Brink Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

System:
Xbox 360
Release date:
May 10, 2011
Publisher:
Bethesda Softworks
Developer:
Splash Damage
Players:
1 - 16
Genre:
First-Person Shooter
ESRB:
T

Brink

Sixteen-player Ark asylum.

Review by Gabriel Jones (Email)
May 18th 2011

Brink depicts a dystopian future where a paradise beyond imagination known as the Ark becomes a battleground. The forces of the Security and the Resistance wage a constant war. The Security seeks to protect the Ark by any means necessary while the Resistance wants to escape the Ark - or if the situation is truly dire, destroy it. In the end you're siding with fascists or anarchists and such extremities are bound by fate to fight and kill until nothing remains. Despite the unique setting, don't expect much in the way of a story-focused campaign. Brink is a competitive team-based shooter and all you're fighting for is bragging rights.

The game is divided into eight maps that have differing objectives depending on the forces the player sides with. For example, in one map the Resistance forces have to protect a missile launch site while the Security forces have to break through to prevent the launch. From my experience, the maps seem like one side has the advantage in terms of positioning, has access to choke points that are near-impossible to break, or important tasks are placed too close to spawn points. It seems to go both ways at least, as some maps favor one team over the other and vice versa. There are other minor objectives that vary depending on the player's class; these can involve capturing command points which boost the player's health and supplies, finding shortcuts, and a handful of tasks that deal specifically with assisting the other players. At first it can be pretty overwhelming as there is so much going, but in time the player should be able to get a handle on things and influence the tide of battle.


Ultimately, the limited and problematic online play devastates the potential that Brink has.

The four classes that make up the forces of both the Security and the Resistance cover well-known archetypes. The soldier specializes in explosives and keeping the team well-stocked with ammo. Aside from being especially handy with a grenade, soldiers also have access to Molotov cocktails and flash-bangs. The soldiers must do whatever they can to control the battlefield as they are essential to spearheading any offensive force. It's never fun trying to hold a position without any ammo. The medic is probably the most important of the four classes. While players will respawn after being killed, it can take several seconds to a minute before they can get back to whatever objective they're trying to accomplish. The medics' revival syringes can bring anyone back into the fight as long as they have the supplies for it. Medics can also provide health buffs as well as other bonuses, like increased speed or a rush of damage-ignoring adrenaline, which is good for those who are trying to get away with valuable intel while under enemy fire. Engineers are another necessary component of a good team as they can dole out armor and upgrade weapons then take up defensive positions with the help of their mines and turrets.

The operative has perhaps the most challenging role of the four classes. They lack many of the immediate benefits that the other classes can provide and sometimes they can even seem a bit useless. However, I think operatives can be the most important class at times as they can dictate the flow of the match. Operatives are designed around slowing down, confusing, and doing whatever they can to become a constant source of frustration. While leading the enemy away from objectives, using communication hacks to show everyone's location, and using disguises tend to not have the same instant gratification as a revive or a turret, the tools of the operative can still positively affect the battle since in the long run every second counts. The battles for objectives tend to take place in particular areas on the map, leaving a lot of space free for operatives to capture command points as well as perform other tasks they're best suited for.

Aside from the class, everyone in Brink is defined by his body type. All players start off in the middle, which provides a fair amount of health, access to an average number of weapons, and regular mobility. Heavies are tougher and can use any weapon but are slow and have difficulty getting around. Playing light requires that the player can only select from a few weapons, and they have all the durability of wet tissue paper. However, light players move quickly and have complete freedom to get around the map as they please. This leads to a very impressive amount of mobility as light forces can jump off walls and cover ground at a pace neither of the other two body types can get close to. It's best to stick with a body type that fits the player's class, though play-style can be accounted for as well. A heavy medic might survive longer, but it's likely he won't reach the wounded in time to save them.

All of the classes are further governed by a leveling system. Anything the player does that benefits his team will result in experience points. Each level-up adds new clothes and other editing options for customizing the player, but more importantly it adds points that can be used to acquire abilities. These can add more versatility to the classes as well as strengthen existing abilities. It can lead to some lopsided matches at times since low-level players are going to have to deal with their higher-level enemies having access to additional health, a wider variety of deadly grenades, and a host of other tools. Each of the four classes has its own set of abilities and it is left up to the player to distribute as he sees fit.

