Splash Damage, developers behind such titles as Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Quake Wars: Enemy Territory now brings players the world of Brink. You find yourself on the Ark, a makeshift safe-haven for humanity to start afresh. After various climatic changes, the Ark is set adrift and now finds itself at the mercy of its current inhabitants. As a player, you’re given a simple choice…Save the Ark or Escape the Ark. If you choose to ‘Save the Ark’, you jump into the boots of the Ark’s Security Forces, desperately trying to safeguard the Ark from anyone who might disrupt its fragile peace. If you choose to ‘Escape the Ark’, you will find yourself in the slums surrounded by your Resistance compatriots. The Resistance views the Security forces as nothing more than a roadblock stopping them from adventuring outside of the Ark. In an odd twist, this is also the choice you make about the whole game. Do you Save Brink or Escape it?
At its core Brink is a First Person Shooter, with a class-based system that brutally demands team cooperation. If you prefer your games with a streamlined Rambo aesthetic, Brink might not be the title for you, since running around on your own leads to a quick death. If you are wondering what the game looks like, I can say it is a mixed bag, especially for PS3 and 360 owners. When customising your character and weapons the detail looks stunning, however when you get into the game you will certainly notice the drop in quality. To be honest, you really won’t notice all that fancy stuff, since people don’t stand still long enough for you to admire their new hat or scope for their rifle. Brink is not the worst looking game but it is certainly rough around the edges. The texture pop-in can be annoying, especially if you are turning around quickly, but this issue fades into the background when guns start blazing. All the maps are appropriate for the Ark, with lots of white buildings and offices for the Security forces, rusty boxes and filth for the Resistance forces. Each maps is well detailed yet the simply textured floors and that nasty texture pop can make Brink look like a well aged game, despite coming out in 2011. If you’re fussy about your graphics, Brink is not going to convince you to play on eye-candy alone. It is all about the gameplay.
Oddly for an FPS, guns are not the main thing that you use on the battlefield. From the outset Brink tells you to pick a profession and use it. Soldier, Medic, Operatives and Engineer are your staple classes here. Each one has its own set of abilities that are built around supporting your team. RPG-lite elements can be found within Brink, which allows you to customise each class to your preferred play-style, but not outside the boundaries of what the game expects the class to do. No Ninja Medic/Engineer hybrids for you! To succeed in Brink, you have to support the team. This also means that a full squad of Soldiers will fail just as much as a team of Medics. As each class has a role to play on the team, they also have a deeper role when it comes to battlefield objectives. In an odd twist, outfits and other cosmetic apparel is unlocked in the Solo Campaign. All the guns and their appropriate attachments are unlocked via the Challenge Rooms, which aims to provide players with small taste of the overall game and to acquaint them with how each class works within the various map objectives.
Maps are all built around Primary and Secondary objectives, which can only be completed by a specific class. Destruction Objectives can only be performed by the Soldier class, Repairing objectives can only be done by the Engineer and so forth. Throughout the Solo Campaign you will be swapping between the classes to get the job done, which helps you learn each class. You can specify which class you would prefer to start out as but you will be doing the majority of the grunt work, which leads to one of Brinks major failing, which is the A.I. It hops between super accurate Ninja Assassin and then a Zombie-like posture while the enemy pumps bullets into its skull. When it comes to Objectives you cannot trust the A.I to do anything more than run in straight lines, using their class skills and getting shot in the face. You will rage when an A.I picks up a Collection Object and then run into the enemy, over and over. You will find yourself racing the A.I to Objectives just to stop them doing something stupid. Brink’s campaign is short, possibly clocking around three or four hours, even if you get stuck on some objectives. Some reviews have knocked Brink due to the lacklustre Single-player offering, but you should really think of it as a three to four hour tutorial that will unlock fancy new clothes and gives you a good grip of how things work. Of course, Brink is not just about the short Solo Campaign and the twitchy A.I., one of the more inventive ideas is found within the SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) system.
SMART is Brink’s way of standing out from the FPS crowd. Instead of just running around the world, you can utilize SMART to navigate yourself over and under various objects. Is there a wall in the way? Simply vault over it. Pipes low enough to duck under? Use SMART and slide under it. Once you get it working, it really adds a new element to the dynamic battlefield. Maps might seem pretty flat at first glance but you will notice handy stacks of boxes, ledges sticking out or even walkways out of reach. The SMART system helps you to have way more mobility than you would previously have in other FPS games. You might get a hint of Mirrors Edge about the movement and you would be bang on. Combining SMART with gun-play, class abilities and objectives can feel utterly awesome, especially when you add in Brink’s key and vital ingredient.
If you pick up Brink hoping for a stunning Single-player romp, you will be utterly disappointed. Even with bots running around not shooting things, it is just not enough to keep people playing the game. If you saw the first few lines of this review and floated over the words “Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Quake Wars: Enemy Territory” and subsequently screamed for joy, you will know Brink is all about Online Multiplayer goodness. Unfortunately Splash Damage has made the PS3 and 360 version somewhat stunted compared to the PC version. PS3 and 360 owners get the usual online options but they are hidden amidst some really odd design choices. If you have played any FPS in the last few years, being able to jump into quick games is natural. You appear in a lobby, hurl some abuse at other people and then jump into a game. Brink has no pre-game lobby, so trying to organise a group of friends together can be way more hassle than it really should be. For 360 owners, you make a Party, join the game, then start a match, then invite players, then split into Fireteams, then swap sides since you’re all split up. Seriously Splash Damage, this is basic stuff. Fine tune it and make it silky smooth to get into games. I am jumping though so many hoops just to get games started, I feel like I am in a dog show.
So, should you Save Brink or Escape it? It really boils down to two things. If you love playing team-based shooters with strong team elements and multiple objectives, plus you have the patience to work through some clunky game choices and technical issues, Save Brink. If you’re the exact opposite from above, Escape while you still can.