Grizzly Gaming

Friday, May 20, 2011

Brink: An exercise in futility

With all the time I’ve put into Brink, one would think I’d have a clear idea of how I feel about the game. Well, I don’t. On one hand, Brink is one of the most unique and refreshing games I’ve played on the Xbox 360 in a long while. Its objective based gameplay and inventive parkour movement style (the SMART system) coupled with a bright, memorable art style make Brink really stand out. Unfortunately, its frustrating design choices and, quite frankly, practically broken online component also make Brink stand out, but not in a good way.

Over the course of my time with Brink, I found myself contemplating this question – if a game has so many problems that it needs to be defended, constantly needing to add caveats like “it’s really a great game but…,” does it deserve to be defended? And honestly, I still don’t have an answer to that question.

I wanted to love Brink. I wanted it to be my “go-to game” for some time to come. But lately, I’ve been playing more Halo and Fallout: New Vegas (“Honest Hearts” DLC) and Brink hasn’t left its case in days. I guess that right there is the first indication that this game is not exactly living up to expectations.

Brink tells the story of a future ruined by climate change. Humanity has built a sustainable habitat called The Ark that can support up to 5,000 inhabitants. However, in the years since the disaster, over 50,000 people have fled to The Ark in hopes of finding refuge. After years of water rationing the Guests (the multitude of refugees) have begun to revolt and are desperately trying to escape their makeshift home. The Security forces aboard The Ark are charged with preventing further conflict and you must choose a side.

Lack of a strong narrative is a huge downfall for Brink. Bits of information are doled out before and after missions but things like memorable characters, exciting sequences and a compelling story are eschewed in favor of combining the single and multiplayer modes into, what is essentially, the same package. Whether playing the campaign solo or online, your experience will be (basically) the same. Offline, solo matches are the same matches you’d be playing online with others, just populated with bots. Relatively useless bots, at that. Enemy bots will be absolutely relentless in stopping you while your teammates are mostly ineffective, rarely completing objectives on their own. I feel that a concentrated single player offering would’ve really helped sell Brink. Wanting to streamline the single and multiplayer modes was a great idea but actually seeing it put into practice leaves me with a different opinion – one that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Splash Damage does a great job of streamlining other aspects of Brink, though. The character creation system is simple, quick and intuitive. Creating some unique looking characters is great fun and unlocking the different outfit elements is one of the only reasons I played Brink as much as I did.

Brink also offers tons of guns and attachments to unlock. Only these are unlocked in a ridiculous manner. Rather than having guns and attachments unlock, or open for unlocking, as you level up your character (you know, to add some replayability or just a reward/something to work for) every gun and attachment is unlocked by merely completing four challenges – which aren’t really challenges so much as tutorials on the different aspects of Brink’s gameplay. So, in theory, you could have every gun and attachment unlocked an hour after you start playing.

But odd design choices aren’t contained to just character creation – the actual game itself is full of strange. First of all, if you like stats and knowing every little detail of your performance (kills, deaths, assists, etc.) you will not like Brink. Aside from naming the best overall player, best in each class and most kills (without a specific number) Brink offers no postgame information. I get that you want people to be more concerned with teamwork and completing objectives, Splash Damage, but even the most team oriented player wants to know how many kills he got. Who doesn’t want to know their score after playing a game? Isn’t that why we play?

There are so many other odd design choices to name, it’s hard to pick which are the most obvious/annoying. Too often I’ve tried to revive myself after being thrown a syringe only to wind up respawning accidently. How’d that happen? Oh maybe because to revive yourself you click and hold the left stick – the same stick you use to click right and respawn. Movement and simple actions like planting a bomb never seem to be as fluid as they should. Too often I’ve run up to an objective to plant a bomb, only to get stuck in the endless loop of “Press X to plant bomb…ok, pressed X nothing happened, let go of X as the animation begins, press X to start the animation again because I realized the game is just slow to do anything, only to have nothing happen because I tried to start the animation again before it had finished the failed animation.” If you were annoyed reading that, just imagine how infuriating it is when it happens during a game. With people actively trying to kill you while you’re engaged in those shenanigans.

Now imagine going through all that nonsense while contending with lag. And not just “slight hiccups here and there” lag, I’m talking “every couple of seconds you’re teleporting to a different spot” lag. More often than not online games of Brink are so riddled with lag that quitting out is the only solution. Get ready for being inevitably placed back into those games after trying to join a new game. Because that will happen. There was even a day one patch to fix some online problems as well as an online configuration update that supposedly limits the number of human players in a game to a single team in the hopes of alleviating some lag issues. Far as I know, though, not much has changed.

With so much promise, it’s extremely unfortunate that Brink is such a mess. All the promise and high expectations can’t cover up all the problems Brink suffers from. Splash Damage recently announced that there will be a free DLC pack available this June that will add new maps and other “new content.” However, with so many problems and such a negative critical response for Brink, I don’t think all the free DLC in the world could reverse the damage that’s been done to Brink. I’m going to continue to come back to Brink every now and then to check and see if its online is still a mess but I can’t see myself playing it very often. If you were at all interested in Brink try and rent it sometime, you might find that, like me, you actually like it despite its very obvious flaws. Most though will scoff at the idea of playing a game that is more annoying flaws than success and really, can they be blamed?


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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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