Review: Brink

Bromsgrove Advertiser: Running in all guns blazing is suicide in Brink. Running in all guns blazing is suicide in Brink.

Every so often a game comes along that sets out to reinvent a genre. Sometimes it succeeds and other times like a footballer’s botched efforts to conceal an extra-marital affair it fails. Brink falls somewhere between the two. Best described as a thinking man’s first person shooter, Brink takes the team based elements of Team Fortress and playability of Black Ops. Whilst it isn’t as instantly addictive as many other FPS, it is the definition of a grower.

Set on The Ark, a self sustaining floating city on the cusp of civil war, players must choose whether to play as the Security or Resistance. Unlike other games there is no inherently good or bad choice. The Security’s purpose is to save The Ark from inward collapse, whereas the Resistance attempt to flee The Ark in hope of a better life. The ambiguous choices set the tone of the game aptly.

Caution: this is not for trigger happy gamers who haphazardly blast their way through levels like a Chuck Norris-Duke Nukem hybrid. Brink is all about strategy and teamwork. Gamers must first decide on their class. Soldiers supply ammunition and place bombs. Operatives hack and disguise as the enemy. Medics heal and revive. Engineers dismantle bombs and buff weaponry. The flexibility of Brink allows gamers to change class, provided their faction has control of the command post.

Much like Left 4 Dead, Brink’s strength is in online play. It’s possible to play through the campaign without ever encountering a computer-controlled opponent. More controversially, all sixteen missions spanning eight maps are unlocked from the start. Whilst there is an ongoing narrative that lends itself to playing Brink chronologically, skipping the cutscenes will not mar your enjoyment. The unpredictability of the multiplayer experience means that you will play these maps again and again. With this in mind it’s a pity that Brink isn’t bigger. It lacks the depth and magnificence of both Call of Duty and Battlefield.

Fortunately Brink isn’t directly competing with either. If opting to play against AI, Splash Damage have implemented an intelligent system that means the AI improves as you improve. Thus, playing the last mission initially will be much easier than playing the first mission after levelling up and acquiring a plethora of XP. As you take advantage of improved abilities and weapon attachments so does the AI.

Customisation and modification sees Brink excel. Whether you want to change the aesthetics of your character, right down to his scars and facial hair, his build or his special abilities, you can. Expectantly, the more XP you accumulate, the more you can modify. Your character’s body type directly impacts your playing style. Lightweight enables faster movement, wall hops and access to higher ledges. Heavyweight characters wield the biggest, nastiest guns. Medium characters can carry heavier weapons and take more damage than lightweight, but cannot carry as heavy weaponry nor soak up as many bullets as their heavy counterparts. The body type of your character will influence your designated team role. Heavier characters are more adept to guard, whereas lighter characters can navigate to ideal vantage points and sniper unsuspecting opponents.

The SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) movement system attempts to revolutionise the FPS experience. Whilst running, gamers can seamlessly jump, slide and overcome obstacles. In theory this gives gamers a fluid experience that minimises the cumbersome slowdown from these moves mid-battle. A great idea on paper, but at times it falls short. Not all obstacles interact in this way, resulting in a wall to the face and bullet in the head.

Brink is objective based, with each mission lasting from ten to thirty minutes. Primary objectives typically range from escorting a person or vehicle to destroying or protecting a building. Secondary objectives include capturing command posts, guarding areas and planting explosives. To help other players you can indicate which objective you are taking on. Likewise you can identify what others are doing and rush to that all important building if nobody else has taken it upon themselves to protect it from evisceration.

Repetition aside, the most tedious drawback comes in the shape of your team-mates making bad decisions. Watching a medic idiotically traverse around whilst you’re screaming on the floor for a revive syringe or seeing your ten minute efforts to escort a VIP wasted because of incompetency is enough to conjure up clenched fists and seething red rage. Unpredictability is all part of the online experience, but when it’s AI controlled teammates it is less tolerable.

Brink is undeniably a lot of fun, but with few maps, a short-lived campaign mode and a SMART system that falls short, it isn’t the compulsory game many had hoped for.

7 out of ten

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