We had high hopes for Brink. Really, we did. The gameplay previews were strong, the development team at Splash Damage was psyched, and the game's world was fresh and visually interesting. But somewhere along the way, with its civil war and dystopian floating city, Brink sprung a leak and sank. What the hell happened?
By Stu Horvath
Brink takes place on a floating city called the Ark that cut itself off from the rest of the world as the sea levels rose. Now, with unrest spreading and supplies dwindling, a civil war has broken out between the Resistance—who wants to escape the Ark—and Security, who believes there is nothing out there to escape to and considers the Resistance a threat to the Ark's viability.
As a class-based first-person shooter, there are a lot of comparisons to be made with Team Fortress 2—which makes sense, since there are championship TF2 players working at Splash Damage, including CEO and game director Paul Wedgwood. And we're fine with that; we love TF2.
The classes are balanced (except for that enemy-reviving bastard medic, whom we could never seem to kill fast enough—but that's the same in all class-based shooters) and encourage teamwork. Each stage has enough objectives for each class to keep things interesting while the level design is well thought out, providing plenty of shortcuts (which take full advantage of the game's context-sensitive parkour) and choke points (which can make for some satisfying bloodbaths).
The narrative is interesting enough, with events playing out very differently depending on which team's perspective you view them from. But it's the unspoken story, played out in the game's aesthetics, that is truly intriguing. How did that guy lose his eye? What's with all the gas masks? What did that guy wearing shoulder pads made out of old tires do for a living before he joined the Resistance? Does he know Fred Sanford?
Those questions play directly into the very best part of Brink: the character customization. As you level up, you get access to new bits of clothing, which for us turned into obsessively tweaking the perfect outfit. The character models are just that damn good—we're hard pressed to think of a game that does this better.
However, for an online multiplayer game to be considered a success, you need to be able to play it online—something that has been, as of this writing, impossible to do. This is despite a Day One patch (we would also like to point out that Brink released a week early, something that strikes us as supremely foolhardy in retrospect), additional assurances the problem will be addressed, and the mea culpa of free DLC.
The lag on the Xbox 360 version is unparalleled in its badness. Seriously, we've seen paintings that are more interactive. There are fixes and workarounds available that make the game playable, but this isn't the experience as it was intended. We still have no idea what Brink is like when put through its paces by real live human beings. And while we like what we've seen in the single-player "campaign"—essentially playing the multiplayer maps in a fixed order against bots—dealing with twitchy ally AI is far from a five-star experience.
Straight up, we hate the fact that this is the game we got. The potential is there for all to see—distinct visuals, great environmental navigation, customizable guns/characters—but Splash Damage's ambition clearly outstripped their technical abilities. We have no doubt that this will eventually be a serviceable shooter, thanks to (probably several) updates and fixes coming down the line...we only hope that it happens before players completely abandon the game.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.