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To start things off, watch the video below. I want you in the same boat I was when I decided to give Brink a try.
Did you watch it? It’s awesome! It’s just like those circle of death drawings we all did in middle school of all our favorite characters fighting and killing each other in massively cyclical collages of childhood fandom.
I saw that video a few weeks ago while wandering around Best Buy with my girlfriend and was immediately hooked. I felt a twinge of doubt when I saw the “FALL 2010” release date and realized I had heard nothing about it earlier, but I still made a point to check out the demo when I got home. I did some research and found out there was no demo, but I also learned that it had been delayed until Spring 2011, so it hadn’t ended up as some forgotten title waiting to finish the journey to the bargain bin. I did a bit more research, but all it did was get more pumped for the game.
By a week before launch I found myself daydreaming at work and too excited to sit still. From all the promo materials I had devoured, I gathered Splash Damage was making a massive FPS with RPG leveling and customization options, immersive sci-fi/action storyline and free-running elements – essentially, I was expecting the perfect game, sort of a Borderlands meets TF2 and CoD:MW.
On launch day I was at the door waiting for the UPS guy to drop it off. I hungrily tore open the Amazon packaging and my eye was drawn to the “Rated T for Teen” rating on the box. “That’s not good,” a little voice in the back of my head murmured, but I fought it off and reminded myself Alan Wake was rated T but still OK. I shrugged it off and spent about 3 minutes creating a character. Despite the massive amount of customization options offered, at the start you only have about 8 faces with varying skin tones and two rather bland costume options. Apparently all the badass outfits are level-up unlocks. So me and my freedom fighter with the prominent nose and dirty boiler suit dove straight into the campaign.
The only thing that justifies calling it a campaign mode is that the elements are supposedly in chronological order and have 30-second cutscenes preceding them. Remember the multiplayer game modes other than team deathmatch in CoD:BO that no one wants to play? Y’know, like disarming the bomb or escorting players across the map. Those are what the campaign encompasses in 10-minute doses. You choose your loadout, hear the resistance leader talk at you through the load screen, watch 30 seconds of characters you have no relationship with discuss the situation in heavy South African accents and then you go disarm the bomb or lead an NPC through a gunfight before starting over.
All levels are self-contained, despite the offers of parkour-like interaction with objects and the environment; the overall stages are locked areas – exploration is not at all encouraged. You have a set spawn point and a set objective to guard or destroy or hack about a twenty-second run away. You spawn, run towards your goal and shoot at stuff until you get killed and respawn. The map never expands or really even sends you down a different trail or path, you are pretty much locked in a large room connected to another large room with your objective in it. Sometimes there’s a shelf or wall to climb over, but that’s it. The only real advantage to picking the light body type and free-running all over the board is you’ll usually end up in some corner or platform well outside of the fray instead of actually contributing.
The class system is about as encumbering as the map layout. Four classes are available (Soldier, Engineer, Operative and Medic) and you can alternate between them at any spawn point or command console. The freedom to switch classes is helpful and allows players to adapt to changing objectives throughout the level, but it discourages players from actually spending the time to specialize in or develop a class. Depending on the objective, having an entire team of operatives or engineers rushing an objective is incredibly common – and irritating. No one plays as a medic, not even the AI. Also, switching classes only minimally changes how the game is actually played; it doesn’t change your appearance or loadout or combat effectiveness: soldiers have the exact same weapons, lethality and mobility as medics. The only thing that really changes is what happens when you hold down X. Different classes allow for different buffs to be applied to your teammates, but the effects are minimal (an extra pip of health or a damage bonus) and entirely dependent on how willing your douchebag teammates are to dispense with them.
In the absence of online players you’re supplied with NPC teammates. The game’s AI alternates between crack shot deadliness with swarming hive-mind efficiency and complete ham-fisted dumbf*ckery. You will either have the swiftest and most reliable team possible, or a maddeningly incompetent one that would remind you of your typical Call of Duty teammates if they were emblazoned with pot leaves and screeched “FAGGOT” at each other. During the last mission I played I was downed around the midway point while escorting some intel back to our base. One of my computerized teammates picked up the parcel and, in his haste, chased a foe ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE ENEMY BASE before being felled and making us start the whole damn thing over again. I literally watched the game troll itself.
You’d think all that teamwork and killing would unlock new weapons and mods, but you’d be wrong. Leveling up simply gives you access to more costume options and talent points to spend on upgrades for the skills your teammates never use. New weapons and weapon mods are instead unlocked through completing the challenge levels, essentially the training mode. In the end, playing well is in no way actually rewarded; the level system is entirely for aesthetic purposes. The available guns don’t really add much to the game, either. I think there are about 25 in total, each being some slight variation of the others in its class. You’ve got your standard assault rifles, SMGS, pistols etc, nothing really stands out. Despite the level of customization offered, the entire system feels remarkably shallow. The game ignores everything that actually feels achievement worthy and instead heaps its best rewards on those that complete menial tasks outside the actual core of the game.
There’s also the question of online play – which I was unable to really experience. The servers on day one were so catastrophically overloaded that lag rendered matches unplayable. There’s also no real lobby or matchmaking system to speak of. You press the button to stick you in an online game and then you quit out a minute later because of the slogging amounts of lag. Of the 14 matches I entered on the first day, only one was even remotely playable. The lack of a lobby system also negates the option to switch server types or augment the search system to locate games closest to your location or with the best connection.
Another cruelty the online mode inflicts is the overall lack of a deathmatch or team deathmatch mode. Every online match is a mirror image of the 10-minute objective-based exercises from the story mode of the game. Essentially, online mode offers the exact same scenarios and gameplay as the campaign mode, but with different names floating over characters heads and the occasional bit of unintelligible mumbling over your headset. The online co-op version isn’t held back by the lag issue, but is instead hampered by the overall counter-intuitiveness of the system. Again, there’s no lobby to speak of and there’s also no clear point when you are supposed to invite your friends. Online co-op involves a significant amount of trial and error and the phrase “try to join up now” repeated ad infinitum.
I really wanted to like Brink, and that’s why I’m so disappointed in it. Brink advertised so much that would be awesome in a video game, and immediately set about tying its own hands and making strings of poor decisions. The guys over at Splash Damage essentially outsmarted themselves with the production process. They worked so hard to develop a streamlined method of moving through the environment and then immediately made it (seemingly) intentionally useless by designing the most bland and straightforward stages as possible.
Despite the amount of work that went into crafting a clever storyline and engrossing background, the actual story conveyed throughout the game is minimal and un-engaging. The campaign mode meets only the minimal definitions of “campaign mode” and feels embarrassingly sloppy and incomplete. The multiplayer is needlessly complicated, unorganized and frequently unplayable. The AI is cognitively reflective of generations of inbreeding. The customization system is broken and rewards peripheral trivialities rather than actual achievement within the game.
Brink started with a good idea, but failed to do anything to support it. The overall product feels incomplete, lazily put together and brazenly hollow in comparison to the loads of depth and customization offered. Brink is a comedy of errors completely overwhelmed by its flaws.
Bottom line – Brink is a good idea drowning in bad decisions.
This post was submitted by RockstarNoah.