Brink's great customization and solid gunplay clash with repetitive missions, bad AI and uninspired level design.
First impressions of Brink are good. Set in a fictional society where two factions are battling for The Ark – a giant spire located in the centre of the city – for their own purposes, you create your own character, completing objectives and ranking up the level cap. After that, you can create another character and start the process again.
There are two campaigns, but the stories and cut-scenes are highly forgettable. There is the Security faction; a heavily armoured group battling for the objective of saving The Ark. Then there is the Revolution faction, who is fighting to escape it. This brings a margin between the two enemies and their intents, but the cut-scenes are only displayed for introductory and end-of-level sequences, with hit-or-miss voice acting along with them, and don't shed any clear light on the otherwise interesting premises. As soon as you discover the objective-based gameplay, you'll realise that storylines are pointless and that each campaign just...ends. It's still a shame, though, that they weren't given a stronger narrative to carry something interesting throughout their short length of around five hours each.
Technically, Brink is disappointing. I say this because, at times, Brink can look really nice. This is especially true with the Container City level, which is far and away the best-looking level in the entire game. It is filled with bright, vibrant red and nice lighting, complimented by strong textures, even though they randomly load in often. Still, Brink is underwhelming. Every level is rough with aliasing and iffy texture work and load-in, as well as the questionable clipping that occurs whenever you undergo a parkour movement or random object pop-in, as well as aliasing on edgy structures and objects. During cut-scenes, character animations are decent, though much more impressive upon entering customization, where great facial textures give the player a realistic insight into what the appearance will look like. In terms of background fidelity, Brink looks shocking. The Ark's blurry vista structure is a really bad muddle of grey and whites – as if you're looking at it when you've only just woken up. Environments certainly don't help. Levels are designed with repetitive inside objects and structures, which can frustrate. Explosions and particle effects are also weak, along with generic water effects that are overly inferior to other high-quality technical showpieces on the PlayStation 3.
Sound effects are actually quite good. There are intense rattles of rifles and machine guns, and well as screaming enemies requiring med supplies or ammunition. There are also some nice additions to the environment, such as chirping birds wandering off into the distance and ripples of the ocean below. Voice acting, on the other hand, is middle-of-the-road. Some characters sound good, yet the Security leader portrays a heavy, commanding African accent that can oftentimes come off as forced. The score of Brink is decent, but often feels misplaced in some of the game's levels, as they are open and intense, complimented by slow-paced pieces. Some of the music is good, though.
Gameplay is the major factor of Brink, and will play the most significant part in your overall opinion. As you may know, Brink is broken up into two campaigns spanning 6 missions each, with an added two "What-If" missions, which are alternative scenarios to the stories. All levels are completely objective-based, which means there are no scripted set-pieces or moments to fit in with the narrative. Instead, there are four classes with their own challenges and objectives. However, the objectives are very repetitive in the campaign and can quickly become boring.
There is the Medic, which uses Health buffs, which maximizes a teammate's health instantly if they are on an empty supply.
They can also revive incapacitated teammates and VIPs using Revive Syringes, which are thrown towards the dying teammate, who then uses it with the L3 button to continue the fight. If a medic doesn't arrive, players have the option to spawn with reinforcements. Like Quake Wars, the reinforcement timer resets in a loop until you select the option, meaning the option the spawn is always available should a medic take too long to revive you.
There is also the Soldier class, carrying HE Charges that are used to complete Destruction objectives, such as security gates, important structures or doors to complete the mission. They also carry Molotovs to kill enemies. This is a unique class in the sense of their perk, which is on the condition that they can never dwindle on ammunition. Holding the L3 button will refill your ammo during combat, although you must wait for the ability to refill. Soldiers can also give ammo to teammates if they are low on their supply.
Operatives serve as spies. They hack computers and mainframes to tackle specific objectives. They also have the ability to disguise themselves as the enemy during the fight. Their own unique ability is that they are the only class of the four types that are able to spot hidden landmines in and around the level, which will save teammates' lives.
Finally, the Engineer class is the main benefactor in how resourceful the team is. They construct and repair objects on the battlefield such as turrets, drones and objects. They can also upgrade said objects. An engineer can also upgrade his weapons as well as other teammates' weapons to make them give them more firepower thus a better chance, as well as planting hidden landmines which only enemy Operatives can locate.
All four classes have their own abilities and all are useful. I personally enjoy the Soldier class as my preference, as they have constant ammo resupply which is required on the go, and have the best firepower, and seeing as I am a constant shooter and always hunt the objective, using HE Charges is ideal.
The Medic class is also good, as revival and health supplies depend on you, which brings a certain level of speed and intensity to your play.
The controls of Brink can be decent, though slightly cumbersome when selecting objectives from the wheel or undergoing parkour. Speaking of Parkour, it is quite a strange inclusion. It may enable the player to traverse the map quickly and efficiently, but it is quite useless in the grand scheme of things. It can be quite buggy when used, such as clipping animations when standing on an object, or sometimes getting stuck during a sequence. It's an interesting feature, but it doesn't work out as well as planned.
