First person shooters are constantly battling to do something a bit new. Whether it’s a new multiplayer mode, some innovative co-op options or a brand new, never seen before list of rank bonuses there’s a war in itself between each new title. But the one things that remains virtually ever-present is a single player campaign, a story which digs deeper into the game’s world and delivers a powerful and memorable experience. But what happens when the focus on multiplayer is so strong, that even the main campaign is just a series of online-style battles against bots? Well Brink tries just that, and the result is a mix of promising and disappointing.
Single player campaigns are funny things. A lot of gamers will buy a FPS title solely for the online multiplayer; in fact I’d be willing to bet that at least a third of those who buy the upcoming Modern Warfare 3 will never even look at the single player side of things. But when a decent campaign is missing it leaves a sizable and noticeable gap in the game’s offerings. Warhawk was fantastic, but every Warhawk fan is relieved to hear about Starhawk featuring a single player campaign; the same can be said of the two SOCOM titles available on the PS3. So it comes as quite a surprise that Bethesda chose to put so little focus on the main story.
To be fair to Brink there IS a story, even if it’s very scarcely referred to throughout. The Ark, a man made floating city, has fallen into decay and the police are doing everything they can to restore order from the rebels, who obviously have been trying the exact opposite. The first time you load the game up you’re given the choice of whether to try to save or escape the Ark, which will give you your default setup as the police or a rebel. It’s a heart-stopping moment that feels like it’s about to shape your entire Brink experience, but as it turns out you can pick and choose your missions in whichever order you choose, for whichever side takes your fancy. Unfortunately each mission effectively acts as a standard multiplayer match, with a series of objectives to complete with your bot-filled team. You can team up with some friends to press through these missions which does improve things considerably and introduce some tactical choices, but it still feels like you’re playing a standard online game.
The bots themselves aren’t quite as stupid as some people have made out, although you’ll know you’re not playing with and against real people. The biggest issue I found was how your opponents seems to be quite a pushover early in the mission, but suddenly become superhuman and make life almost impossible as you reach the final objective. You’ve also got challenges to complete away from the main campaign which increase in difficulty each time you try them. Finishing the challenges will unlock extra outfits (thousands of the things), weapons and add-ons to use both off and online, as well as awarding you a decent amount of XP to increase your rank. And that’s the best thing about the single player parts of the game – the developers clearly recognised it was basically offline multiplayer and reward you as such, giving you XP for every campaign and challenge mission you complete. This then flows over into the online elements of the game, meaning you could already have ranked up quite considerably before you’ve even set foot in a multiplayer arena.
Multiplayer modes are definitely where most people will spend most of their time, and there’s a reasonable amount to keep you busy even if the overall experience is a little underwhelming. Weapons feel decent if a little unbalanced but the grenades are impressively pathetic, feeling more like popping some bubble wrap than setting off a small explosive. Maybe we’re expecting too much, or maybe Killzone has raised the bar for how weighty weapons should feel. Either way the in-game hints suggest you move more than you shoot, and it’s the moving around that feels great. Following the lead of Mirrors Edge, Brink brings parkour into the FPS range allowing you to scale walls, vault over desks and slide gracefully into cover. You don’t even need to do a great deal to make it happen – tapping L2 will toggle between running and walking, but holding it down will make you automatically carry out some acrobatic manoeuvres to escape the enemy or get to your objective quicker.
Classes are accounted for, with a choice of options available depending on what sort of role you want to play in your team. The medic class can heal downed teammates and boost players’ health above the normal maximum level for example, but doesn’t have the required skills to plant explosives or hack data terminals. Unlike other class-based titles such as Killzone your choice of class doesn’t limit the weapons you can use, so it encourages you to fit in with your team as opposed to picking whichever class gives you the most firepower. Each class has its own abilities when you can unlock by leveling up, but which abilities you unlock is entirely your choice. Laid out into a series of separate screens showing you general abilities and class-specific upgrades, you can choose to max out a certain class, increase each one slowly or just focus on the general skills which are available no matter which you play as. It gives a certain RPG feel to your character progression, and it’s something that works really well in making your character unique. This of course is helped by the huge numbers of costumes and character features available, which give you a bewildering number of possibly combinations. Sadly though, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get close enough to the enemy to really see how great they look and the visuals aren’t crisp enough to notice much from distance.
But the multiplayer is fairly fun, there’s no denying that, it just doesn’t do anything spectacular and gets very samey pretty quickly. Similarly the look and feel of the game isn’t pushing any boundaries, and although the presentation outside the game is crisp, clean and easy to use the in-game visuals are pretty standard fare. Brink is the kind of game that will be very good with a decent set of friends alongside you (and you can probably add one to the score if that’s the case) but alone or with the general public you can’t help but feel the experience is a touch empty. Not a disaster by any means but I see Brink as a game that has all the ingredients to be unique and brilliant, it’s just a massive frustration that it suffers from the shortfalls that it does.
Lee’s Second Opinion
Confused. That how I feel about Brink. It promises a real stylised game with some neat touches wrapped up in arguably the “flavour of the moment” genre. But for some reason it just doesn’t feel like it excels in any particular area, and in some, just downright fails.
Take for example the “persistent” nature of character development. You play, you kill, you earn XP which you then spend on making your character look awesome and to unlock additional “skills”. Issues here are:
a) No one but you can appreciate the character customisation nuances, as the battles tend to be quite frantic. The graphical fidelity is not high enough to fully appreciate each person’s character – by the time you’ve seen their alter ego – either they or you are dead!
b) The game throws XP at you like it’s going out of business. Hitting the high levels and therefore obtaining all the skills wouldn’t take a seasoned player long – thus meaning there’s not a lot to really strive for (other than the challenges which can be quite tricky).
There are a plethora of weapons to choose from but none really have that “meaty” feel and are all ultimately disappointing. Customisation options aside, content is really lacking; it’s a straight forward objective based deathmatch game, spread over 7-8 maps, no vehicles, same each time and the “campaign” is really a deathmatch based map rotation with some short cut scenes.
Where Brink SHOULD shine is the online multiplayer side of things. Don’t get me wrong, Brink is much more fun playing against real life people – however actually finding people to play with isn’t straight forward. There are no in game lobbies to speak of and getting people into your game requires use of XMB game invites, which feels really outdated and clunky. Also, Brink disappoints by only letting you see the names of your own team members who you are playing with. If you got 16 mates together for a match then you couldn’t see who you were going one to one with until one of you bought it and you could read the (small) death message on the side of the screen.
I think FPS junkies will appreciate Brink, just because it’s an FPS, but to be honest there’s nothing else really to see here. Disappointing.