Brink is a new First Person Shooter from Bethesda Softworks and Splash Damage, set in a Pacific utopia gone wrong, where players choose between two different factions fighting for a new future. While the dystopic setting is certainly nothing new, what does make this game stand out from the others in the FPS pack are Brink’s attempts to blur the lines between solo and multiplayer gaming. While I can’t say with a definitive yes that the game succeeds, it gets top marks for its fast-paced action with great customisation options.
In multiplayer games, character creation and definition is hugely important, and in this regard Brink certainly doesn’t disappoint. Athough initially your options will be limited, there are a huge number of unlockable styles for clothing, accessories and hair, as well as upgrades and mods for weapons. (Check out the mind-boggling number of different combinations there’ll be here.) While I was bummed there weren’t any female options available, there was good variation in male faces and voices, with a range of different ethnicities and ages (and levels of grumpiness) to choose from. And the unlocked styles are pretty fantastic - you can choose from weird helmets to mad hair, tattoos, scars, and even a Glasgow smile.
Brink gives players three different gameplay options: Campaign mode, Free Play and Challenges. Campaign mode is the standard series of singleplayer, related scenarios that take you through the fight to save, or escape from, the Ark, the floating once-paradise where everyone is now stuck after a bitter civil war. But even in this mode players aren’t left to go it on their own, as they become just one member of a seven-person squad, which works together to try and achieve the various objectives in the mission. The game AI controls the rest of the squad (as well as the baddies), and in my experience it was pretty consistent and didn’t generate too many problems.
If you prefer bullets over story, Free Play lets you take on any of the different missions, in any order. The Challenges mode is an interesting one: this is where you will unlock the bulk of your weapons - and even the light body type - by pitting yourself against four different challenge types. Different rewards are given, based on a wide range of achievements: everything from the time it takes you to complete the challenge, to how many head shots you managed to get in, or how many times you were killed along the way. What’s more, players’ times for Challenges will be posted to a global leaderboard, for extra bragging rights.
What also makes Brink interesting is that it provides players different options for approaching the game, with four different roles available: soldier, operative, engineer and medic. While all of these still carry heavy-duty firepower, and can hold their own against enemies, they support the others in the team in different ways. Soldiers, for example, have a focus on destruction; they blow things up, share ammo, and defend other members of the team while they’re performing their duties. Operatives are good at hacking and disguise, as well as detecting mines. Engineers are good at construction and repair objectives, and they can also disrupt hacking attempts by the other side. They support their fellow fighters by upgrading their weapons on the fly, thereby beefing up the team. Medics are pretty much what you’d expect: they buff health on the fly and revive fallen comrades. Players aren’t expected to work through a single objective as just one class. At various friendly command posts, you’re able to switch from one to the other, depending on your mission’s changing objectives.
So how does it actually play? Well let me just preface this section by saying I was only able to play the game in singleplayer mode, and I do think this aspect is the game’s weakest point. For starters, going it alone is difficult, and at least initially players will find themselves having to repeat missions several times. Enemies are tough, and bristle with grenades and molotovs that they enjoy throwing with abandon. It’s often tough to make ground to get to your objective points, and kills can be quick and punishing, which can make the game feel a bit grindy after a while.
Respawning is interesting though; even in the campaign mode players have the option to respawn back at the beginning of the mission level, or wait for a medic in the team to come and revive them. With the high death frequency this can make for some difficult decisions, especially as the medics on their way to you are just as able to be killed, leaving you waiting for them to respawn.
I also found that in singleplayer mode it just made more sense to play as a soldier, unless specifically required to change by the mission. Obviously this is going to be completely different for people playing in multiplayer mode - but I just didn’t feel the appeal in playing as say, a medic, and having to run around reviving my computer-controlled comrades (who died as quickly as I did).
And while the Campaign mode story is certainly interesting (and offers good replayability in terms of offering two different perspectives in the same battle), it did have a rather disjointed feel, in that players would have to return to the main menu to buy upgrades with xp, or equip newly unlocked gear and clothing. It felt like less of an immersive story than a series of linked challenges - but that was just my impression.
As a result I’m a little hesitant to recommend Brink to players who still just enjoy playing solo, as it’s just not that satisfying, despite its attempts to switch things up a little. But for those of you with an online multiplayer focus, Brink is sure to be a helluva lot of fun.