We first saw Brink at the Eurogamer Expo in 2010. It looked brilliant back then and the queues to be able to play just one level of it were testament to that, but I doubt there has never been a stronger example of the phrase, “You had your chance”. Brink is a game which is both enjoyable but also annoying. It has so much and yet does so little with it.
The mission we played at Eurogamer showed the game at its best, and from that it had so much promise. The opportunity to play a game that would help to redefine how we thought about an online multiplayer FPS with the focus changing to a much more objective driven story rather than see how many times we can kill each other. It had the ability to remind people that most online FPS games require you to work together as a team, a point that Brink makes very well with it’s four roles – soldier, medic, engineer and operative – all having different abilities. A team full of soldiers is going to get you the most kills but it’s not going to solve any objectives. A good mix of abilities is required in order to complete any given mission.
The story is at best a patchwork of references and indications of a previous life. We’re told the Ark was a somewhat experimental city, a self-sustaining island that become over-run with “guests”. You assume population expansion caused the whole thing to fall apart. What the game doesn’t really tell you is why it cut itself off from the mainland, why it needed to separate from civilisation, and why the founders have such a big cork up their own arse. You get some tit-bits, like rising oceans, global warming etc. What the story does give us is a but more energy and a strong connection to the game when you’re online in a multiplayer map, there is some credence in why you are fighting, instead of the normal “two countries at war” scenario.
So, how does it play
It would be fair to say that throughout the game, in both single player and multiplayer, the graphics are very below par. I keep thinking of the original Xbox and they are somewhat close to the games of that era but at times they even drop below that benchmark. I don’t know if this is how Splash Damage & Bethedsa have got over the lag issues but it does make the game seem odd. Comparing it graphically against COD:BO there is a whole world of difference in the detail and resolution of the images, before we think about discussing the artistic differences between the two games.
Focusing for a second on the single player aspect, it is both varied and short. Very short. Nine missions on each side of the war over the Ark, both containing sub-objectives, let us not forget the challenges, the sandbox arenas with specific assignments supposedly to train yourself for playing Brink (I did them after the single player.) But after all of that it feels like there is so little substance. The story is sort of washed over, it’s told to you in bits and you never really feel like they want you involved in it. Compare it to a game such as Bioshock and the story behind Brink looks like something written on the back of a postage stamp. Which is a shame, because the idea behind the story is a good one, and had it been fleshed out a little more the game have stood as an equal against some of the greatest.
Sure, once you’re involved in a mission you kind of forget why you’re there and yes, you ultimately are focused on what you’re doing. The missions are varied and each of them requires you to think about how you can come out with all objectives intact. They’re not easy maps and there is a touch of re-play value in there but what lessens that appeal is the AI idiots on your team seem only a quarter as intelligent as the enemy. You may be securing an important piece of the map but your team are swanning around like it’s a Boxing Day sale and the doors to Next are about to open. Whereas the enemy AI has already found the air vents and they’re crawling in to get the best deals before you’ve even got in the door.
Unfortunately the online multiplayer side is a little more difficult to give a good report on as most gamers seem to have given up on it already. I did manage to get into a few games. Those that didn’t have a lot of people in them played quite nicely. Those that had a near full lobby were difficult to play at times, not something we’re used to seeing these days. However, I am sure work is being done to patch the game up and as ever there will be DLC to expand on the game. I only hope it expands the storyline and doesn’t, as most other multiplayer-orientated FPS’s do, just add more multiplayer maps.
Overall, I’m glad I rented this one. I’d be disappointed if I bought it full price. If you’re tempted to buy it I’d suggest you do the same first.