Grizzly Gaming

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First impressions: Brink

If you’ve read this blog at all or follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I’ve been pretty obsessed with Brink for the better part of the last few months. The FPS from Splash Damage and Bethesda made promises to meld the single player and multiplayer modes into a seamless experience where gamers would find themselves playing the same game whether online with friends or offline with bots. While what they claim is true, the final product is not nearly as entertaining as I had hoped.

Don’t get me wrong – I really like Brink. Really I do. But I can’t tell yet whether that feeling stems from the fact that I espoused how great this game will be for weeks (months?) or because I genuinely like it. I’m leaning towards the latter but I’ve spent precious little time with the game thus far to make an informed decision.

Also, this isn’t my formal review of the game, just some initial thoughts.

-The biggest problem with Brink is that it is a game chock full of great ideas that were executed terribly. The single player and multiplayer experiences are essentially the same. I say “essentially” because there are some huge differences between the two. The two modes follow the same story – that story being made up of different days/missions that both the Security and Resistance forces take part in. (It should also be mentioned the story/mission for both sides are the same – you’ll just be playing the opposing team.) When playing offline, the game is populated with bots that come in two flavors – tactically brilliant and relentlessly aggressive enemy AI and stupid, at best, useless, at worst, friendly AI. Playing Brink solo is an exercise in futility as 9 times out of 10 you’ll be the only member of the team working to accomplish an objective and the enemy bots will be working ceaselessly to stop just you. The online play is much more fun overall – when it works. Lag has been utterly unavoidable so far, even after a day one patch.

-The most glaring misstep? No lobbies. For there to be no lobby or party system in a game that is essentially a multiplayer experience is unforgiveable. You basically need to start/find a game, invite your friends and hope there is room.

-Along the lines of terrible execution – the system for unlocking weapons/clothing/attachments was an incredible miss. Brink offers a ton of clothing and items to customize your character. Unfortunately, these pieces are more or less handed to you as you progress in levels and with only 20 levels, you’ll have unlocked literally everything there is to unlock within the first few days of playing. Plus, you unlock guns through a non-story “Challenge” mode. Consisting of just four separate challenges, you can conceivably unlock every gun in the game within the first HOUR of playing Brink. Splash Damage missed a huge chance to inject some replayability into Brink by basically giving away every gun or piece of clothing.

-Each item you unlock after a challenge or multiplayer match is neatly laid out for you in a postgame screen, but you’ll find that standard FPS stats like kills, deaths, assists, etc. are missing. Splash Damage, I realize you guys wanted Brink to focus on teamwork but even teams with great cooperation like to see their individual scores. Brink does a great job of keeping track of your XP (and therefore character progression) but it’s very odd that such staples of competitive FPS stats are left out completely.

-Speaking of the story, it’s handled incredibly strangely. Each mission will see your faction completing objectives that progress the larger story – Security trying to quell the rebellion, the Resistance trying to escape the Ark. How each of the missions pertains to that story is all but lost on you as you progress, since little explanation is ever given about these events. You boot up a mission, get talked at for a minute, watch a short cut scene, play the mission and move onto the next – you’re never really given enough info to piece together what’s actually being accomplished in these missions. Each success unlocks audio diaries that probably help a lot in piecing together the timeline of events but really, who is going to listen to them? I barely listened to all the audio diaries in BioShock (an action/adventure game) and Splash Damage wants me to listen to them in a game that is supposed to be all-out action all the time? I’m not taking time out of playing the game to exit to the main menu to listen to more people talk at me so I can start to discern why I’m doing what I’m doing in the story (which, remember, is all there is to this game).

-A solid single-player campaign is sorely missing from Brink. I realize they wanted to make a seamless online/offline experience but there is a reason most games do them separately – because people want them separate. Presenting this hugely interesting and colorful world only to barely flesh out the story at all feels incredibly lazy on the part of Splash Damage.

-On a more positive note, I do really, really like how Brink plays. The guns, the movement, and character classes all make for a very fun experience that allows any gamer to play however they want. This is most easily accomplished online, as there will, more often than not, be someone trying to complete the main objective, leaving you free to revive teammates as the medic or build turrets and machine gun nests as the engineer. Since you’re earning XP for everything you do (buffing teammate abilities, handing out ammo, building turrets) you don’t even need to complete objectives if you don’t want to. Rather switch to a heavy with a minigun and wreak havoc on the enemy team? Go for it. Want to put together a tactical assault on the next objective, utilizing each character class? Brink gives you the tools to do that as well – and rewards you no matter your decision.

-The art style in Brink is phenomenal. I can’t even begin to describe how refreshing it is to see a more vibrant color scheme used in an FPS. All the clothing and character options are really cool looking and I’ve found myself tinkering with my character’s look each time I unlock new stuff. With all the variants in characters and weapons, you’d be hard pressed to ever run into anyone else who looked exactly like your character.

Look for my full review soon. I want to put in some more time with it before I make a final decision about Brink. Honestly, though, it will be extremely difficult to find more positives than negatives about Brink. All these notes were off the top of my head – I can’t imagine being more forgiving when writing its review from note taken during actual play.


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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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