AI is also very hit-or-miss. Sometimes, teammates can cover you while you run to cover or when there are several enemies in proximity. However, on more than one occasion, I saw enemies located near teammates that just stood there and didn't do anything; even better, there were a group of six enemies on a container below our position, and my teammates were just shooting at an individual enemy located on the other side of the area. At least they revive you when needed and give you ammo and health buffs, which are useful, but these issues can make you constantly question their intelligent levels. Chasing some objectives can be infuriating, especially when the entire team of enemies are waiting at the location of an item you have retrieved. Dying, only to see the enemy touch the objective and it resetting near their point again, is frustrating.
One of the Brink's strongest points lies in its customization options. You can apply frequent changes of appearances to your chosen character, such as body gear, full outfits, tattoos and even scars. You have the ability to change your entire appearance at the start, where changes such as tattoos and scars are permanent. Firstly, you can choose from a large list of hairstyles and facial hear options for your character, with most options frequently seen in RPG's and other character-creation games. You can choose head gear for the character, such as hats, helmets, glasses and masks. Another good addition is, like previously stated, tattoos and scars. This makes your character look badass and tough, especially with a scar through your eye or face tattoos. There are also jackets and pants options to match your other choices, such as full outfits and riot gear, which is cool.
The most awesome part, however, is definitely the weapons. Like Army of Two: The 40th Day touched on, you can add attachments to your weapons and change their skins and colours should you complete the required objectives and challenges or gain the correct rank. More brilliant is the close-up of each weapon when you enter customization. It's so awesome to preview suppressors and muzzles before they are unlocked and even better once they are actually attached. There are only fourteen primary machine guns and shotguns, but they are all awesome and fun to use – It's great experimenting with each new attachment unlock to see which one suits you – strongly akin to Call of Duty, only more hands-on. There are also twelve secondary weapons which range from pistols to mini-submachine guns through to automatic machine guns. You can choose two guns at any time during a mission from the command posts located at the start of each level. This is great because you usually wait to spawn before you can choose a different weapon, so its great to be able to choose while playing.
There are abilities too, which are similar to perks. You unlock Level Credits when objectives are complete, when you earn experience points or when you level up. There are options that can be really useful during battle such as reloading while sprinting or shooting a grenade mid-air. I won't spoil all of them because they are awesome, and they are all enabled in the game, instead of only a strict amount of perks at one time. This is another area where Brink shines – limitations of abilities and weapons, especially superior to linear Modern Warfare options. Some abilities cost more than others, and there are some good abilities for the higher level credits. You can also sell back these abilities for credits, which is a nice addition.
As well as Campaign, players can also enter Freeplay, which allows you to play specialist matches with your own personalized rules and conditions for each level. You can adjust match settings, such as bigger teams of hardcore-like modes, your preferred map, and one of two game modes, Objective or Stopwatch. Previously seen in their recent Quake Wars release, Objective modes are, of course, gunning for the objective while Stopwatch has a time which counts down and stops the game even if objectives have not been completed.
There are also Challenges, which allow you hone skills and compete on the online leaderboards. Here, these are unique missions such as racing to complete each objective while teammates fight with enemies. There is a mode for scoring checkpoints in a parkour-style game, an engineering escort mode and defending an objective from waves of enemies.
All modes are cool, particularly the objective and parkour modes.
The strongest part of the Challenges option is unlocking Brink's weapons and attachments. Each set of weapons and attachments are dependent on your difficulty, which awards starts for your efforts. Easy awards one star, Medium two stars and three stars for Hard. The latter difficulty gives your highest completion score on the leaderboards, while the previous difficulties award goods for your weapons.
Hitting the level cap is quite easy. The highest rank being level 20, completing the campaigns and playing some multiplayer can easily rank you up.
However, if you're not a fan of multiplayer, Brink's levelling can be somewhat of a grind, particularly when playing campaign and hunting the same objectives and killing waves of spawning enemies.
Another nice feature is the Dossier section, which is a tutorial-structured option, giving you training, audio and video options as well as the Tips Database, an encyclopaedia-like section which gives information on the complex parts of Brink. Also, should you complete training; you will earn 1000XP for your troubles.
Online multiplayer is the same as the single player, with objectives in each level. You can play publicly or with teams on your friends list, and there is a separate statistics option located on the Brink website, where a code enables you to see your newly created profile and subsequent stats. Freeplay can be used in multiplayer where versus mode ensues. Multiplayer is fun, but campaign is good for becoming to terms with the world of Brink, and the complexities along with it. There are eight maps to choose from in the game such as the aforementioned Container City, Shipyard, Reactor, Terminal and four other maps. All maps are quite fun, though level design issues mentioned earlier will still be present, marring your enjoyment.
Overall, Brink is a great idea that falls over the weight of its own ambition. It has a good concept with some nice sound effects, great customization and good game modes, but boring and repetitive objectives, questionable AI and underwhelming visuals mar this otherwise decent shooter. Dependent on your tolerance for repetition, this may be your game.
Presentation 5.0 - Despite ambition and decent customization, Brink fails to live up to its promise and is overall a dull affair.
Graphics 6.5 - Lacking environments and animations.
Audio 6.0 - Underwhelming voice work and sound effects.
Gameplay 6.5 - The shooting is decent, but the level design, AI and objectives are uninspired.
Replayability 7.0 - There are good options here, if only everything around it was worthwhile.
Overall - 6.5/10