Brink

In a crowded genre, it's difficult to make a significant impact. First Person Shooters are one of the busiest genres on PS3, with a lot of highly-rated titles already available. Brink attempts to join the ranks of top-flight FPS games, and does so by attempting to carve out its own brand of cooperative, objective-based FPS gaming. The game is set on a futuristic world where a massive city called the Ark houses survivors from some terrible disaster. Your choice at the beginning of the game, before anything is explained, is to join the security forces protective the ark, or to join the resistance group attempting to escape the ark. The game is then based on a series of missions in which opposing forces fight over particular objectives, determined to escape or save the ark. A central element to the game is cooperative play, allowing players to meet online and join cooperative and competitive matches. The potential for success is massive, but there are a set of crucial ingredients that Brink only manages to get partially right.

Firstly, the core FPS elements are firmly intact, and although they won't suit everyone's tastes, many will enjoy the tight, responsive controls and the fluid movement of the game. The mechanics feel similar to games like TimeSplitters and Resistance, as opposed to the heavier, clunkier movement of Killzone and Call of Duty. The game also brings a few Mirror's Edge elements into play, allowing gamers to use a single button press to cause their character to use parkour techniques as they leap and spring over obstacles. Considering there are games that still don't let you even jump, it's refreshing to see a game that lets you flow over the scenery. Perhaps as a result of the weight restrictions such movement imposes, the weaponry isn't massively diverse - you'll find know sci-fi lasers or massive explosives - featuring just a primary and secondary weapon. Players can only choose from a selection of basic SMGs, sniper rifles, pistols and a couple of grenade launchers, but the fire rate and damage inflicted is quite satisfying, with a reasonable balance between health bars and damage capability. It occasionally feels as though enemies last a little too long under fire, but it's a sensible balance, since objectives would be terrifyingly difficult with weaker characters.

Brink

After choosing an alliance, you can embark on either campaign, which raises some doubt over the relevance of the initial choice, but (ignoring that) the game unveils the structure used in every mission. As one side or the other, you'll be required to defend, destroy, hack, escort or repair some element of the level. For instance, one mission involves repairing a crain, and then hacking a missile before it launches, averting a disaster. Four classes of troop are available: soldier, medic, operative or engineer. The first, and the initial default, is a powerful fighter with demolitions expertise, while engineers are experts at repairs, which also allows them to constuct barriers. Operatives are masters of disguise, capable of hacking computer controls, and lastly medics support the entire team, reviving fallen comrades. Each class can support teammates with supplies of the relevant kind (ammo, health, weapon boosts, for example), and different classes are required for particular objectives. You're not restricted to just one class either - it's simple enough to switch between classes and head off with your team. Most missions involve eight players on each team, either offline AI bots or online players (in various combinations). The combination of cooperative play, solid FPS controls and balanced objective-based gameplay could make Brink a stand-out game in the genre.

So how does the game squander its incredible potential? Firstly, the most obvious omission is offline co-op play. The game runs smoothly enough in single or multiplayer that there doesn't appear to be any obvious excuse for the absence of offline multiplayer. Games like Borderlands manage very competently to blend offline and online elements of cooperative play, and Brink is a game that would be ideally suited to this sort of gaming. It would also go a long way to fixing the second, very major, issue with the game: the friendly AI. In the middle of a desperate battle to meet a particular objective, often the match-winning element like a crucial hack, you might expect your teammates to support your struggle, offering defensive fire against approaching enemies, or a supportive fight of their own. No such thing will happen. More likely, most of your teammates will break away to capture a random, pointless command post somewhere else in the level, immediately splitting your team. Another teammate might still be languishing back at base, confused about which class of troop he should be. That leaves you one, maybe two other guys at most, neither of which will put up any resistance at all as the wave of enemies completely overwhelms your position. Other teammates won't return to support your aborted hack, or prevent the enemy from removing your attempt entirely, leaving you to start again. Without cooperative human assistance, certain levels are almost impossible on the hardest difficulties, without a serious amount of luck. Thankfully, for the game's hard-difficulty trophy, the option exists to complete the missions in online versus mode, and any additional human element on your team is usually enough to mount a more structured, successful attempt on an objective. With offline co-op, the challenge might be a welcome one, but in single player, or with online random encounters, it's a damaging element to the game, and one that will send many gamers looking elsewhere for entertainment.

Brink

Despite these major flaws, the game can be very enjoyable. By getting the hardest challenges out of the way, broken AI in tow, players can be left to enjoy the fun elements of the game, completing objectives against sensible opposition, attempting stand-alone challenges, and finishing a series of "What If" missions that provide an alternative branch to each story. Your character can also be quite heavily customized, with some fairly stylish options that work well with the animation style. There are different body types, shapes and colours, which can be completed with a good range of outfits. In an FPS game, you won't see any of this except at the options menu, but undoubtedly there'll be unconscious fashion competitions, of a sort, taking place in online matches. There are also unlockable weapon upgrades and extra abilities designed to boost your characters power, supplies, or even to grant extra skills like turret deployment and new types of explosive. Aside from the trophies to collect, which are quite varied in this game, the upgrades and customizations provide incentive to keep playing.

Though not a detailed, highly-textured, artistic masterpiece, Brink is a bright, bold, smooth game, with a solid frame rate and pleasing, shiny visuals. The characters are very unique, with an effective, sometimes menacing animation style, while the levels are often clean, futuristic landscapes, with just enough diversity to keep things fresh. The visuals are never as innovative and beautiful as you might hope for a PS3 game, but there's nothing especially wrong with how the game looks. It would, however, have been nice to have included some better cutscenes to tie the story together. Perhaps the developers were worried by criticism levelled at games like Metal Gear, and decided to opt for flimsy, thirty-second cutscenes to avoid boring people, but there is a balance to be achieved that Brink misses, leaving the story a little thin. That said, each mission is preceded by a voice over that does go some way to explaining the situation, but it's not the same as a video truly immersing you in the gaming world. Forgettable music doesn't help to add a whole lot of atmosphere, though the voicework is quite entertaining. The overall presentation of sound and visuals could perhaps have benefited from a little more attention though.

After completing both the Security and Resistance campaigns, the online element provides some welcome battles, usually far better balanced than the offline AI encounters. Thanks to smooth, responsive FPS controls, satisfying weaponry and a decent objective setup, the game has a lot to be proud of, and is highly enjoyable under the right conditions. With some improvements to the AI, or a set of controls designed to allow you to command your squad properly, the gameplay would have been vastly improved. Couple that with offline cooperative play, and a Brink 2 could be an awesome prospect. For now, Brink offers something slightly different for fans of the FPS genre, but perhaps shouldn't be recommended over frontline titles like Resistance, Killzone, Modern Warfare 2 and Borderlands, each of which offer a more satisfying cooperative experience.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Bethesda

Developer:

Splash Damage

Players:

1

Online:

1-16

Release:

2011-05-13

Trophies:

37

Review summary

Gameplay:

Great fun in co-op, but why no offline splitscreen?

Graphics:

Quirky, unique, bright and colourful

Sound:

Decent enough sound, but not spectacular

Lastability:

Not a huge campaign, but multiplayer helps

8.2

Pulsar

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Garrus Vakarian

Tell me again about your immune system.

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I have a shotgun.

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