay elements. Players are allowed to choose a primary and secondary weapon; the weapons available for these slots depend on the player’s body type (see below). Most weapon categories follow a common theme, but there are some differences between different weapons in each category. While one SMG might be incredibly accurate at short range, another might fire faster and do more damage at the cost of higher recoil. Players can use attachments to custom-tailor any weapon to their specific needs.

Body type also plays a major role in what sorts of roles your character will be best at. Regardless of body type, all players can perform some degree of parkour-style moves, but the light body type is the king of maneuverability. Aside from moving the fastest, light body types can also perform a wall jump, which no other body type can do. This is great for getting to areas other characters can’t. This freedom of movement comes at a price – they can only use the lightest weapons (SMGs, pistols, light rifles, and some shotguns), and they have the least amount of health, meaning they’re very fragile. They make the best snipers, hit-and-run fighters, and infiltrators, but they’re capable of anything in the right hands. On the other end of the spectrum is the heavy body type. What they lack in maneuverability and speed, they make up for in durability and the ability to use any weapon in the game, including the heavy-hitting machine guns and grenade launchers. No one else can take as much damage as the heavy. They make excellent defenders and vanguards, leading the attack force and taking the brunt of the damage. The third and final body type is the medium type, and it’s a good balance of speed, durability, and weapon choice. They don’t have the most health, they can’t do all of the fancy parkour moves that a light can, and they don’t have as wide a weapon selection as the heavy, but they’re good in any situation and are perfect for the player who likes to be flexible. In most cases, if you’re not sure what you want to do, stick with the medium body type.

Another key element of the gameplay which fits in with the body type system is BRINK’s class system. Players can choose to be a Soldier, Medic, Engineer, or Operative, and they play a key role in a player’s…well, role, in the game. Since BRINK is a team-oriented game, each class has different ways to support teammates. The Soldier can give ammo packs to himself or his teammates and plant explosives. Engineers can deploy mines, turrets, and buff teammates’ weapon damage and armor, as well as disarm a soldier’s explosives. Medics can buff teammates’ health and revive downed allies. Finally, the Operative can spot for enemy mines and acquire crucial intel to give their team an advantage. They can even disguise as a dead enemy to infiltrate enemy lines and hack computers to complete objectives. A nice feature is that the class system is independent of the weapon and body type systems described earlier; you can play a light soldier or even a heavy operative, if you wanted, and done properly, any body, weapon, and class combo can work well. In order to support team effort, players aren’t awarded simply for damaging and killing enemies; they’re also awarded for attacking or defending mission objectives and using their class abilities to help their team. Thus, a good player won’t just try to kill the enemy team, but will also try to support their team, and will be rewarded for their teamwork. Gaining experience grants higher levels and additional customization unlocks. And as if there weren’t enough customization options already, players can also invest in new abilities using points earned for leveling up, allowing them to customize the specific role of their character, either in a general sense or on a class-by-class basis.

BRINK’s missions grant players objectives they need to complete. There are always multiple objectives available at a time, and some are even tailored specifically to each class. Teamwork is also made simple by use of BRINK’s objective wheel. Players can access the objective wheel to pick objectives to tackle and alert their team to their choice. This automatically places the player on a fire team for that objective to facilitate local communication. These objectives are always diametrically opposed; one team attacks an objective while the other tries to defend it. While the formula is simple, enough variety is provided to keep things fresh. While one team might have to attack a gate by having a soldier blow it open with explosives at one time, they may need an operative to hack a computer at another. Secondary objectives help players take missions they prefer to take, while still helping the team overall. For example, an engineer can construct a side ramp that helps the team reach the main objective faster. Every class is essential in each mission, which gives each player a sense of fulfillment no matter what role they choose.

Matches can be played online with human players (the way it’s meant to be played), with computer-controlled bots, or with any combination of the two. However, the AI tends to be a bit lacking, and humans will provide the best challenge. Sometimes they’ll do as you’d expect, sometimes they don’t. It’s much easier to plant that bomb if the enemy is watching you do it, rather than shooting at you.

Graphics: 2/5

To be blunt, BRINK isn’t a bad looking game. In fact, the art style and quality is quite good, and the environments are appropriate. City centers are clean and vibrant, while slums are dilapidated, run-down and rusty-looking. It isn’t the design where the graphics fail, however – it’s the execution. BRINK was released with a flawed graphics system, and even on high-quality PCs, players may notice low frame rates and graphical artifacts. Competitive first-person shooters require a smooth experience to be played well, and to have the game stutter while you’re aiming down the sights is just plain frustrating. Splash Damage has been hard at work releasing patches to fix the game, but BRINK is still in an incomplete state. It’s a great concept that still requires polish.

Sound: 2/5

Sound is another mixed bag with BRINK – weapon effects, explosions, and voices all sound great and are very convincing, but they’re bogged down with technical problems. Choppy sound goes hand in hand with the frame rate drops. This is noticeable at just about any time during a match, from running down a hall to entering even a skirmish with an enemy. Choppy audio just takes away from the immersion of any game, and until fixed, will mar BRINK’s unique gameplay.

Overall: 11/20 = 5.5

BRINK’s unique and fulfilling gameplay has a lot of potential, but unfortunately it’s overshadowed by its technical issues. Splash Damage is releasing patches to try to fix them, but BRINK’s release will be marked by its incomplete state on its release. Once these issues are resolved, however, BRINK will likely prove to be one of the most unique and enjoyable FPS experiences this year.  Until then, BRINK proves to be another game rushed out the door before its time.

PROs:

+ Extensive customization system lets players play the character they want

+ Class, weapon, and body type system allows for thousands of unique combinations

+ Fulfilling mission objectives for every possible combat role

CONs:

– Extensive technical problems, not all of them solved yet

-Story had potential, but is ultimately uninspired and takes a backseat to gameplay

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About Argus9

Jonathan ‘Argus9′ Zisser has been an avid gamer for over 20 years. His early years of playing the NES with his father helped springboard his interest in gaming, and has eventually matured into an avid following for the gaming industry. Studying Computer Engineering at Stony Brook University also gave him insight into the more technical side of video games. A passionate writer as well, Jonathan loves conveying his experiences and opinions by creating engaging articles as often as possible. More often than not, he tries to break down today’s industry and write editorials that make his readers think.

View all posts by Argus9

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