Development for a video game always leads to complications and unexpected delays, usually for the better of the overall product. In the case of Brink, high expectations were initially announced in 2010 by developers at Splash Damage, about crafting a first person shooter that would stand apart from the generic mold crowding the shelves at retail stores. Early screenshots and details revolving around Brink were scant, but two things stood out above anything else: the distinctive visuals and the well touted S.M.A.R.T movement system.
This, along with the fact that the game was being made from talented multiplayer driven developers, made Brink a hot and mysterious commodity. That however all took place last year, and before multiple delays that forced it into the 2011 schedule. This year more and more footage from the game was released, showcasing everything it originally promised and apparently, nothing more. Surely, there was more to the game than just running around maps in parkour fashion, shooting enemies while completing mundane objectives, right? Well, it’s the summer of 2011 and Brink has finally been released, so it’s time to find out if those delays were worth something or if it was just a waste of time for an inevitably doomed game.
First things first; Brink tries something different and that’s about it in terms of originality. Its desirable S.M.A.R.T system works wonders, but other than that minor sidestep, everything else is as straight arrow as it gets. Different classes, abilities, unlockables, character customization, map objectives, and gunplay are all adequate enough. But other games on the market do it better and rely on such simple mechanics far less. That’s where the real problem for the game sets in, the overdone repetition. This is a game that you can fully experience in just a few hours, and probably even master within a day. Too much focus was made on making movement seamless and efficient that the developers forgot to add anything else valuable enough to recommend.
The design of Brink is different than most shooters out there. Both single and multiplayer portions of the game are united. There is a story that involves two factions battling over control of a floating city. Cutscenes are shown at the beginning and end of a level and make no direct attempt to make you care what’s going on and why. Picking to fight on one side doesn’t change the experience; it just provides different objectives to complete. Playing the game cooperatively or competitively is identical, with A.I controlled bots filling the roster as cannon fodder. No explanation is needed to determine what way is more enjoyable to participate in.
Each level has a list of constant changing goals to complete, either hacking computers, escorting a V.I.P or blowing up a door. There is always something to do in the game, but it requires regular changing of classes, which doesn’t keep the action at a steady pace of involvement. The four classes available all contain a mixture of exclusive abilities and unlockable skills, but with shifting objectives it’s hard to fall in love with one in particular.
The real setback is with eight maps and recurring mission layouts; the process just keeps getting repeated. This is what cripples Brink and prevents it from reaching greatness, an extremely flawed design. Class-based multiplayer works, look at Team Fortress and how well it used a complex skill set in such a straightforward concept. Special abilities were used to counter other players and force them to try a different class combination; this created a casual way to adapt to the action. Brink encourages gamers to experiment but constricts them to forced encounters and the fun quickly dissolves.
At least character customization is wildly assorted, allowing for colorful characters full of tattoos and facemasks. Changing the body type basically revolves around the decision to either wield heavy weapons or wall run like Neo in the Matrix. It’s a night and day difference and being large in this game proves to be an easy way to be shot, further solidifying the idea of movement as a key to staying alive longer.
Graphically the game has a double sided visual draw. While it does have a unique, slightly cel-shaded comic book look to it, the muddy look of everything doesn’t enhance the bits of color detailed throughout the game. Anti-aliasing issues also pop up on a common occurrence that makes the character models textures appear unclear in motion.
What Brink does do right is in level design, crafting all sorts of hidden nooks and crannies to discover. Even with eight maps available on launch, it will take a while before each one is memorized fully in terms of shortcuts to take advantage of. Travelling through these levels is a breeze, with the S.M.A.R.T (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) system in complete affect. By using one button to leap and climb atop anything is truly an accomplishment that future FPS’s will try to take advantage of.
Sliding across the ground for a quick kill or wall-running to reach a concealed ledge is satisfying, until it’s done over and over again. If there’s one thing S.M.A.R.T proves, it’s that keeping actions regulated to the simple press of a button is leaps and bounds above any other way of doing things. If only it could be incorporated in a more meaningful shooter that doesn’t run stale due to its structure.
Brink isn’t a complete failure; it’s an average experience that’s highlighted by a single gameplay mechanic. It’s a fair judgment to see where Splash Damage was coming from and what they were trying to accomplish with the game. More playtesting was required, to discover that having a needlessly nonlinear mission design would actually diminish the ability to enjoy the action that’s taking place. After multiple delays, it’s funny to think how no one during the long conceived development noticed that the game was being held back by something so obvious.
Brink isn’t a complete failure; it’s an average experience that’s highlighted by a single gameplay mechanic. It just gets too repetitive too quickly.