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Giant Bomb Review


Brink Review

  • X360

Flat combat and a lack of variety are just two of the things that make Brink such a disappointment.

You'll be able to customize your character's look with items that unlock as you play.
You'll be able to customize your character's look with items that unlock as you play.

Brink is a class-based multiplayer first-person shooter from the developers of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, and a lot of that style of play is present and accounted for in the way the objectives are built and the classes function. The structure of the game is decent, but it's brought down by issues both large and small. The largest one is a simple lack of content. With eight maps, a lackluster arsenal, and a campaign mode that is, by default, populated with terrible AI-controlled bots, Brink just doesn't have enough going for it to justify a full-price purchase.

The game is roughly the same in both its campaign mode and its freeplay option. The difference is that the campaign mode offers up the different maps in a set order (which you can skip around, if you want) and the freeplay mode is a more open option that lets you jump into a game on any map, theoretically making it easier to get into games with real people. But both modes let you play with humans, if you like.

This is handy, because the game's bots are bad at playing Brink. Bots will run up against objects you're interacting with, as if they can't see you and are trying to complete the objective that you're already completing. The enemy team's bots will often run right past objectives completely, and they'll occasionally just sort of stare at you, like they've forgotten to shoot back. The only dependable thing a bot can do is revive you if you go down, though the medic bots tend run blindly in your direction when you drop, often getting taken out along the way. This stooge-like behavior lasts for most of the match, but when an objective is nearly expired, it seems like the bots suddenly get better, almost as if they've been designed to make the missions draw themselves out as long as they possibly can. If you don't intend to play Brink against people, do not play Brink.

That said, my recommendation for the game doesn't change much for those of you interested in playing with human teammates, largely because the game can become choppy and unplayable if you end up getting connected to a bad host, which seems to happen more often than it does in most other games, though your experience may vary. The one big positive is that the game rewards varied teams by letting each of the four different classes contribute and buff in different ways. The engineers can increase a teammate's weapon damage. Medics can raise a player's health beyond the maximum, as well as increasing a player's ability to regenerate health. Soldiers can refill ammo. And the operatives can mark targets and takeover enemy turrets. Admittedly, that's not all that different from other class-based shooters, but it's effective here and encourages players to not all rush for the one class that can complete the next objective. Also, weapon selection is detached from class selection, so you can carry whatever you like and still contribute to the team in any of the four roles.

The universe has some neat ideas in it, but you rarely get a sense of that while playing.
The universe has some neat ideas in it, but you rarely get a sense of that while playing.

Beyond that, playing Brink is a bit of a mess. The weapons are incredibly underwhelming. Part of this is due to the sound design, which doesn't give anything an appropriate punch when it's fired. But the weapon damage feels weak and the bullet spray makes a lot of the non-scoped weapons feel imprecise and generally ineffective. Grenades are also lame, with pops that look and sound more like a firecracker than a hand grenade. They also don't seem to do much damage, making them better for knocking opponents over, giving you time to finish them off while they get back to their feet.

A lot of time in each map is spent running back to the battle, as the game lacks any sort of forward spawn capability. To let you worry less about obstacles in the environment, holding down the sprint button also allows you to automatically mantle up and over low objects. You can also slide under objects or, in some cases, you can leap up to grab ledges. Vaulting over these objects makes the path back to the battlefield more of a straight line, but once you're engaged, it feels like hopping around like a crazy person is just a good way to get gunned down because you weren't spending your time firing back.

Brink occasionally hints at a larger universe with its pre-mission cutscenes that attempt to set up the conflict between a rebel force and the security crew trying to hold them back, but these vignettes are incredibly half-hearted, introducing few characters and not really giving you much of a reason to care about the overall world. It's too bad, because the characters and the set of islands they inhabit have an interesting look to them. But beyond a couple of weak cutscenes you'll see when you finish campaign mode and some dull audio logs, Brink does absolutely nothing of value with its fiction.

You'll earn experience points and levels as you play, and with each level comes the chance to unlock a new ability. These vary from universal skills like extra health or the ability to reload while sprinting to class-specific perks, like building better engineer turrets or giving operatives a bomb in their head that lets them blow up on command when downed, potentially taking enemies along with them. You don't have to break these up into loadouts, as all your abilities stack.

This makes you more powerful at higher levels, something the game attempts to address by preventing higher-ranked players from getting matched with lower-ranked games. Ultimately, this just splits the people playing Brink into yet another smaller subset, which, at least in the near-term, has made it fairly hard for me to get into games with an abundance of other human players. Between breaking up the campaign mode options by map and the rank lockouts, Brink just feels like it needs a big "quick match" button to expedite the process and match you with human players and completely sidestep the game's weak AI.

Brink's stylized look is pretty cool, but the whole thing feels like a bust. The minute-to-minute action just isn't interesting enough to make the game's eight maps worth replaying for a serious length of time, which makes a lot of this come down to a basic value proposition. It feels like a downloadable game's worth of content that's been fleshed out a little by some slightly higher production values. Nothing about that sounds like a great deal to me at its current price, but its awkward structure and dull combat won't go away after a simple price cut.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+