A Solid Game, Riddled With Bullet Holes
Brink is a new teamplay objective oriented first person shooter from Enemy Territory developer, Splash Damage. It is a game that promised to blur the lines between singleplayer, multiplayer, and cooperative gameplay, and does a well enough job delivering on these fronts. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t end up doing any of them particularly well, making for a somewhat middling experience at times. It is a game with great potential (and plenty of fun despite many issues) that is stunted by poor optimization and some odd design decisions.
The gameplay of Brink revolves around objective based gameplay, oftentimes having an attacking team assaulting an objective while a defending team attempts to stop them. They also add options to the attackers by putting in secondary objectives and small side-placed control points that add pips to teammates’ health or supply pips. The maps are also very beautiful and very well designed. The problem with the gameplay is how all of this ends up mixing together. Most of the maps are only marginally larger than a typical shooter map, yet stuffs in nearly 6 different objectives to do at any one time, with a max player count of 16. This ends up with many players doing the different objectives, and with the way you level up your character, many people specialize in their chosen class, and will rarely switch away from it. I oftentimes found around 3 players at the main objective, 2 each at a command post, and a third off doing a side objective for his class. This would usually end up in failure for the attackers, as the defenders would all be centralized around the main objective. Another major issue is class balance. There were many occasions where a defending team would be all medics with one or two other classes, and it would simply be a solid unbeatable defense. All of the defending players would revive each other as soon as anyone would go down, creating an immovable wall of players in a room that could not be defeated. It appears that the maps and player count are both too small for the amount of objectives thrown at players at any one time.
Another odd design decision in Brink is the bots that populate the levels during co-op and singleplayer gameplay. These bots display minimal objective awareness, oftentimes beelining to an objective’s location and stupidly standing there in plain sight as they are gunned down by other bots who are doing the same. There are a lot of glaring problems with the bot design, most importantly being their inability to actually take cover from gunfire or navigate the world geometry effectively. My biggest annoyance, however, was the difficulty. The bots range in skill from ‘dumb path-finding with awful accuracy’ at the easiest, to ‘dumb path-finding with dead eye aim that will instantly kill you from a mile away’. While I know making proper AI is difficult, a game that bills itself as holding the solo game modes as important as the multiplayer should probably test it more extensively. The co-op and singleplayer modes are essentially the same as multiplayer, but is played from a single team’s perspective in the order of the days that they experience the situations. This creates an experience akin to Left 4 Dead, where it is somewhat disjointed story elements that are loosely chained together into an overarching unsaid storyline. There are audio logs that you unlock throughout the course of the gameplay that are somewhat interesting and help flesh out the world, but it also makes it that much more disappointing that this world isn’t very well represented in the game proper.
The sound design of Brink, as well as the graphical design, is actually very excellent. Guns make a satisfying sound, and explosions and other impacts will give you a powerful impression that you are indeed being bombarded. The voice work is moderately well done, with some good talent, but it often seems like they could have recorded a few more lines for general gameplay, as you frequently hear the same voice spout the same line over and over, making it a little annoying after a while. Most of the level design and UI elements seem very well done, making for a beautiful looking game. Unfortunately, though, it is not very well optimized, and has some downright game-breaking issues on ATI cards. This may be a small fluke, but it is keeping a large portion of their user base from being able to enjoy the game. There was also an occasional issue with sound simply stopping altogether during a game, which was intermittent but absolutely game-stopping, considering the tactical nature of the game. Many game elements are represented by audio cues, which completely negates the purpose when your sounds simply stop playing.
Overall, Brink is an excellent game that suffers from some crippling issues, both in gameplay and in construction. I can say that this is not a wholly satisfying entry in Splash Damage’s repertoire, but is a fun game that will most likely gain its own following, as many PC games do. If all of the current technical issues are dealt with, many people will greatly enjoy Brink, but until then, I feel many people will feel their time and money are wasted on this product.