Shooter fatigue is at an all time high. Uninspired buck-fests drop nearly every Tuesday with “me-too” features without offering original experiences. Brink (PC, PS3, Xbox 360), Splash Damage’s new IP, aims to shift the paradigm by incorporating primarily online team-based combat with a dash of Mirror’s Edge. The game’s hurdles are plentiful but read on to see if it has enough upside to leap over its pitfalls.
Brink‘s world revolves around the Ark, a gargantuan structure creating a self sustaining city on the fly. The Ark’s intended design entailed equal opportunities for all. Instead, it grossly exacerbated the wealth disparity between the rich and poor. From there you play as Ark Security, a task force ordered to maintain order on the island or run with The Resistance, a posse of vigilantes bent on escaping it. The story isn’t strong and doesn’t make much sense. Thankfully one doesn’t need to be entrenched in it to enjoy what’s offered.
Classes and body types encourage experimentation. The Soldier, Operative, Engineer and Medic come equipped with unique abilities and objectives. You’ll unlock abilities as you rank up as well as gain new guns and attachments after completing challenges. Each class’s abilities and equipment are limited by their supply meter which regenerates slowly over time. Traversal employs SMART: the game’s slickly titled movement system. It’s tricky to grasp initially but becomes second nature for routine parkour maneuvers and effective sliding knockdowns. A light frame enables quick movement, high leaping ability and wall jumping at the cost of low health. Heavies carry devastating weapons and take more damage while sacrificing mobility. The medium body type averages the strengths and weaknesses of each. The game’s deep character customization also provides plenty of eye-catching outfit combos complementing its off-kilter look. You unfortunately can’t save multiple load outs which becomes annoying when switching figures.
This game’s biggest draw is its overt differentiation from its peers. The art style primarily looks odd but it presents a unique look among the lot of mostly hyper-realistic shooters. There’s no standard team death match or CTF-type modes available. Players can fly solo, play cooperatively, or challenge other players online throughout the game’s campaign. The latter feature is pretty novel considering most games don’t feature a competitive mechanic to their story. Moreover, one-man army heroics heralded in other FPSes don’t work here. Coordination is key to victory so disjointed squads won’t get far. You may want to look elsewhere if you enjoy bragging rights as the top player, live for kill streak perks and obsess over your K/D ratio. Brink isn’t that kind of party. Players instead vie over primary objectives which push missions forward. Secondary ones, while optional, can turn the tides rather quickly and take an extra bit of cooperation to complete.
Braving Brink‘s offerings should be pleasant since it prioritizes individualization. However its shortcomings mar the experience. Online play in this game, at times, is like remembering the days when 56k modems ran things without rose-tinted shades. Ugly bouts with lag lessened via a patch yet still appear on occasion. The lack of a lobby system also hurts. Omitting such an essential feature is befuddling since the game plays best with friends.
In-game graphics feature noticeable texture pop-in, poor explosion effects and jittery animations which don’t do any favors in the aesthetics department. The game’s difficulty scales with your rank. But it feels like your teammates’ AI gets worse as you advance while enemy AI becomes more sophisticated. Therefore, playing solo offline isn’t desirable. Versus sometimes suffers from imbalanced teams in matchmaking and standing melees don’t feel like they consistently connect. Lastly the campaign only features eight relatively short levels. Ark Security and The Resistance play each skirmish from their side which merely reverses the objectives. Replay value goes up a bit thanks to online co-op and versus mode. Nevertheless, sixteen to twenty missions with longer completions would’ve been more appropriate given their brevity.
Bethesda’s latest is a disc filled with conundrums since its distinctive points are met with debilitating flaws. Brink had the potential to be an all around great game. Instead, it’s got a bunch of good moments sullied by an overall lack of polish. There’s a fun experience under the layers of unrefined material if you’re looking for new, team-based FPS. Nonetheless, the game’s shortcomings and small assortment of maps isn’t worth a Lee and a Hamilton. You’re better off renting or waiting until it’s on sale should you consider giving it a whirl.