little_socrates's Brink (Xbox 360) review

A fine multiplayer shooter, and nothing more.

Some might feel that defining a game by its genre is a completely unfair way to classify a game. For example, is referring to Deadly Premonition as a third-person survival horror game fair when Silent Hill: Shattered Memories would probably be described the same way? Many games strive to expand the meaning of their genre, or go forward and defy genre definition.

So with this in mind, I can only define Brink as a multiplayer-focused objective-based first person shooter. Brink fails to differentiate itself from the pack in any truly significant way. It carries a similar player progression (including unlockable weapons, perks, outfits, tattoos, and, yes, unlockable beards) to the one you'll find in similar multiplayer games these days, but otherwise it differentiates itself little from team objective based shooters like Team Fortress 2 or, more recently, Dead Space 2.

What little story there is occurs upon the game's launch and before and after games. Essentially, the game's setting, The Ark, is out of supplies, and the police force Security is set up to fight The Resistance (obviously taking their creative sides very seriously) who really just want to leave. I chose the Security side as it seemed less predictable, and sure enough, the cops are cops who either feel bad that they're part of a slightly oppressive force or who feel like lethal force should've been advised instead of allowed. I haven't noticed any repeating characters from cutscene to cutscene, but they also all look like they came out of the Create-A-Character mode in the game, so some might look very similar to others.

Of course, it's not really fair to judge Brink on its storytelling, as that's not really what it's trying to do. What little story there is exists mostly to give you more varied objectives in more interesting locations than it could otherwise and allows the developer to include bots, which is more than Team Fortress 2 bothered or claimed to do. The eight on-disc maps are all very different in style, but all match a sort of cultural mash-up of San Francisco and Rio. The maps themselves are pretty fun to play with, though some of them become a little labyrinthine unintentionally, and they smoothly change from one objective to the next.

Objectives in Brink are as you'd probably expect; collect the data key, blow up the gate, hack the mainframe, defend the caravan, etc. Each type of task requires you to play as one of the four different classes; the soldier blows things up, the engineer can repair or operate machinery, the medic can revive other players and hostages, and the operative can hack technology. The soldier also has a more powerful grenade and can grant allies additional ammo, the operative (almost called him the Spy) can disguise himself as opponents, and the Engineer can grant you a boost to your weapons and create turrets. Obviously, I feel that the class system is not especially creative, but the objectives do allow for most classes to have a specific use on each map.

It's nice, then, that the character customization applies across all four classes, or else the game would feel even more limited in content. There are plenty of weapons to play with, though note that the weapons in this game follow the subtle-differences approach (AK-47 vs. M16, though you won't find either in this game) rather than the more Doom/Fallout-y approach of "assault rifle, shotgun, laser cannon, BFG, nuke launcher," and I found both weapons I spent extensive time with very quickly. The shooting mechanics actually do feel very solid and satisfying, but it is frustrating how much damage you have to deal to down opponents. However, it's worth noting that the gun I found a quick preference for was the GameStop pre-order DOOM gun, so be warned that those without a pre-order are actually missing a few guns that might prove vital in the coming days of the game.

The other character creation options are dedicated to the appearance of your character. I was able to create someone I liked very quickly, and all the pieces of gear looked significantly different from each other, along with the color schemes available. These don't have a major impact on the gameplay, but you can make a character that fits into the stunning visual style of the game pretty easily. They even allow you to select which voice actor you'd like to have play your character, though I found many of the voice actors to be pretty grating. These voice options don't carry into the cutscenes, but instead factor into the extensive in-game radio chatter, which at least SORT of helps the fact that nobody on Xbox Live was playing with a mike.

Brink is little more than the sum of its parts. However, while those parts can easily be traced back to games like Call of Duty, Dead Space 2, and Team Fortress 2, those parts are also still quite good, and if you've ever thought to yourself that the Call of Duty multiplayer could use a more objective-based mode, or that Team Fortress 2 would be better if it had more varied objectives, you'll find that the action, layout, and progressive multiplayer in Brink is really pretty good. However, I would also recommend to those who aren't the biggest shooter fans to wait for a significant price drop, as the game doesn't really have a single-player component, and eight maps is not a ton of content.
11 Comments Refresh
Posted by Commisar123

@Little_Socrates So I gotta ask if everything works what keeps it from being a 4 or 5 star game?  Is it just that its its not unique enough?

