Greatness is rarely achieved without ambition. Jumping into the battlefields of Brink, you get the immediate sense that you are playing an ambitious first-person shooter. Four interdependent soldier classes and three distinct body types combine to create a diverse array of ways to kill your enemies, support your allies, and move around the battlefield. Brink's team-based skirmishes are rich with opportunities, but they are also hampered by design issues, including frustrating problems with the movement system and the artificial intelligence. The PC version fares better than the Xbox 360 version when it comes to visuals (providing you have a well-equipped computer) and connectivity (though it's not all smooth sailing), but it still can't make good on the game's ambition. There is definitely some fun to be had in these frenetic firefights, but Brink falls well short of greatness.
6313390NoneFor a big guy with a big gun, this engineer sure gets around.
Your Brink experience starts with a choice. As a citizen of the Ark, will you fight to impose order on the floating city that may be humanity's last refuge in the wake of global disaster? Or do you view the Ark as a prison, where authoritarian forces oppress your people and keep you isolated from the human societies that must still exist on dry land? It's a dramatic choice, but ultimately it's a meaningless one. You can play both sides of the campaign no matter which faction you choose, and your loadout, abilities, and stats are persistent regardless of which side you are fighting for. Brink's online integration means that with the exception of the four Challenge maps, every match you play takes place on one of the eight maps from the campaign. When you start up a match, you can determine what map you play, who can join your game (if anyone), which player ranks are allowed, and whether or not human players are allowed on the enemy team. Setting up a game in freeplay mode enables more customization options, and the server browser lets you easily select a match with a good ping, a particular map, or a sizable population.
Before you get into a match, however, you have the option to watch extensive tutorial videos that familiarize you with the busy battlefields of Brink. Though they drag on for a while, they are full of good information that can help you get your bearings, especially if you are new to objective-focused, class-based combat. You must also create a character using Brink's stylish customization suite. After choosing from an all-male gallery of quasi-realistic faces, you don either the trim, tough look of the Security forces, or the grimy, ragtag look of the Resistance. You unlock a bunch of cool clothing, hairstyles, and face paint as you level up, and it's fun to play around with your character's look as you progress. (Just don't expect to switch up your tattoos--they're permanent.)
The lone aspect of character creation that actually affects how you play the game is your body type. Every character begins with a medium body and soon unlocks heavy and light types. Heavy characters have the most health and can carry the biggest guns, but they are also the slowest and least nimble. This makes them well suited to defending key areas or clearing out rooms, but you sometimes have to take the long way around to find a staircase. Light characters have the least health and can carry only small guns, but they are also the fastest and most nimble. They excel at running fluidly around the map and leaping to areas other players cannot reach, while peppering the enemy with gunfire. Medium characters are both nimble and durable, though not to the extent of the other types, and they function as a versatile blend of the other two.
Grenades are a great way to knock enemies down; just be sure to finish 'em off.
Creating diverse types of movement is one of Brink's main ambitions, and to a certain degree, it succeeds. Performing a speedy escape or a daring infiltration with a light character is exhilarating, while mowing down a whole enemy squad as a heavy is very satisfying. All characters can sprint, slide, and jump with varying proficiency, and this mobility helps make combat more lively. Slide into an enemy, and you knock him on his back, resulting in a close-quarters firefight that is a neat hybrid of melee combat and gunplay. Simply holding down the shift key while running sends you automatically vaulting over obstacles and clambering up crates, but unfortunately, this movement system is hampered by imperfections. You may take an odd approach angle to a railing and end up running right into it instead of leaping over it. And because there is no clear system to indicate which ledges are surmountable and which aren't, you have to develop a sense of intuition through trial and error. Brink's attempt to infuse the action with this free-running movement is intriguing but problematic, delivering both invigoration and frustration.