Over the last few years the multiplayer shooter scene has been consistently dominated by a few titles that are almost impossible to dethrone. Those looking for fast-paced battles usually flock to the likes of Call Of Duty and Halo while Battlefield and Team Fortress 2 continue to dominate the team-based arena. Enter Brink – a hotshot new IP from developers Splash Damage, the team behind the well-received but, criminally underplayed Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. And much like ET:QW, Brink is something that you’ll either become a loyal follower of or quit and boot up another session of your favorite online shooter.
If you’ve been following the title since its official announcement in 2007 you’ll know that Brink’s claim to fame has always been its ability to seamlessly integrate single-player, co-op and multiplayer. It sounded like a next generation concept, one which many games could potentially follow. Does the actual game really live up to that promise? Well let’s just say that in theory it works but the execution is disappointingly lackluster. What actually accounts for single player is offline matches across the game’s eight maps (with an additional two “what if” scenarios) with AI-controlled bots while co-op simply means other players can join your session. Each of these “missions” is punctuated by short story cut scenes that attempt to create coherent plotlines to go along with the map objectives and an overarching story focusing on each side of the game’s two factions.
Thank God ofr parkour
As you’d expect its very barebones stuff and the story is simply there to provide some background for all the running and gunning. In a nutshell, the game is centered around a floating futuristic city known as ‘the Ark’ which is on the brink (hehe) of civil war. You have the option of playing as either the hard-as-nails Security officers who want to maintain peace in the Ark or the Resistance – a bunch of rebels whose sole mission is to escape the Ark. Each side is portrayed neither as good nor bad; the Security force is seen as a fascist organization by the Resistance while they themselves could very well be terrorists. While not a terribly original setting it still had potential to be a decent story-based shooter but the lazily tacked on narrative and offline-multiplayer-style missions make it a throwaway feature. I bet most people will simply skip the single player mode altogether and straightaway head online.
Fortunately the game fares much better when you go online. The objective based structure and the character classes are quite reminiscent of Team Fortress 2. A lot of effort has been put in to make the game a completely team-based affair so much so that it doesn’t even give you any kill/death statistic after a match. Even the objectives themselves are something that can only be achieved if you play together as a team. You have the option of switching your character’s class at any time. You can play as a soldier, a medic, an engineer or an operative. Each class can do something which others cannot, a soldier can plan explosives to blow up blockades an operative can hack terminals, and so on.
Is he in for a surprise or what?
While in the game, your character constantly earns experience points which are used to level up and unlock new skills & abilities. You are free to choose abilities from any class and if you wish to specialize in a particular class you can dump all your points into that. If you’re not satisfied with your choice Brink also allows you to sell your skill points back and invest them in other skills. The XP you gain carries over across all game modes, which is a neat feature and makes almost all matches whether online or offline quite rewarding. You’ll also notice that carrying out team actions (such as buffing up a team-mate or completing an objective) nets you far more XP than simple kills further emphasizing the game’s team-based structure.
Brink is fairly solid as far as its core shooter mechanics go. The gunplay feels satisfying although most of the guns are various types of assault rifles and submachine guns with a shotgun or two thrown into the mix. However, you can unlock new guns and various upgrades such as scopes, magazines, under-barrel attachments etc. by completing various levels of the four challenge maps provided in the game. The arsenal feels limited when you first jump into the game but once you’ve levelled up enough you’ll have more than a few toys at your disposal. Once thing I’d like to point out is that Brink is not a camper-friendly game at all, with the exceptions of a couple of rifles there are no guns which can kill in a couple of hits. The game wants you to be on your toes at all times which is why it sports an interesting movement mechanic dubbed as S.M.A.R.T. (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain).
Slipe and slide
The S.M.A.R.T. system basically involves holding down a key while running to quickly traverse the environment. You automatically vault over objects or slide under them without breaking your momentum. Your manoeuvrability however, depends on your character’s body type. You’ll start out with the normal body type which allows for a fair amount of freedom of movement but soon you’ll unlock the light and heavy body types. Light characters can reach places which others cannot but are fragile and restricted to using smaller weapons whereas the heavies are essentially “tanks” which can soak up damage and use some of the heavier weaponry while sacrificing all the fancy parkour stuff. The Normal body type sits somewhere in the middle of the two. While S.M.A.R.T. is a neat system, it doesn’t significantly impact the game. Most players still choose to take the longer more accessible routes and you’ll very rarely see people darting around as seen in the various teasers and trailers for the game.
Protect it at all costs
The eight maps provided in the game are mostly fun and have sensible objectives but a couple of them feel unbalanced due to the way the objectives are laid out; thus putting a particular team at an advantage. More often than not defending an objective is an easier task than attacking it. Engineers can lay turrets, mines and repair fortifications while others can guard chokepoints. Objectives such as hacking and repairing take an awfully long time if multiple players aren’t working on them making things quite challenging for an attacking team. However, a well co-ordinated team can usually break through and with competent players matches are wildly unpredictable and can go either way.
Brink sports a rather interesting aesthetic. The exaggerated look of the characters, the weapon models and the environments are a welcome break from the usual military stuff which FPS fans have grown accustomed to. You can dress up your character to your heart’s content using the game’s rather extensive customization options. However all customization (except for weapons) is purely cosmetic and has no effect on the gameplay whatsoever. Also the customization loses some of its appeal once you’re in-game thanks to the red/blue auras engulfing characters making it very difficult to catch details. The noticeable omission of female characters might bother some given how the customization aspects of the game were heavily advertised.
Who said cops can't look badass
A lot of the technical issues which plagued the game at launch have been addressed by patches and at the time of this writing the game is quite playable. There’s a decent community built around the PC version, however we have been hearing that our console friends are having trouble finding people to play with. It seems like the PC version is the way to go, unfortunately the only options for that are a digital download or an import since the PC version of the game is not getting an official release here.
To sum it up, I’d put Brink in the clichéd “flawed, but fun” category. The single player is almost non-existent and if you aren’t planning to head online you might as well ignore the game completely. With so many quality titles crowding the market, Brink is not an easy game to recommend. However its heavy focus on team-play, a cool customization engine and interesting visuals almost makes it a worthy alternative to the other more popular titles in the genre.
Note: Brink is available in India on the PS3 and Xbox360 only.
Published Date: May 26, 2011 12:43 pm | Updated Date: May 26, 2011 12:43 pm