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Brink Review

26 May 2011

The first-person shooter market is as saturated as a slimy dish rag. In its current state there isn’t much use to add yet another run ‘n gun title into the mix, but every once in a while a developer rings it out just enough to add their own flavour to the proceedings. The problem is it’s still the same old rag we’ve played with for far too many years, and the big guns leave little room for anything new or interesting. Brink falls into this category, with Splash Damage and Bethesda Softworks trying something relatively new, but narrowly misses leaving any lasting impression. It’s a stylized team shooter that’s best played online, but suffers from design flaws, inconsistent A.I., and frustrating lag. While the newness will wear off quickly, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to play, and for fans of small team-style shooters, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Brink is shooter pretty much devoid of any proper narrative or campaign. Technically, the game does feature both a story and a campaign, but it’s buried under an onslaught of early instructions. You are given a roughly 20 minute tutorial explaining parkour-style gameplay, the ability to quickly change objectives,  and how  imperative it is to run n’ gun instead of finding a place to hide and snipe. The four classes, three body types, and assortment of skills and abilities provide a decent variety on the surface, but the game never really uses the objective-based missions to its advantage. The Soldier class can plant explosives, while Engineers map repair machines. Operatives are the hackers of the group, while Medics are tasked with reviving NPCs during escort missions. There are eight maps, and the real basic design of each level involves one team trying to accomplish some objective, almost always requiring the team to guard some of its players, or escort an NPC, for instance. Since the maps are too linear and are riddled with bottlenecks, accomplishing these objectives quickly becomes dull.

The four classes are not all that diverse, which leads to a basic issue. You have the ability to change classes nearly on the fly, and to complete missions you’ll likely have to change a few times as the A.I. generally doesn’t offer much support (more on that later). Why are we given four classes? Sure, they each serve different purposes and provide different perks, but the need to change throughout a level almost defeats the purpose of those extra abilities. For example, say you are on an escort objective. You will want to play as a medic to keep your buddy alive, and the rest of your team may as well follow in your footsteps. Sure, you could use the extra ammo or armor buffs from the other classes, but in reality a team full of medics can heal one another and keep each other alive. The classes pretty much play the same outside of their individual abilities, so there isn’t a point to play outside the class required for the given objective.

The game’s highlight is the S.M.A.R.T. system, which allows character to pull off parkour-inspired movements. You can run up walls and slide around the floor, and it feels great when you first pull off an impressive kill using S.M.A.R.T. Small body players are obviously more agile, but Medium and Large sets work just fine, too. As mentioned previously there is  technically a campaign on offer, but with eight maps/missions, which don’t need to be played in order, it’s hard to find any consistency or cohesion. The game has more of a premise than a story, which is fine, but outside that lack of story should hold some killer gameplay. You can play through each mission online with real people (A.I. bots fill in empty spaces) or offline with only bots. Completing these missions, and performing other in-game objectives nets you experience, allowing you to unlock skills, tattoos, pants, and other gear. The best part about the ability system, like the rest of the game, is that you can change it pretty easily, so you don’t need to worry about picking the wrong skills.

Sadly, your A.I. companions aren't as competent as they should be. Sure, they are good at lending you some support fire, but they rarely take on objectives by themselves and they almost never switch to the objective’s required class. The 16-player missions are best played with real people, as is the case in most online games, but I found it tough to play matches with a full human team. Brink is a game that may need more time to simmer on the stove. While a recent patch has helped limit the terrible early lag, there are still some small, yet annoying glitches. There are a ton of great ideas in Brink, and some of them work fairly well. Running around with the S.M.A.R.T. system is pretty fun, the characters look interesting, and the action is fast and furious (almost too fast).

The actual combat system  is quite standard and thankfully doesn’t suffer from any control issues. Think of your favorite FPS control system and you can simply tack it onto Brink. I would really like to see if enough patches can improve the pacing, change some of the objectives, and provide some less linear maps. There may be some people who just love to run up railings and try to shoot an enemy with a shotgun, but that’s about as much fan as I had in the game. Sadly, until the A.I. is improved, or more human players actually join the game, Brink will likely prove a frustrating endeavor. The concept is great, but maybe the PSN downtime kept too many people away, but more likely, the game is just too generic and anything original is lost amidst sheer frustration.

-The Final Word-

The parkour-style approach to this team-based shooter is not unique enough to overlook its lack of an authentic campaign, broken maps, and terrible A.I.
  • The original art style
  • The parkour S.M.A.R.T. system
  • The well-integrated online/offline play
  • The poor A.I.
  • The maps and objectives create frustrating choke points
  • The lack of any genuine campaign or story
7.0
Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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