What do you get when you try to cross MAG or Team Fortress 2 gameplay with the look and feel of Borderlands and a futuristic Mad Max? Bethesda Softworks (Fallout 3, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) and Splash Damage (Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars) hope its the next big franchise to hit consoles. The impressive art direction in the advertising campaign originally drew me to this game, but does it translate to tengaging gameplay? Now that it has dropped in price almost universally, is it something you should pick up now? Is it even worthy of it's all CAPS moniker?
The premise in BRINK is not anything we really haven't seen before, but it centers around a man-made, eco-friendly, floating city, designated The Ark, that is on the brink (get it) of Civil War. Since the oceans of the world have begun to rise to unsafe levels, The Ark has become a sort of haven for people affiliated with its original inhabitants, as well as other displaced people looking for a better life, who have to live on the outskirts. It's basically a bunch of Haves versus Have Nots. One group wants to break free of the overpopulation and desecrating conditions for the outcasts on The Ark (called The Resistance) and leave the floating city to see what the world is like beyond its walls, while the other group wants to keep the refugees in control and living in continued squalor, while they continue to benefit in The Ark (called The Security).
Upon starting the game, you have to first select and customize a character. While the customization options are ample, they aren't exactly endless. The character design is similar to Gears of War, with overexaggerated features and bulging muscles. There are four different classes of characters: Soldier, Engineer, Medic, and Operative. Obviously each has their own strengths and weaknesses and in this game you will be switching classes a lot during each level or mission, to complete objectives.
To move around, BRINK also uses whats been classified as SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain). In this, a button can be assigned to to quickly traverse across different environmental obstacles. Think of it as parkour influenced climbing, jumping, and sliding, reminiscent of Mirror's Edge. The diagram below shows the various ways something like this could be accomplished. Unfortunately, much of the time, I kind of forgot about SMART and did the regular old climbing and jumping, except for the occasional slide.
I've spent quite a bit of time with this game, beating both campaigns (a total of 16 missions, but they are long missions, which turns out to be a blessing and a curse), and utilizing both solo play, as well as completing levels online with human counterparts. I get that the online component was designed to be a major selling point for BRINK, but the online community is pretty stagnant at the moment. When starting a level online, I would say that only about 25% of the time did I have another human joining me.
This game is quite frenetic when you first jump in. There is a lot of action going on around you and quite a bit of chatter from your teammates (which I liked initially, but then grew to hate). Initially, only one or two classes will have an objective that are pretty basic (hack this, defend this, escort this person, etc.), but the objectives increase (both primary and secondary), as you progress through the game. Just find a (or take over an opponent controlled one) command post, and you can switch classes. There is an objective wheel that is easily accessed at any time, that highlights the objectives and classes needed, so it's not too confusing. Select an objective and it'll point you in the right direction to complete it.
That's not to say that BRINK isn't fun because at times it really is. Shooting people and is almost always fun... for a while. Having the missions broken up by each side seemed like a really interesting idea, but they basically turn out to be the same levels, but just opposite objectives of each other. If the Resistance was trying to destroy something, when you play the mission as the Security, you're trying to defend the same thing you were previously asked to destroy. This doesn't flesh out the story as much as I would have hoped for, and really didn't make me pick a side I was rooting for, as if they had added totally different levels for each side.
There is a major problem with your teammates AI in the game. They are basically worthless (but every now and then surprise you with a well-placed turret), and you constantly feel like you are the only one that is able to do anything. For instance if you have to repair something and are playing solo, without human teammates, it seems like you are the only one of the class you selected that can get anything done. You have usually around 10 minutes to complete the objective, but it usually takes all 10 minutes because your teammates don't help at all. When they do decide to help, it's like a mad rush in the final minute or two. The opponents know where to congregate to protect what's needed, but it seems as if your team gets bored rather easily and leaves their mark.
Which leads me to my next problem with the game. If you die, or I should say when you die, because your opponent's ammo tends to be much more powerful than your own, you have to respawn
There are a few "what if" missions tacked on at the end, but they seem as more of an afterthought, than a critical part of the story, and are some of the shorter missions of the whole game. I recommend playing through some of the Challenge levels early on, as by completing them, you earn some upgrades for your weapons. There are 3 different types of challenges: fulfilling objectives, moving around with SMART to certain areas in a time limit, and defending, each with three levels of progressively harder levels.
There are two distinct setting for the missions in BRINK. One is the futuristic Ark, which kind of reminded me of something out of Mass Effect. Lot's of plexiglass, neon, etc. Once the action moved away from The Ark, to Container City, I became re-interested in the game again. It's a totally different kind of look that really made me push through to finish my first half of the Campaign. There are lots of little crevices and creative shortcuts to find.
I didn't really experience any lag, when playing online, but only really connected with one other person at a time when playing the campaign. The multiplayer was solid and much more fun than playing with bots, but by the time I tried multiplayer, I was kind of burned out by the game. Sometimes when enemies died, parts of their body would be underground, or if they were standing on something and killed, seemed to be floating in mid-air.
Throughout the game you have a Commander basically talking in your ear the whole time. He gets very frustrated when things aren't going the planned way. Considering that you feel like you are a one man show on many of the levels, it get very annoying quickly.
I did find the chatter between teammates amusing. When you give supplies to another teammate, they always respond with some form of thanks. Additionally, when you have some supplies and they are needed by someone nearby, they will let you know.
There is a planned DLC coming soon (free for the first two weeks), which may increase the number of people playing online. Currently, there are 8 maps available for multiplayer skirmishes. I fear, however, that most players originally interested in the game have either moved on to something else or sold/traded in their copy.
Once the campaigns are completed, there is not much incentive to return to those missions. Especially the ones where your teammates seem clueless. There are some audio logs to collect, which supposedly add more to the story (or unlock a trophy/achievement when all are collected) but I didn't have an interest to find more.
There is a cap at level 20. When I finished both campaigns, I was at level 16, so I played multiplayer and replayed missions to reach the cap. There are bonuses for completing missions online (which I didn't know until about halfway through the game)
Honestly, I really wanted to like BRINK. Blending solo, co-op, and multiplayer into one somewhat seamless experience seemed innovative and intriguing. However, in the end, it wasn't done well enough to grab my interest for extended periods. Each mission is quite long, and if you don't succeed, feels arduous instead of energizing at the challenge, that you have to relive 15-20 minutes all over again.
I spent over 15 hours with BRINK, completing both campaigns, including what-if missions. I also completed all three 1-star challenges, two 2-star challenges, and one 3-star challenge. BRINK is currently available for $34.99 from Amazon and $39.99 from Gamestop.