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Brink Review

Steve Butts | 17 May 2011 14:00
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Brink's been getting lots of mixed reviews lately, and I think I understand why. The game is a heady mix of the good and the bad, with little opportunity to resolve the contradictions. When it works, it's as great as any of the old school class-based, objective-focused shooters that inspired it. When it doesn't work, it's kind of a confusing mess. Whether or not you come down on the "love it" or "hate it" side of the fence depends on how much the game's strengths are able to compensate for its weaknesses. In my case, it compensates quite a bit. Despite its flaws, Brink is one of the more enjoyable and unique shooters I've played in a long while.

The premise is simple enough to support the action of the missions, but not so overwrought that it becomes distracting. In a dark future, humanity retreats from the ruin of the world and takes refuge in a floating city. As more and more refugees pour in, the city becomes overcrowded and the "haves" find themselves at war with the "have nots." The player takes a role on either side of this conflict, fighting through a short campaign to either save the city, or escape it altogether.

You'll pick one of four classes in the game, although you can switch freely back and forth using special stations within each level. The soldiers are the heavy hitters, the operatives are the sneaks, and the engineers and medics are the support players. Each class has unique abilities that will be called into play as certain objectives come up, but the good news is that all the classes are great at fighting and can use all the weapons, so no one will feel like he or she is left out of the main attraction just because of their chosen class.

Each level comes with a variety of scripted objectives, from unlocking a safe, to blowing a barricade, to downloading information, to escorting high value targets. It's a zero-sum game, so the enemy team's main objective will be to keep you from achieving yours. The objectives are staged nicely, so you'll have a tense timed fight over one goal, and depending on the outcome of that, progress to an entirely new goal. Figuring out what you need to do is a mix of convenience and frustration. It's convenient because new missions are generated dynamically based on the context of the match. When teammates are incapacitated, medics are automatically given a mission to go heal them. When enemy soldiers place an explosive charge on an important barricade, friendly engineers are automatically given a mission to disarm it.

The frustration is that the game requires so much information that the interface can quickly become cluttered. Even selecting and identifying missions can be tricky at time. This is especially true of the medics, who can sometimes have a hard time seeing the actual game because of all the crap on their HUD. At least once per mission, I'll find myself in a firefight where the player and object names, objective outlines and XP counters get so crammed into the middle of the screen that I have a hard time telling friend from foe. Luckily there's no team damage, but I still feel like an idiot wasting a grenade on my allies.

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