Posted by Little_Socrates
@Commisar123 said:
" @Little_Socrates So I gotta ask if everything works what keeps it from being a 4 or 5 star game?  Is it just that its its not unique enough? "
There's also just not enough in the package to make it stand out; it's got all the parts, and it does them all well, but it really does nothing you haven't seen elsewhere. I know there'll be a lot of people who were seeking out this particular combination, and they'll probably like it a lot.
Posted by BibleDoctor

I feel like if they had dedicated a considerable amount of time to the single player experience this game could have been superb. The multiplayer is quite a bit of fun, and the ability for your friends to seamlessly join in and play with you is rather nice. But it feels more like an arcade title at times. I would have loved to see the story get  lot more work, there was so much potential there. The short cutscenes that were already there were fantastic, and the universe it was set it could have been utilized to make some rather difficult moral decisions. A good game that could've been great, I think knowing how much potential the game had is what makes it hurt the most.

Good review.
Posted by Little_Socrates
@BibleDoctor: I dunno if I'd call the cutscenes fantastic, but they're certainly well produced. The ones that introduce the game certainly reuse certain bits of dialog in multiple places, which is a bit strange. Of course, because it's a multiplayer game, any cutscenes there are just get skipped by the people you're playing with, which is another major bummer. I definitely feel like there's potential for an interesting story to be told, though, and a good story is one of many things that could've pushed Brink up a notch.

The game actually does raise a lot of questions about incidental storytelling a la Portal, though, as it's clear to me that they intend the actual matches to be most of the storytelling (through things like TV news reports and imagery) with the cutscenes just giving more context for everything else. Unfortunately, you don't really have time to look at that stuff with the "NEVER STOP MOVING" focus of the game they're pushing and with the constant radio chatter I never actually got to hear any of the news report playing on the first map.
Posted by FuriousJodo

Solid review, I think a lot of people feel burned on the single player content but I have been loving the game so far (PC version).  Interested to see what will grow out of it and it seems like Splash Damage is keeping updates and being fairly open about issues with the game so far.  There is also already some neat stuff being put together by the guys that did Quake Live.TV - i think the website is or something and they had a fairly high quality cast last night of some matches.  Hopefully the observer features get updated some more but I am liking what is here so far, if they keep patching/updating the game I think it will be more deserving of the full price, though I am glad at this point I got it for like 40$.

Posted by Little_Socrates
@FuriousJodo: I definitely agree. There's a lot to like about what is there in Brink, it's just not enough content, and what is there isn't particularly original. I imagine the PC community is a lot more vocal in-game, also, which would help the game a lot, and they're far more likely to continue adding content to the PC than to the X360 or PS3 versions. And of course, those who are willing to put in the effort to watch online matches are absolutely going to like this game more than casual players like myself.
Posted by Sammo21

I would disagree on the points of it being a fine shooter as I had massive problems with even the shooting the game.

Posted by Little_Socrates
@sammo21 said:
" I would disagree on the points of it being a fine shooter as I had massive problems with even the shooting the game. "
I fell into the shooting pretty nicely, but it definitely wasn't super-fresh or anything. Definitely operated better than, say, Fallout or Resistance.
Posted by Sammo21
@Little_Socrates: I'll agree that it's better than Fallout but not better than least in the first resistance the weapons had decent weight and control.
Posted by Little_Socrates
@sammo21 said:
" @Little_Socrates: I'll agree that it's better than Fallout but not better than least in the first resistance the weapons had decent weight and control. "
I really disliked the way weapons handled in that first Resistance game, it felt like a sluggish Call of Duty without bringing enough new stuff to the table. But I can see why someone would prefer Resistance's style to this, absolutely.
Posted by sushisteve

So this is basically the first team based shooter based on the story of MST3k's Space Mutiny?

Very nice review, this game sounded like a step back from RTCW and Quake Wars.

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