BRINK

Brink
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BRINK



Written by Chris Price
16 Monday 16th May 2011

 

Suffice to say, pick up Brink and play it like a basic FPS, and you’ll feel like you’re being beaten with a brick gift wrapped in the pages of 2000AD. Headshots don’t count here - domination requires numbers and organisation. What is clear is that Brink functions on a subtle equilibrium (one which seems to have been lost in press hyperbole and endless tips and tactics videos). Brink rewards the player for being useful. Play with people who don’t abide to this (or the computer); and your experience will suffer.

Brink strains for you understand its reasoning. For a start, the slick interface tempts you with 1000 free experience points (XP), just for watching the tutorial. Experience points are racked up for every battlefield action, unlocking subtle attributes to boost your chosen class of character (‘Medic’, ‘Engineer’, ‘Solider’ or the ‘Operative’ who can disguise himself as a member of the opposing forces) to be as effective as possible during battle.

Each mission contains online team battles and challenges, and single player missions, staffed by computer controlled bots, are top and tailed by a series of tight cutscenes. Both the Resistance and Rebellion factions are depicted as a team of individuals, each with their own ideology around the uprising; some giddy on zealous diatribe, others forced into taking up arms under duress of poverty. Although bristling with character, courtesy of some hyperealistic visual styling from Art Director Olivier Leonardi (as well as a healthy injection of regional British accents), the story adds little more than the ability to recycle its eight levels with two groups of customisable character models. Brink nonetheless offers brief glimpses of a nuanced story with definite mileage.

Tasks are broadly split between carrying something from A to B, defending an objective or fulfilling a languorous interaction (and vice-versa for the opposing team) with secondary tasks of escorting, reviving and diffusing bombs and tertiary elements of buffing injuries, adrenaline and ammunition to keep your team in the fight, while also taking pot-shots at regular waves of reinforcements of members outright killed in battle with no medical support.

Brink’s objective wheel is a clever effort to allow team tactics in the absence of microphones and keyboards. After picking your class, select a bespoke class-objective from the objective wheel by pressing the up button. Your chosen task is then relayed to your team, for others to assist on the fly. Unfortunately, opposing forces techniques of flanking are far harder to employ, relying on guesswork from each characters’ actions. Bobbing RPG-esque status icons are omnipresent throughout the game, with an XP ticker ratcheting up digits for objectives fulfilled. XP can then be redeemed for abilities, weapons and other goodies, to bulk up your character with everything from a new haircut, to the ability to plant machine gun turrets, as well as the crucial staple of every role-playing title - being able to level up.

Single players’ computer-controlled entourage provides both logical defence, and stultifying stupidity (transport tasks will often leave you marooned without cover, and holding position to wait for reinforcements before advancing certainly isn’t a viable tactic). But online, Brink can provide some serious moments of accomplishment. The pride in achieving a mission objective, through leading meticulous teamwork, or overcoming the odds through assisting team members is immense.

Although with a whole kit of DLC coming in July (for free, due to a few rectified release issues), Brink retail is currently quite a meagre experience. The visuals, quickly become a blur of aquamarines and dirty reds reminiscent of Doom 2 Deathmatches, and the repeated environments and five character levels quickly make you feel that there isn’t a whole lot more on offer than the game structure itself. Adding to that, class-based interactions are often tricky mid-battle, with registration being unclear while under heavy fire (involving many a joypad being thrown across the room in frustration).

Brink ultimately lives or dies with your personal experience. With its heavy reliance on teamwork, Brink will prove most rewarding approached as an online-only experience. With the command interfaces, Splash Damage have created a pacey team shooter, which manages to offer the player real tactical choices.  But while the SMART system makes zipping around levels, blasting at bad guys an effortless joy, the sooner you stop playing Brink like an FPS, the quicker you’ll start to reap the rewards of its quirks.

While its limited tactical options belie its non-linearity, as do the largely indistinguishable weapons and it’s unruly controls, it’s an enthusiastic courageous attempt at a more existential FPS experience. With Fallout 3, Bethesda managed an update of the open world RPG, with class, compunction and personality. Brink certainly doesn’t drop the ball; but whether everyone experiences the highs that it offers will almost certainly depend on what you put into it. The incoming DLC will hopefully offer far more to the rather slim package on offer here and fully utilise the games team mechanics. Brink is for those willing to indulge in something slightly left of centre – but I feel only the patient will truly get to appreciate the full experience.

Brink is out now on Xbox 360 and PS3.

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