The number one rule of Brink is to never stop moving. By utilizing the SMART system, players can vault over objects, climb onto ledges, and slide under anything or anyone. Sliding is an especially useful tactic since it makes the player harder to hit and able to knock down anyone he comes into contact with. Staying active is more than just sliding around, though, as there are numerous things the player can do to help the team aside from sitting in one place and shooting at anyone who gets close. The SMART system does the job of providing an easy to understand method of getting around that when used efficiently can make a difference in battle.

It's also important to keep in mind that there is no such thing as a constant in Brink. The command points in each map can be used to change the player's weapons as well as class. Some objectives require a particular class and at times a specific combination of classes might be just what the team needs to regain momentum and push the attack. The command point system can make for a very dynamic game as all of the players can change almost everything about themselves even if it's just to accomplish a minor task. In the end it is all for the team's benefit, and I prefer this style of play over other shooters that determine the winner by who has the most kills.

Single-player unfortunately is not recommended in the slightest. It is required to spend at least some time playing alone because starting players will have to unlock a number of weapons by completing challenges. It seems like an acceptable idea since if the player can't handle some things on their own they probably aren't going to be much help to the team, but these challenges range from the pitifully easy to the outright unfair. The first challenge expects the player to perform a series of objectives while his useless artificial allies look on. Another challenge requires the player to hold a command point for several waves, and it is very frustrating when the very last wave is the only one that provides any sort of difficulty.

In the campaign, the bots tend to be good at only two things: killing each other and killing the player. Generally, the allies put out just enough effort to create a bit of a stalemate so that only through the player's influence can the battle be won. Over time, however, the enemy A.I. will improve dramatically and they'll start getting three or more kills for every one the allies manage. Needless to say, losing the battle is imminent. The best way to counter this is through more human allies, since they're more likely to get kills as well as complete objectives. With a full team of players, the cooperative modes can be pretty entertaining, but despite how cheap the bots can get they're still pretty brain-dead and can't stand up to anyone that's even halfway competent at this game. Sure, on the hardest difficulty these clowns could head-shot me from a mile away while sliding under a pipe, but I've had matches where nearly all of the bots went after a couple of snipers that were in the opposite direction of the objective they should have been protecting.

It almost goes without saying that to get the full effect of Brink one should play competitively against other humans. This is such an important part of the game and yet it is specifically where the Xbox 360 version falters. First of all the lag is terrible. While Splash Damage has made progress in fixing this problem, the occasional unplayable match can be expected, especially if it involves eight-player teams. The competitive mode limits teams to five players and the lag doesn't seem to get nearly as bad, but it feels like it is missing something. While an additional six players doesn't seem like much, it can have a serious effect on the match itself as there are more variables to consider. Firefights involving only a few players usually end far too quickly, which leaves Brink with a lack of identity, since it is the kind of game that really shines during prolonged encounters that require everyone to work together instead of relying on a couple of guys who know how to spring a good ambush. Still, this is currently the best option for those gamers out there who actually want to play Brink seriously.

The complete lack of lobbies is nothing short of mind-boggling to me. Admittedly, I've never been fond of matchmaking setups and have always preferred choosing my online matches from a list of servers. With the Xbox 360 version of Brink, all I can do is cross my fingers and hope I land in a match with minimal lag and a full party, because almost everything about joining an online game is out of my hands. Sometimes I'll end up in a competitive match but there's only one other person. Other players might get shuffled in eventually, but unless I'm patient enough to stick around for thirty minutes or so just for the possibility of more players, I might as well leave the match and try again.

Ultimately, the limited and problematic online play devastates the potential that Brink has. Playing just the cooperative modes is a fine way to spend a few evenings, but with only eight maps and no real story mode to speak of, the game feels like a waste of money. It's really too bad, because the depth of the competitive multiplayer should more than make up for the lack of maps, but it's difficult to gain an appreciation for it when the online play doesn't work like it should. On the bright side, the door is left open for PC owners as worries about lag and finding matches are practically nonexistent. It's on this platform that Brink is most likely to receive the respect it deserves instead of merely being another stopgap until the next major title comes around. If nothing else, I think this game deserves a dedicated community that will continue to play this game for years after its release because it is really entertaining and addictive when everything comes together. I also hope Brink does well because it's one of the few multiplayer-focused shooters that I enjoy playing.

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