Customizable running and gunning
Brink's S.M.A.R.T. free running system opens up the environment to a few tricks and expedites the trek between points of interest with smoothly cool leaps, butit isn't Assassin's Creed or Mirror's Edge, so don't expect to scale twenty-story structures or make insane leaps between skyscrapers. S.M.A.R.T.didn't explode my preconceptions about first-person shooters, butit does make the others seem boxy and restrictive. Flying up and over obstacles quickly feelslike the most natural, sensible way to traverse the environment.
"Move more than you shoot," is the game's strategicmotto, and it'sgood advice, as strategic positioning is majorly important in Brink. Running straight at the other team isn't thebest way to push them back, so flanking and dividing their forces, or catching them in choke points, is the best way to disrupt their attack or break their defense.
When you do set your sights on the enemy, the BRAT BRAT BRAT of your chosen weapon won't disappoint. Brink's guns feel as hefty as they look, and they rip up enemies without any frustrating ambiguity (I'm looking at you, Halo).
Brink plainly displays each opponent's health over his head, which some might expect to undermine the hardcoreness of it, but I found that it actually ups the strategic play.If I'mtoo far awayfrom an enemy formy current weapon to be effective,I know immediately after sounding off a couple impotent roundsthatI need to switch weapons ormove to a better position.And when I engage the opposing team, the visible health statuses informmy maneuvers - screw the UN, a wounded medic in a crowdis my top priority, becauseifI take down any of his companions first, he'll just revive them while I reload.
Above: The medic running through the door is my prime target
The game's selection of guns are customizable with parts earned by completing Challenge missions, and while finicky weapon stat adjusting doesn't have to consume much of your time in Brink, customizing stuff is fun, andyour choice of primary and secondary weaponswill influencehow you'll play.
Above: My primary weapon... I can't resist the scope
Speaking of customization, you can customize the hell out of your dude, which is also fun, even where it doesn't affect gameplay.
The only aesthetic character setting whichaffects your abilities is his build - Light, Medium, and Heavy. Naturally, the light bodytype offers increased speed and maneuverability at the cost of heavy weapons usage and health, while the heavy type is thechaingun-toting tank. Imostly enjoyed keeping it balanced with the default medium body type, butthe option to try alternate play styles and explore multiple strategies adds yet another welcome bit of customization to Brink.
Above: My dude
Above: My dude's face
Aside from body type, the rest of the customization consists of unlockable aesthetic changes, from shirts, jackets, and pants to gas masks, dreadlocks, scars, and tattoos (the latter two being permanent). I love customizing characters, and I know I'm not the only one who'll enjoy the hell out of Brink's detailed game of dress up. The one thing I don't love is that both the Security and Resistance forces are devoid of female soldiers, and I must assume that the exclusion is the result of the amount of work that would have had to gone into designing options for both sexes. It's still a shame.
Brink and you'll miss it
Brink is built on a modified version of id's Doom 3 engine, and it's pretty, but not quite as spectacular as the promotional material had made me hope. The character designs are the highlight by far, andbits of the Ark stand out as well - especially the slummy outdoor areas. Somemaps, however,struck me asdull after a day or two of playing.
Nevertheless, Brink looks different enough from every other shooter that I'll say with confidence that I like looking at it far more than I do Call of Duty: Black Ops and Halo: Reach. If you crave something unique, Brink is that. There are a few technical issues to note, however.
Above: Real pretty... the firstten times you see it
Update (May 10, 2011): The visual glitches described inthis sectionwere fixedby the launch patch, as promised. Also, though we are still experiencing lag in some matches, as can be expected in any online game requiring a connection to a host,the ping indicator correctly turns red when our connection is being interrupted, suggesting thatsome network glitches were also fixed.
"Sporadic visual glitches at distance, texture pop-up and some minor networking issues" will be addressed in an automatic day-one patch, according to publisher Bethesda. I trust that they will be, but I still have to point them out just in case. When I played the game, the textures took their sweet time loading and sharpening. Blurry, low-res textures, which I assumewere only meant to be seen from a distance, remained on objects well after I was standing directly in front of them, and sometimes never sharpened up. Installing the game on the 360's hard drive, which the publisher suggestedwould offer a "more accurate experience of the game at launch"did not clear up the issue.
Additionally, one in about every five online matches I played was so crippled by lag that I had to quit out. The rest were as smooth as butter, and it's hard for me to tell if the host's connection, my connection, or the "minor networking issues" to be addressed by the patch were to blame.
I can't guarantee anything about the patch,sounless you'rea pre-order-happy early adopter, keep an eye on the community's comments to see if this stuff is or isn't a problem. After the patch is released, and we have a chance to see for ourselves how significant itsfixes are, we will update this review, but until then, we're factoring in the visual and network glitches.
Is it better than?
Halo: Reach? No. I like it more than any Halo game, but y'know, that's me. Brink's campaign is a series of skirmishes, and just isn't as filling as Reach's. If you want something different, then Brink will satisfy, but if you don't plan to ditch typical competitive multiplayer, then keep playing Halo. I won't judge you. (Maybe a little.)
Call of Duty: Black Ops? No. Again, I prefer Brink, because dammit, it's different. Still, it just isn't big enough to compete with CoD. Brink is confined to eight maps on one floating city. Maybe if it had zombies I'd feel differently, but nope - just objective-based matches against funny-faced humans. Black Ops offers more.
Team Fortress 2? No, but it could have been. I don't personally like Team Fortress 2 (sorry), but fans ofTF2 have built a strong community that won't easily be chipped into. I think that Brink's mechanics are more interesting and versatile than TF2's, but its arenas are just too limited. IfBethesda and Splash Damagecan garner a strong following and release mod tools which result in a wide variety of player-created maps (which I doubt, given their complexity), then Brink could bloom into something just as great as TF2.
Just for you Metacritic
The mechanics of Brink's shooting, free running, and objective-oriented classes and skills are fantastic. If it weren't so confined by its premise, it might have been a masterpiece. Instead, it feels smaller than it should, and left me begging for its potential to befully realized. It's a shame that it doesn't quite feel complete, butBrink isstill a verygood game, and it deservesnotation - just below Team Fortress 2 - as an exemplary team-based shooter.
May 9, 2011