Brink is an interesting game. On paper, it sounds like a fantastic idea. A meeting of Team Fortress 2's class-based combat and the parkour of Mirror's Edge. If executed correctly, this could have been a much-needed breath of fresh air for first-person shooters, a genre that's grown stale as it's become inundated with Call of Duty clones. What went wrong? Let's dig in and find out.
First off, if you have a class-based game that encourages teamwork to complete objectives then the classes you can choose from have to be balanced. In Brink, this is not the case. We have the Solider, who can provide ammunition to teammates and throw molotov cocktails. The Operator is essentially a double agent with the ability to hack the communicators of fallen foes, giving their teammates the temporary locations of the other team. The Medic does exactly what you'd expect from such a class in that he heals and boosts the health of his team members. Finally there’s the Engineer, who can lay mines and deploy turrets.
Sounds like a diverse set of classes, and they are. The only issue comes with the abilities each class can acquire. The Operator's abilities are largely useless since the temporary locations of the enemy team doesn't help much in a fast-paced game like Brink, and their ability to throw on the uniform of an opponent would be helpful if the Operator could actually do anything while hidden. You can't melee, shoot your weapon, interact with objectives or do anything but basic movement, so I'm not entirely sure what the point of this ability actually is.
The Soldier tends to be the most basic class in a shooter game. They are the guys with the strongest weapons and they're usually able to take the most damage. In most games, Soldiers are the backbone of the defense of any good team. In Brink, they're just as powerful as the other three classes but they have the admittedly very useful molotov cocktail and the practically unlimited ammunition. In Brink, a deep supply of ammo is rendered completely useless since you can be killed in a single shot making the average life of anyone that doesn't just camp too short to ever need more ammo before dying.
The Medic is a very useful class, if only because they're needed to heal the final class I'm about to talk about. The ability to boost your health or the health of your team is pretty handy since you can die so easily. Being able to take an extra bullet or two can be helpful when you're trying to capture an objective. The final class is the Engineer, and they're by far the best class in the game. Engineers have the best abilities and since every class comes with the same hit points and, depending on their weapon loadout, potential to cause tons of damage, they're the top choice for any player that's experienced all of what each class has to offer.
The single player story, if I can even call it that, is basically a glorified tutorial for Brink's major selling point - the multiplayer. You and some friends can partake in one of the game's two campaigns. Each plays very similar to the next so it doesn't really matter which you choose first, and the story is tacked on to say the least. This was the biggest disappointment for me, personally, since having seen the world Splash Damage has spent so much time making and not seeing that play a prevalent role in the game's story was shocking. I like the world they've created. It's beautiful, unique and has the potential to offer an engrossing story. Instead, with the exception of an interesting opening cinematic, there's not much to glean here.
So the game is light on story, that means it has to have some fun objectives, right? You would think so, but you would also be very, very wrong. For the most part, Brink's objectives include an inordinate amount of time standing still, whether you're guarding something on a wall, hacking something on a wall, trying to blow up a wall or protecting something that only moves (very slowly) when you're standing next to it. There is a lot of standing still, waiting for something to happen so you and your team can go and stand next to the next thing you have to capture or protect. This goes against everything Brink stands for since it's a game that's supposed to frenetic and fast-paced, but instead you're watching and waiting for something to happen.
Having said all that I'm happy to say that there are a few beacons of light in what has otherwise revealed itself to be a messy pile of broken dreams and unfulfilled potential. The parkour system, called SMART in this game, is pretty great. Running, jumping, and gliding from one objective to the next is fluid and intuitive and, depending on the type of character you chose (there's heavy, average and light with each type becoming more agile than the next as you go along), you can pull off some great stunts. There were a few times when I would run up to something with the hopes of vaulting over to it only to find myself awkwardly staring at the object, but for the most part it's implemented beautifully.
The character design is also fantastic. The characters' features are exaggerated and almost cartoonish, but with an odd edge to them that makes them all feel more gritty and realistic. The customization system is also one of the best of its type I've ever seen in a game, and definitely the best the FPS genre has to offer so far. The ability to choose your character's features, body type, class, clothing and accessories leaves you with thousands of possible combinations that guarantees your character will never see his twin on the battlefield. If anything, Brink's parkour and customization systems have set the bar for similar features in games for the near future.
In the end, Brink is another of those games that we see every so often; the games that have incredible potential and truly unique ideas but fail so terribly in their implementation. This could have been a great game, it could've been a hit and it could've given shooter fans a reason to return to a genre that has lost much of its originality over the last handful of years. Unfortunately for us and for its developer, the keyword here is "could've", because there's little here that makes Brink the genre redefining game some of us hoped it would be.