This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
In a world filled with games like Call of Duty and Battlefield, new titles that dare to step outside of the box are too often overshadowed and underappreciated. Splash Damage’s Brink is such a game. Attempting to bridge the gap between story and multiplayer, while throwing in a little free-running, Brink puts a fresh spin on something familiar.
Brink is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have created The Ark, a giant floating city designed to keep its investors safe and secure. That is, until other survivors show up at its doorstep. These survivors, who become know as The Guests, are forced into virtual slavery which eventually sparks an uprising and rebellion in turn, forcing Ark Security to take aggressive action. From this point forward, the game’s story plays out in a very basic form, only minimally revealing the plot in each round. At the beginning of each level, there is an audio briefing with your faction’s commander, and a short cutscene with some characters from your team. This sets the mood of the match, but unfortunately does little else. The entire story feels tacked on as an excuse for solo play since, other than the commanders, you never even get to know anyone’s name.
While the lack of story may be a buzzkill, the gameplay does make up for it in every round. Although there is only one style of gameplay, it is quite addictive. You play on one of two sides, either the Resistance or the Security Force, and one team attacks while the other defends. Each map has a set of primary and secondary objectives to be completed by your team, such as blowing up a door to free a hostage and then escorting them to safety, or repairing a crane to move debris. While there are only four main types of objectives, their uses are varied, which gives each level a unique feel and adds replay value.
There are four classes, each with its own corresponding main objective relative to the map: the Soldier, who places explosives; the Medic, who is tasked with healing and reviving escorts; the Engineer, who is able to repair mechanical objects (e.g. cranes, maintenance bots); and the Operative, who can hack electronics. Each class has exclusive abilities and equipment, such as turrets and mines for Engineers, EMP grenades for Operatives, and speed or health boosts for Medics. There are many more abilities than that though, and you can mix and match between classes if you don’t already have a favourite.
Every action, like scoring kills or working on an objective, awards you experience points. Get enough points and you gain a level, awarding you with a point to use on a new talent. Amazingly, the balance between the four classes is perfect, with none of them being super powerful or overused. The A.I., however, is a different story, often disregarding objectives and revives, or having incredibly accurate aim. This causes most solo play to fall noticeably short of its multiplayer counterpart.
While the overall gameplay is similar to other first-person shooter games, there are some fresh aspects that make it stand out. For one, the sprint button enables you to free-run while holding it down instead of just tapping it. This allows you to easily navigate over tables, boxes, walls, and other obstacles, helping you get to your objective faster. Your character also has the ability to fire from a downed position and, even though this may reduce your accuracy, it quickens your retaliation capability. These features, along with the game’s great design and excellent class balance, show that you really can teach old dogs new tricks.
The graphics and design are mostly excellent. Maps are varied, ranging from a high-security compound to a city made of shipping containers and other discarded junk. There is an impressive amount of hidden paths and routes to take as well, requiring multiple playthroughs to memorize them all. All these elements make each match unique, and players are likely to stay hooked round after round. There are some issues however. Some textures do not load completely right away, and sometimes the anti-aliasing slows down causing edges to look rough and stair-like. While never actually interfering with gameplay, these graphical problems take away from the overall polish, making it a bit of an eye-sore at times.
Thankfully, Brink makes up for what it lacks in design by allowing players to personalize their gameplay as much as possible. Almost every aspect of your character is customizable, from clothes, hair styles, head gear and colours, to your guns and their various attachments. You can even choose your voice actor, which is truly unique in a shooter experience. Each team has its own style; for example, the Security team wears police uniforms and riot gear, whereas the Resistance team wears make-shift and tattered clothes. You can customize your character with an outfit for both factions, allowing you to look the way you’d like regardless of who you’re fighting for in a given round. You can also pick a body type; either a heavyset build which is optimal for taking lots of damage, but with little free-running skill, or a lighter body type to maximize parkour ability including wall jumps, while sacrificing health greatly, and finally a medium build, for those looking for an overall well-rounded character. However, there is no option to choose a female character, which is strange considering the game places such emphasis on customization. Aside from this though, Brink has all the bases covered to ensure that your character stands out from the crowd.
While the customization is a massive selling point in my opinion, the audio steps it up as well. All of the in-game chatter is important, whether it’s to illustrate a main objective, provide clues, or to let other players know they’re building a machine gun nest. All of the voice actors are at least decent, with no one making you want to crazy glue your ears shut. Each gun also has a unique firing sound and realistic suppressor effects, making each weapon sound as special as it looks. All of the effects are up to snuff, with each slide, climb and explosion sounding just like it should. An interesting audio option allows you to place all in-game communications into your headset, making you feel like you’re truly in the shoes of your personalized character.
All in all, Brink is greatly underestimated and hasn’t really become as popular as it should have, especially considering that it truly is a refreshing take on a FPS game. If the A.I. can get overhauled, the graphics polished, and the story enhanced (or just cut completely), then a sequel could stand above similar titles of the same genre. If you’re looking to step out of the FPS norm, then your search is certainly over. At least give it a chance, it may parkour right into your heart!
Final score: 4.25 / 5.0
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