sdoots's Brink (Xbox 360) review

Almost great.

Brink manages to deliver an enjoyable experience that rewards teamwork more than your own K/D ratio, and I really appreciate that. What I don't appreciate are the myriad of technical issues that prevent this game from being the great title it should be.

Two factions are on the "brink" of civil war, one fighting to protect the utopia known as the Ark, and the other to escape it. Unfortunately, that's as far as the story ever develops. The campaign mode is essentially loosely strung together bot matches that can also be played with both sides being actual players, rather than co-op or solo. It's a nice touch, but it doesn't change the fact that it's basically just a poorly hidden way to get you into a game with other people without outright calling it matchmaking. The levels and objectives are the exact same if you were to play them through the "Freeplay" option, with the difference being the ability to vote for the next map at the end of a match in Freeplay. This also has the unfortunate effect of splitting the playerbase. Even though they're literally the exact same missions, the classification of Freeplay and Objective puts players into a seperate pool. Considering how quickly this game has turned off some of it's players, that could mean the online community will be struggling.

Players level up as they play, unlocking new customization options for their character, and you can make some pretty badass looking dudes for both factions. None of the options feel particularly halfassed, which is nice. Players also earn the ability to buy new perks for their character, one every level, and most of these are class specific. To prevent new players from getting decimated by high level players with crazy perks, the game only allows people of the same rank to play together by default, but you can search for people of a higher rank. Unfortunately, there is no option for "Any rank is fine" in the search settings, so if the online community does start to dwindle, that'll be an issue.

In an odd departure for the standard these days, weapons and attachments are completely disconnected from your level. To unlock new weapons and attachments you need to play through the challenges, and for the most part these serve as more of a tutorial than anything else. It's an odd choice, but not one that damages the game in any way. On the contrary, it means most of the people playing will have some sort of idea as to what they're supposed to be doing, so it's actually something I'm totally alright with.

Brink follows the same mission structure of the Enemy Territory games. That is, there are 4 classes to choose from, and each one has it's own unique abilities. Additionally, most objectives can only be completed by a specific class. Soldiers can give out ammo, plant explosive charges, and take more damage before they die. Engineers can plant landmines and turrets, defuse explosives, build structures and gates to both allow and hinder progress for both sides,  and buff friendly weapons. Medics can buff teammates health, revive downed teammates, and keep the person they're escorting up and moving. Operatives can throw down caltrops, hack terminals, disguise as killed enemies, and reveal enemy positions for a short period of time. What's nice is that you can change these classes easily by visiting one of the control posts located on the map. Each team has one that they start with, and more can be captured throughout the mission that will give extra health or supplies to the team that controls them.

A match can progress in any number of ways. Some missions might have the primary objective start off as hack a terminal, then blow up a bridge, and finally escort a hostage. To prevent teams from only playing the required class for the main objective at the time, secondary objectives that can benefit your team or hinder the other are constantly available for the other classes. Operatives can open up a locked door and give the Soldiers another route to their bomb site, for example, or an engineer can build a barricade to force the enemy to go the long way around the map to reach their goal. It's a smart way to keep team make up diverse and the synergy of the classes alive.

Unfortunately, Brink suffers from the one thing that can easily break a multiplayer focused game. It has a tendency to be unbearably laggy. I'll often have to join and leave games for about 5 minutes before I finally get in one that's playable. On top of that, the game doesn't seem to understand team balance very well. One match I played put nearly every human player on one team, and myself and a bunch of idiotic bots on the other. Whenever another human joined, they were immediately placed on the already stacked with humans side. Some people realized this and switched teams, but it's pretty ridiculous that the game doesn't pick up that something is wrong with that.

One of the things that was really pushed about with this game was the SMART system, which is basically one-button parkour. By holding LB you'll sprint. If you run into an object, your character will react appropriately to that object. So if it's a box, he'll clamber up on top of it. It's a neat idea that makes some less than obvious routes to the objectives possible, and you can manually perform some maneuvers in conjunction with the smart system to really show off. I couldn't help but laugh when I slid across a hallway, firing an SMG, and took out 2 enemies in the process. Rapidly climbing up a wall of shipping containers to flank unsuspecting engineers is also a great thrill.

If you're willing to spend some time finding the right match, Brink can be one of the most enjoyable teamwork focused games on the market. Free DLC has already been announced for release in June, and Splash Damage is actively working to further fix the lag issues. The diversity of the classes, the unique opportunities the parkour system allows, and the focus on teamwork are more than enough to make me willing to deal with the issues.

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