In today’s congested shooter market, first impressions are everything. In this regard Brink impresses. Upon starting the game you’re greeted to a charming cinematic outlining the fiction behind Brink’s dystopian game world and subsequently thrown into an outstanding character creation system. I wish I could say that these first impressions were indicative of Brink’s overall package.
Brink was developed by Splash Damage, a UK studio with a history of creating team based multiplayer shooters, so the choice to include a campaign mode was interesting. That is until you play it. The campaign mode is essentially a series of multiplayer matches sandwiched between meagre cutscenes under the pretence that it is a traditional singleplayer experience. This dishonest inclusion is both disappointing and highly confusing for new players.
In fact you are afforded the option of replacing both your teams and the enemies AI in the campaign with live opponents. This is actually a bonus because the artificial intelligence in the game is clearly artificial, but not exactly intelligent. This is especially frustrating being a team based game where your individual performance isn’t enough to progress, and you must also rely on the AI to provide ammunition and health buffs in the heat of combat. When you’ve been lying on the ground for a period of time and it’s clear the AI has no intention of reviving you, or you can see the AI standing by an objective without interacting with it, your experience can be marred.
In the event you do decide to play with real opponents in what is essentially just multiplayer, things don’t always go to plan. The game has real issues with lag, causing your character to sometimes move around inexplicably on screen and your bullets to fire with no effect. It is possible to find a stable connection, however things never feel secure, and a lot of the time playing with the brain dead bots is preferred just to avoid the hassle. Although being a game centring on your interactions as a team, when you manage find a stable connection and a communicative group of teammates Brink really comes into its own.
Matches often play out over a series of objectives with an attacking and defending side. If the attackers manage to break the defence’s resistance for each subsequent objective then they win the match. What’s unique to Brink is the dynamic objective system the game dishes out depending on a player’s class. For example an Engineer might be told to build an MG nest over a particular hotspot on the map in order to indirectly help his team. It’s a neat system that allows players to always contribute to the overall goal without being exceptional at the core shooting aspect of the game.
Speaking of the shooting, Brink fails to deliver. Whilst guns certainly feel punchy and powerful, the enemies don’t react convincingly to your bullets, which in turn leads to rather unsatisfying shootouts. Brink’s gunplay never feels as polished or tight as the competitors it’s up against, which as a shooter first and foremost can feel like an Achilles heel. One thing that does benefit the combat is the S.M.A.R.T system. By holding down a button the player is able to intuitively clamber over the environment in different ways depending on what type of character they’ve created. At it’s most effective, the system allows players to Parkour their way through the maps to get to places much more efficiently. While a similar mechanic has been seen in a game like Mirrors Edge, it does feel fresh when injected into a multiplayer shooter.
Another thing that sets Brink apart from its militaristic competitors is the art style. It resembles a mixture of Team Fortress 2’s Pixar esque animation, City of God’s Brazilian favelas and Mass Effect’s Ikea science fiction. Some maps are littered with rubbish and corrugated iron shacks whilst others feature futuristic interiors with crisp, clean white surfaces.
The art style transfers over to the game’s intriguing character creation system. Whilst offering nothing particularly unseen in certain other games, the sheer range of options available mixed with the games wonderful aesthetic make your creation feel full of personality. The biggest compliment I can pay Brink is that your created characters never look as if they’ve been cobbled together by some amateur, unlike the monstrous things you can create in say, Saints Row for example. It’s just a shame that being a first person shooter, you never really get the opportunity to see your created character in game, which is a perplexing design decision given all the effort that’s gone in to allow you to customize his clothes and weapons.
Brink is a game that tries so hard to be different that it fails to preserve what makes us enjoy the genre in the first place. It’s all well and good leaping around a beautifully rendered environment with an individually tailored objective, but if the combat is below par and the connection can’t remain stable then the game is nothing more than mediocre.