The futuristic setting of this objective based first person shooter is a massive man-made floating city called the Ark. The impressive looking structure is an environmentally friendly metropolis built to house scientists and, for some reason, a bunch of rich people. In recent times, natural disasters have befallen the rest of the world, forcing the the Ark to accommodate a growing population of refugees. Life on the Ark has become unsustainable and chaos is on the horizon. This is where you come in.
As soon as you boot up the game, you’re asked if you want to save the Ark and fight for the Security or flee the Ark as a member of the Resistance. Either way you’ll end up completing two medium sized campaigns as you run through all the levels for one side to betraying your people by going through those levels again fighting for the opposing team. It gives you a well rounded experience as you watch your teammates bicker about the morals of the mission within each cut scene. It sometimes makes you stop and think as you desperately try to release a missile as the Resistance, only to be reminded of the cost of lives if you don’t stop that missile when completing the same level as the Security.
The first thing you notice about Brink is just how fluid the movements is with Splash Damage’s new SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) system. Whether you’re sprinting or jogging, you seamlessly traverse over any obstacle without the need to use the jump button. This is mostly a good thing except when you merely wish run up a flight of stairs and automatically jump over the railing (damn you SMART!).
The movement of your character can alter depending on what body type you select (light, medium or heavy). A light body is very mobile and fast, but more susceptible to damage, whereas a heavy body feels sluggish and doesn’t have the mobility, but is not as easy to damage. Heavy bodies also have access to larger weapons.
You can also alter just about every aspect of your character’s appearance, from clothing and headwear to scars and face paint. As you gain experience you unlock more options, the purpose of which is surely to see just how ridiculous you can make your character look. It only takes seconds to outfit your dude (there are no women in the game) with a hockey mask, over-the-top moustache, baggy disco pants and a Mohawk.
The most important aspect of your character is your class. There are four to choose from: Medic, Soldier, Operative and Engineer. Each has its own capabilities and certain classes will be vital at particular stages of a given mission. Each mission will require a variety of tasks to be completed. Some, such as capturing an enemy’s command post, can be completed by any anyone, while others can only be completed by specific classes. Objectives can vary from protecting or killing a witness, to hacking a computer mainframe or repairing a piece of machinery. Classes can be changed at command posts during missions.
As you gain experience, you also unlock equipment and abilities. The guns are quite varied. The specs of each weapon, such as range and damage, are clearly displayed and you can also unlock upgrades such as silencers. However, the grenades are disappointingly ineffectual.
Brink’s strength lies in its customisation of characters and objective based challenges. The missions for the single player story are exactly the same as those you will play with humans during multiplayer sessions. Splash Damage has openly admitted that it is attempting to blur the line between the multiplayer and campaign modes. For the most part it has been successful. Weapons and abilities you unlock by playing the campaign transfer across to multiplayer. Unlike most popular shooters, Brink offers genuine cooperative team play. Unfortunately the bots in campaign mode will happily let you get shot and killed as you attempt to hack a computer (thanks guys), whereas your online human counterparts will tend to be more aware of what role they need to play in order to achieve team success.
Considering the lack of support from your bot teammates in campaign mode, it is unbelievably frustrating that there are no checkpoints. Each level can have 3 to 4 sections, each section lasting up to 10 minutes. If you stumble at the last hurdle, it’s straight back to the beginning.
The levels are both well designed and visually interesting, but you will encounter the occasional graphics glitch, such as an NPC floating in mid air. The game does look a little more impressive with greater depth and clarity on the PC edition. However the 360 version is more than serviceable.
When you shoot at a glass panel to access an enemy attempting to hack your command base on the other side, you would think that you would either injure that foe or, at the very least, break the glass. In fact, it’s as if the enemy has his iPod headphones on, because he doesn’t notice a thing. The shards of glass tumbling from the panel are purely for show. The environments are only destructible when dictated by the narrative. Why tease us with the illusion of a destructible environment?
The idea for Brink is a good one. Unlike a Call of Duty or a Halo, it’s not just about getting from point A to B and shooting everything in-between. The objectives add another facet to force players to act as a productive member of a team and not merely as an individual looking to rack up kills. It provides everybody with a role to play even if they’re not the sharpest shooters in the world. The game does, however, lack a little polish and it’s missing some much needed checkpoints in the single player campaign. Brink certainly has the makings of a great game and the next instalment may see it reach its potential.