Brink Review

By Brian Leahy - Posted May 09, 2011

Brink is a new IP from Splash Damage that attempts to bring story and context to team-based, objective gameplay both online and off, but will it complete its mission?

The Pros
  • Single character progression across all modes
  • Objective wheel makes sure you're contributing to the cause
The Cons
  • Campaign is a worthless addition
  • Lackluster weapons and maps
  • Terrible bot AI

Brink Review:

Editor's Note: This review is for the 360/PS3 versions of Brink only. Click here to read our Brink PC review.

When I first played Brink at QuakeCon 2010, I really enjoyed it and was excited about it’s eventual release. I was playing the PC version with an Xbox 360 controller and had a great time. Now, after playing the game for review on the Xbox 360 I question what the team has been working on since QuakeCon 2010 because it seems to be exactly what I played then.

Well, that’s not accurate. It’s worse than what I played then and that’s because Bethesda, possibly due to piracy fears, has sent Brink out to be reviewed on the Xbox 360. I haven’t played the final PC version, but the PC build I played in August 2010 almost a year ago played better that what I’ve been given to review on console.

With that, I need to be completely clear that this review does not fully apply to the PC version, though the core experience should be the same across all platforms.

Tripping Right Out of the Gate

On paper, Brink certainly has more depth than a Call of Duty title and in the console ecosystem where Battlefield is the closest competitor and Team Fortress 2 is a shadow of what Valve has evolved that game into, Splash Damage seems worried that this game will be too complex for the console warriors. How do I reach this conclusion? The game opens by offering up 1000 XP for your first character if you stop and watch a comically long video that spends what feels like twenty minutes explaining the ins and outs of every system before you even get to take your first steps.

After the cinema, you can fire up the campaign, do some challenges to unlock more weapons, or hop “online” in Freeplay for some multiplayer. The four challenges, each with three levels of difficulty, but only the first two levels of each challenge will unlock weapons and weapon mods. The third level is strictly for leaderboard scoring. They can be attempted in co-op, but honestly, these are just a chore to unlock the items and can then be ignored.

After that, you can go into the campaign or just hop online, which are basically the same mode except for the player count. The story primarily takes the form of mission intros and outros and take place both offline and online, but there’s little to get invested in or care about here. The campaign is just a collection of solo or co-op/versus matches through a series of maps that tie together in a loose narrative with bots filling every empty slot.

This is an advertisement - This story continues below

Fear of a Bot Planet

It may just be the circumstances of the review given the limited number of players at any one time, but I am already utterly sick of Brink’s bots. They seem to scale in difficulty to the number of human players you have in the game, but most of the time will just run to a spot, stand around, and shoot. Some will bum rush you with a shotgun and others will show no aggressiveness toward you. It’s a really inconsistent experience that does nothing to replace a human player. Unfortunately, I was only able to get into a game with 4 humans maximum during the review period, even during the “sessions” setup by Bethesda. I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong or if no one was around during these sessions, but I’ve basically played against bots the whole time.

Even when I was able to get online, most of the slots were filled by bots and even the addition of one human player resulted in a massive performance hit on the Xbox 360 version to the point where having a single human companion isn’t worth the drop in framerate and added latency.

I’m willing to make some concessions when it comes to the bots since the majority of players should be playing against other humans online when the game has actually been released, but unfortunately, there are far bigger problems with the core game to deal with. There are a lot of design decisions that are, frankly, quite surprising given that this isn’t Splash Damage’s first game.

We’re Going to Need Guns. But Just a Few.

I have not shot a single gun that felt good in Brink. For a first-person shooter, that’s a pretty big problem to have. There are assault rifles, sub-machine guns, shotguns, battle rifles, grenade launchers, pistols, and even a chain gun. There are a few versions of most of these, but they all feel the same. On the console, the game’s poor performance makes combat feel disjointed and unsatisfying. Grenades do poor damage and mostly just knock enemies down. Battle rifles shoot too slow to be worth using, leaving assault rifles and sub-machine guns for combat at all ranges.

The four player classes gain more usefulness as you level-up and unlock abilities, but the classes are mostly limited by the types of objectives they can complete. Soldiers can demolish things, engineers repair, operatives hack, and medics are there to keep everyone else alive. The biggest problem is that your class does not dictate your appearance or weapon choices. If you turn a corner and see four enemies, the only way tell their class is to hover over each of them and look at an icon. There’s no visual language. Beyond that, you choose your characters weight class which limits your weapon choices, mobility, and health. You can’t change your weight class between matches, which removes a lot of choices for class-swapping. I can’t have a heavy soldier that is better for thanking, a speedy operative, and a medium medic or engineer.

The pace of the game also feels way too fast for all of the depth the developers were hoping to cram into the game. Firefights quickly devolve into absolute chaos with player’s speeding into tight corridors or stopping points around objectives. It’s not uncommon to see over five players on a team lying on the ground incapacitated waiting to respawn or be revived as everyone rushes into the room with the objective only to be gunned down instantly. I really think the game would have played better with a slower pace. There’s just no time for any of the depth and class synergy to surface.

What Rhymes with Brink? Stink? Yeah, Let’s Go With That…

In the end, Brink feels like a game that got away from Paul Wedgwood and Splash Damage in the attempts to make it appeal to a wider audience and pack the back of the box with bullet-points. I would gladly trade the campaign, character and weapon customization, and experience system for a crisp, objective-multiplayer shooter with compelling weapons, classes, and depth. There are some interesting ideas at play, but unfortunately they are buried under a game that just isn’t that fun to actually play. I will give the PC version a try since the gameplay felt better to me back in August 2010 on the PC build at QuakeCon than the final Xbox 360 retail version and maybe that will help, but I’m probably not going to stick around and certainly not at full-price.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?

Editor's Note: This review is for the 360/PS3 versions of Brink only. Click here to read our Brink PC review.