Brink

Brink has been gotten hit pretty hard over the last few weeks, but I went and bought it anyways. And you know what? It’s pretty fun. Let your buddy Cat walk you through it.

Brink is a FPS released by Bethesda and Splash Damage. It has a Battlefield-style single player, so it focuses mostly around multiplayer matches populated by other users and filling in the spaces with bots. While you can play with just a few humans and have the rest filled with bots, it’s not advisable. The AI got dropped on its head a few times during production, and now it’s not quite up to snuff for the real game. However, human players aren’t that hard to find. Console gamers are forced back into the peer-to-peer hosting that has plagued games of late, but I am happy to report that the PC version has an actual server browser. Thank the gods.

Classes are broken into four, with the ammo-resupplying Soldier, the hacking spy Operative, the turret-building and gun-buffing Engineer, and the healing Medic. While they all play the same from a shooting standpoint, their “supply”-based abilities are what define them. Supply is kind of like mana, where it powers your secondary abilities regardless of what that ability is. For example, a soldier can throw ammo, a grenade, or a molotov cocktail for one pip of supply. Once expended you must wait for it to recharge before using again. This greatly reduces the spam, which is necessary in a game where everyone has grenades and medics can revive the dead.

However, some of the abilities are lacking. For example, engineer turrets are damn near useless. I can understand the balancing issues involved with stationary death pods, that makes sense. But when your turret takes three to four seconds to start firing at a target, well, that’s not very good. Oh, and the mounted machine guns that engis build are ineffective beyond five feet. Really, Engi needs the most work of all the classes.

Now, I’ve heard people complain that the classes are too closely related, to the point where they sometimes forget what class they are. This really does confuse me, as it’s plainly marked in a variety of locations on your HUD, and any player worth his connection should know what his role is and what he should be doing with it. Perhaps it’s born out of the deathmatch mentality, who knows?

Ah, yes, that reminds me. The HUD. While the HUD has been almost universally criticized for being loaded with information, I don’t find it very confusing at all. Yes, it is much more complicated than Call of Duty, but the info’s all necessary. Perhaps it could do with some rearranging and resizing, but it’s not just clutter. Hell, those complainers should play MMO. Then we’ll see what their opinion is.

The maps are all objective-based and follow the story of the Ark, a self-sustaining city on the ocean that was one of the only places to be undamaged by the great flood that followed its construction. Refugees have set themselves up in the slums of the Ark, however, and their numbers have exceeded what the sustainable resources can maintain. Thus, water shortages, terrible conditions, and revolution.

Brink is an objective-based game, nothing more, nothing less. This seems to be a big issue for a lot of FPS gamers, as the lack of a K/D ratio (or kill tracking at all, for that matter) seems to throw them for a loop. So many players play it like a deathmatch, it’s rather odd. However, I would like to note that Brink is not Team Fortress 2. Classes and objectives does not a TF2 make.

The big feature of Brink is the SMART movement system, which stands for “Smooth Movement Over Rough Terrain”. In essence, it’s parkour. If you hold down the sprint button then you can vault over low objects, slide under pipes, and so on. It is a brilliant feature, and it’s amazing when it works. Unfortunately, you do have to stay on certain paths to force it to work 100% of the time, and it’s only really smooth when you do the jumping and sliding on your own prompting instead of just letting SMART figure out when it should happen. While going “off road” does work up to a point, there are a few places where I’ve repeatedly smacked into bars that I should have been able to grab onto. Plus, you have a small tendency to have trouble running through tight spaces, such as behind staircases, as the game wants you to interact with all the walls at once. Yep, that’ll get you killed. However, these moments are few and far between when you compare it to the effectiveness of the system overall.

And now, the technical issues. Brink, at time of writing, is loaded with bugs. The sound drops out randomly on all maps, and it’s almost guaranteed to get killed on Refuel. ATI video cards have had all kinds of problems, and there have been big lag issues. However, a patch has either already dropped or is due this week, so hopefully these things are an issue of the past.

But in the end, it comes down to one thing: is Brink fun? And the answer is yes. The objective-based gameplay is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stale FPS genre, and some of the mechanics are genuinely entertaining. SMART is brilliant, and the classes play well together. While the maps will probably get kind of tedious soon, they’re fun to play on and full of nooks begging to be explored.

The biggest issue that Brink has at the moment is its user base. It’ll take time for players to get used to playing as a team instead of just running about and killing everyone. However, if you have reliable friends and a steady connection, well, it’s a blast.

2 thoughts on “Brink

  1. Thanks for the review, Cat. I will admit, I have been watching this one for a while (long before it released) and was interested in how useful and accurate the SMART system would be. As a Parkour fan myself (or what it was called when I was younger, which I shall avoid at this time to not date me…) I was glad to see them insert something like this into a game. If this could combine with the 100% interactive environments a la Mirror’s Edge or Assassin’s Creed, we may see a new generation of interactive gaming.

    I am likely to pick this up at some point, but probably will get it on console to rent, PC to buy. Can Console and PC gamers interact on the same servers?

    • Like I said, it does work very well as long as you don’t go nutty with it. Stairways are the biggest issue, you tend to run into the wall when running behind them and vaulting over the railings works only occasionally. But it’s still good. And who knows? Maybe other devs will pick it up.

      As for the servers, I don’t believe so. Since the PC version works on more of a classic server-based model (of sorts, many of them are probably still locally hosted) while the console does automatch P2P hosting, I doubt that they can interact at all.

      But by all means, rent the game before you buy it. I did the same thing and enjoyed it, otherwise I would have probably skipped off with my 40$ in hand instead.

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