Written by Brock Poulsen, brockst4r Tuesday, 14 June 2011 05:00
Brink is a strange beast. Its art style is a stark contrast to other shooters, and it does many things differently from the norm. It's not here to go toe-to-toe with the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchises, but it's a very fun - if occasionally flawed - gaming experience. This review details the ins-and-outs of Brink’s features, and provides a counterpoint to our very own Ryan Johnson's review, and hopefully will help your decision if you’re going to spend some time on the Ark.
Splash Damage has had to run serious damage control since Brink's May 10th release. Server issues, minor (and major) bugs and glitches, and the small matter of the PSN being down for like a friggin year, all contributed to a release that was frustrating for some and underwhelming for many others.
But Splash Damage has worked hard to make it right. Next-day patches were put in place to address the (unfortunately not completely resolved) lag and other issues. The promise of free DLC arriving very soon was possibly planned from the beginning, but if not it's a classy reaction to a less-than-stellar fan experience.
Gameplay has some standard FPS tropes with a few twists; the SMART parkour enables fast movement and creative attack strategies. Playing against bots allows for a different experience than an online game like MAG; you don’t have to worry about online presence for lasting gaming value. Enemy bots gain levels at the same rate as your character, meaning I suddenly found myself dying a lot more after I reached about level 10. It seems like it could have been a patch or something that scaled the difficulty somewhat dramatically, or it could have been that enemies gained access to more effective abilities at the same time that I did. And some of these abilities are awesome.
A Soldier's main responsibly is keeping teammates firing by refilling ammo and leading assaults. The Soldier's first offensive ability is the molotov cocktail, a thrown ability that does slight damage and knocks down enemies in a small area. It's good for crowd control and preventing enemies from completing objectives. Soldiers can Scavenge dead enemies for a quick supply pip, allowing the quick use of another ability.
The Operative's job is to be a nuisance: to use Caltrops, Sticky Bombs, and other tricks to cause trouble. The sticky bomb requires careful timing and aim, but causes distraction because a teammate must disable the bomb clinging to their teammate before it detonates. Caltrop grenades are useful for dealing damage, as well as a warning device. They can be placed at a point of interest, and when the experience indicator pops up it will alert you of approaching enemies. The downfall of the Operative unfortunately is their main ability; the ability to disguise oneself as an enemy. Because the Operative doesn't have a one-hit kill, there is no real advantage to being in disguise. The Operative’s Comms Hack is a useful team-assisting ability. It shows everyone on your team the location of the enemy on their radar.
The Engineer has a pair of defensive abilities: the mine is a nice little deterrent to protect important areas, and the turret provides a good amount of cover fire and experience. The issues with the turret are that it is about as durable as a cardboard box, and can't be repaired until it gets shut down. The Engineer's damage buff ability is great in theory, but I never really felt like I was making any difference. There should be a dramatic increase in damage in order to feel like it's worthwhile.
Medics are phenomenal for leveling up quickly; every time you buff an ally’s health it nets you 75 experience, and the Medic’s other abilities are quick to pile on EXP because it just requires you to be near your team. A good Medic keeps his teammates alive and grants buffs like Metabolism (increasing the rate of health regeneration) and Adrenaline (granting temporary invulnerability by delaying damage received).
Looking at all these cool abilities, I wish there was a system for cross-specialization. It is doubtless intentionally omitted, but I'd love to add Molotovs to the Engineer's arsenal or have the ability to revive teammates as an Operative. It also bears mentioning that Molotovs and grenades don’t cause much damage as their purpose is to knock down and disorient enemies. This was a surprising change from basically every game on the market. It adds a level of strategy, but ultimately I’d rather have it the traditional way.
Ideally for online play, a group would coordinate classes and body types, with a couple of heavies leading the way, decked out with Kevlar and health and damage buffs and flanked by support troops. In actual practice, however, teams are rarely this coordinated, and I hardly noticed a difference in damage resistance between heavy and light body types.
There is no separation between the single and multiplayer portions of the game. This has caused mixed reactions, but I think it's a reflection of meeting demand. I had the experience recently of trying to play a game in co-op with a friend, and because we were at different places in the campaign we had to start from an earlier level. Brink let's you play from any point, without being restricted by level or faction. Brink’s approach is the solution to the problem, but it can rub some the wrong way.
Brink is unorthodox in a lot of good ways, and is only going to get better with the fan-friendly attitude of Splash Damage.