The Ark was constructed to be a self-sufficient, green habitat for forward-thinking residents. Unfortunately, it’s become overcrowded with lower-class rabble who threaten local stability and prosperity. Out of this bleak background rise two groups: The Ark Security forces and the Resistance. Ark Security calls the Resistance terrorists, while the Resistance say that they are fighting for freedom from the oppression of the Security forces.
This is the world of Brink, the new shooter from Enemy Territory: Quake Wars developer Splash Damage. Brink allows you to join either side of the conflict in the Ark, and tasks you with winning the battle for your side. To this end, it also provides a ton of customization options for you to choose from.
Brink (XBox360 [Reviewed], PS3, PC)
Developer: Splash Damage
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Right out of the box, you’ll create a character, and get a glimpse of the number of options you’re going to get to play with. None of them is initially unlocked, but you can spend a fair amount of time just looking at the different outfits, haircuts, tattoos, and other options your character will someday be able to access. Once you’ve created a character, you can jump right into the game.
Brink is unique in that there really is no distinction between singleplayer and multiplayer. Even while playing the campaign missions, you can open your game up to your friends, who can jump right in and join you.
The campaign itself is fairly straightforward and short. Each faction has a campaign to complete, and you’ll quickly notice that the Security campaign is a mirror image of the Resistance campaign, offering the same maps and missions from the other side. The interesting part is that when you listen to the descriptions of the missions, you start to get a real sense of the disconnect between that two factions. While the Resistance tells you that you’re trying to steal a navigation unit so that a Resistance member can fly out to get help from the outside world, the leaders of the Security forces fear that the Resistance is constructing a weapon to attack the very people Security is trying to protect.
Besides campaigns, you can set up games in Free Play mode, which allows you set up your own custom matches with custom rules. There’s also a Challenge mode, and this is one that it would behoove new players to work through before heading into the general melee.
Challenges task you with completing what are essentially training maps (and these can also be tackled with up to three other friends). If you do so, you’ll not only unlock new weapons and weapon upgrades, you’ll also get a good feel for how the game works. There are challenges that familiarize you with each class, some that teach you the basics of escort missions, and most importantly, some that teach you about the SMART system.
SMART stands for ‘Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain,’ and it’s the key what makes Brink unique. Instead of jumping, crouching, and maneuvering as you would in a regular shooter, SMART lets you simply point your crosshair at a location and climb right up, assuming that there is a viable way to reach that location. Approaching a gap? Hold down sprint and the SMART system will leap it for you. You can also climb obstacles, slide under gates, and generally navigate the environment in a whole new way. It’s a different sort of approach to movement in a shooter, and it makes Brink’s pace much faster than similar games.
Player choice is paramount in Brink, and it shows in the class system. There are four classes available: Soldier, Engineer, Operative, and Medic. Each has its own perks, but all of them can tote weapons, engage in firefights, and chuck grenades. Soldiers can use molotov cocktails, plant explosive charges, and toss ammo to their teammates (and themselves). Medics can buff the health of teammates, as well as revive them when they’re incapacitated. Operative can disguise themselves as the enemy, infiltrate enemy lines, and hack objectives. Engineers can deploy mines and turrets, as well as buffing the weapon damage of the allies.
Each of the classes has a series of unlockable abilities, such as the engineer’s more powerful turrets, build speed increases, and stronger buffs. In addition, there are several player-level buffs that can apply to any class. These buffs are unlocked through experience gained in missions, and it’s entirely up to the player which ones they choose to purchase. Between missions, you can change your appearance, your loadout, and even the size of your character (Heavy characters can carry the largest weapons, light ones move the fastest).
Each of these classes can attempt the main mission, but there are also side missions that can gain you experience. Engineers might construct MG nests or build stairs that let their team flank the enemy. Operative might hack enemy turrets to turn them on their builders. All of these offer viable alternative ways to contribute to the team’s success, although helping out on the main mission would be greatly appreciated, bot teammates (more on that later).
Let me dispel a notion about Brink that I had on first glance: There’s no buff or grenade spam here. Buffs use Supply, and each player has a limited quantity. Although it regenerates over time, the rate is slow enough that you’ll take a moment to think before you toss that last buff. Grenades and other special munitions are on a timer as well, so once you toss a frag, you’re waiting for a bar to refill before you throw another. It’s a minor change, but one that serves to almost completely eliminate grenade spammers.
Another way Brink is a little different is that you aren’t locked into a class once you spawn. Throughout the missions, you’ll find command posts. Capture one, and you and your team can use it to replenish ammo and to change your class in the field. You’ll also buff your entire team when you capture one of the posts, meaning that they hold great strategic value. It’s not unusual to begin a mission as a Soldier that detonates an obstacle, switch to Engineer to repair a bot, and then hop to Operative to hack a terminal and complete the mission.
Brink has a distinctive art style. It feels almost like the signature Borderlands style has been infused with character touches (especially the bugged-out eyes) that are reminiscent of Time Splitters. The Ark looks like the world of Mirror’s Edge has fallen to pieces, and you’re roaming the rubble.
Most of the missions take place within abandoned buildings, structures, and streets. There’s plenty of debris lying around, and much of it has been thoughtfully arranged to provide a number of defensible spots. Unfortunately, the Resistance is usually taking advantage of that terrain, and if you’re playing the Security missions, be prepared to be on the losing side of things in the early missions. Assaulting an entrenched defense is never a fun thing.
This brings me to my one big complaint with the game: poor AI. The best advice I can give you is to play this game with friends, because the bots are literally retarded. As you’re running your heart out to deliver the intel that will win the mission, your bot teammates will be off capturing command posts or constructing flanking routes. Meanwhile, the opposing team is blowing you into little colorful bits three feet from the objective and returning the intel. All of these things are important parts of winning a match, but a little attention to the timer and what we need to do to win wouldn’t be remiss here. Still, this means that with focused teammates, the game could be a killer competitive platform.
All in all, Brink brings to the table pretty much exactly what we expected. A class-based first-person shooter with some really nice bits added onto it. The missions allow players to contribute to the team within the framework of the class they like without funneling everyone into a scrum of flying bullets. The variety of unlockables gives you a ton of options to customize your character, and the amount of content means you’ll be playing a while to get your hands on all the goodies. If you’re looking for an updated take on the genre that still feels as cool as Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Brink might just be the game you’re looking for.
- Solid class system with good variety
- Tons of unlocks that players can choose from
- SMART movement is a welcome change to navigating the map
- Unbalanced campaign, Security missions are much more challenging
- Poor AI
- Campaigns are very short, lasting only a few hours.