Brink – Post Mortem

Last month saw the release of the revolutionary new team shooter, Brink.  Brink made lots of promises to spice up multiplayer gaming, and it seems reviewers are mixed as to whether or not it delivered on those promises.  Our own Patrick Adams seemed to agree that it left players wanting a bit more in his review of the XBOX 360 version, here.  I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a PC copy, so I thought it would be a perfect time to reflect on the past month and it’s patches, as well as look forward at the new DLC, in a Post Mortem atmosphere.

Case File Summary

Brink takes place in a flooded, future world.  The Ark was a groundbreaking city built on the water and used to research new ideas and technology.  When the world flooded, it became an overcrowded life-preserver, now struggling to determine it’s fate from the warring factions of the Security Force and the Resistance.  You create your character, with an in-depth wealth of customization options, and fight to preserve the city with the Security or destroy and abandon it in search of other survivors with the Resistance.  Gameplay stretches over Campaign, Challenge maps and Multiplayer, with progress carrying over all three.  Using different classes and parkour skills, you attempt to strategize with your team and meet the map objectives in an ultimate attempt to save or sink The Ark.

External Analysis

Brink wanted to be a frontier for a new group for multiplayer gameplay.  Deep character customization was intended to be seamless across both campaign and multiplayer spaces.  In addition, Brink took a look at many of the less desirable features of its forerunners and tried to remedy those traits.  For example, classes can be changed on the fly at terminals in the map to allow for a strategy change, needed to meet the current objectives.  The four classes are Soldier, Operative, Engineer and Medic.  Customizing your loadout will carry across all four, so there are no obvious damage trade-offs for picking a certain class.  Terminals to change classes, found on the map, can also be used to change your weapon loadout-didn’t realize you were heading into that crowded map and don’t have your shotgun?  No problem: queue up your loadout at the spawn point terminal, and you are good to go!  Death, also, presents you with the choice of waiting for a medic to toss you a medpack or simply respawn at the nearest location.  Also notable is the game’s use of its SMART engine to anticipate what the player wants his character to vault over and slide under, and it integrates that into an easy to use, parkour system useful for navigating the maps on the Ark.

Externally, the game appeared to be a clever mash-up of Unreal Tournament and Team Fortress 2, but even the maps defy the general laws of multiplayer gameplay.  Attempt to find a solid list of gameplay modes/objectives for Brink, and you’ll have a hard time doing it.  This is because the maps defy the typical structure of having a singular objective.  Brink adds capture the flag, control point capture/defense and escort objectives all on the same map.  Because of this, Brink does not fit the description of having a single focal objective and a couple of maps designed for that objective mode.  Instead, it has all of it’s maps overlapping in what objectives they may feature; some being main objectives, some being secondary objectives, not crucial to winning the match but certainly enticing enough to help in your goal.

Internal Exam

OK, on paper, the game sounded mind-blowing and had gamers lined up to get their hands on it and experience multiplayer in a fun and interesting new way, loosely compared probably only to SOCOM co-op gameplay.  We know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men, so we got our hands dirty, and probed the cavity for our verdict.

First, looking at the game’s mixed reception, there are two reasons it has garnered complaints: launch bugs and a misunderstanding of Brink’s core elements.  Like many multiplayer games at launch, Brink’s players were irate over game crashes and lag, server browser issues and the odd variety of ATI GPU compatibility issues.  Using an Nvidia card and having not played until the first few patches had already rolled out, it’s tough for me to account for these complaints as entirely accurate or overexaggeration – I experienced none of those issues.  Given the amount of patches launched in the past month, I’d say it was somewhere in between.  It’s common to expect a certain amount of bugs and issues during any game’s launch; very few seem to be immune to it.  If the bugs chased away a certain number of players, I wonder if the gameplay may have done the same.  Brink is definitely unique and requires a bit of finesse; understanding all of the goals, strategies and maps does not happen in your first 30 – 60 minutes with the game.  Given the fickle, impatient nature of many of my fellow gamers, I concur that much of Brink’s criticism came from a simple lack of commitment to the game.  Equally important are your teammates and opponents.  It is easy to see how someone unfamiliar with the game can become easily discouraged when thrust into a team of players more experienced than you while you are trying to find your bearings.

That is where the campaign and the challenges come in extremely handy, although it seems that portion comes with its own criticisms.  All of the campaign maps, from either faction, are directly represented in the multiplayer.  Get familiar with them in single player, and you will make less mistakes and be more effective in multiplayer. That concept is not new.  The challenges, while difficult, offer their own rewards.  Completing each challenge will unlock a group of weapon perks, such as red dot sights, muzzles, grips or duct taped magazines.  None of these offers enough of a bonus to break the game, but you can see why you would want to work to complete the challenges.  Incidentally, all parts, campaign and challenges can be played via co-op.  Bringing friends in can help with the harder challenges, and there are servers to be found online, with other people looking to complete those challenges so that you can find more players to rally with.  Finally, cosmetic character customization must be done outside the lobby or matches, but a good portion of your weapon loadout customization can be done in-game.  The character customization is jaw dropping; even something as simple as unlocking a new set of outfits opens a vast amount of possibilities for your character.  A simple change of pants offers 10-12 different color schemes on just that item alone.

Autopsy Report

I’ve heard mixed complaints about the game’s parkour and graphics.  I’ve had a small amount of texture popping with my machine, but nothing to take away from the gorgeous visuals of the game.  Running a less that beastly rig, I often attribute minor glitches, such as those, to my machine and not the game itself.  As for the parkour, it works just like Splash Damage said it would.  Hold the shift key down, and your character vaults over, slides under and ledge-grabs everything that you traverse.  It shouldn’t be a conscious, 10 button process, and it’s not; I love it.  Swan dive players will find new fun in using a running slide to take out your enemies.  The gameplay lives and dies on the players that you team up with.  This is a team-based, objective centered game, so a squad full of lone wolves will go down faster than a lead balloon in the ocean.  Lack of communication will likewise sink your team.  I find myself enjoying the customization, still trying to unlock more perks for my classes, and still attempting those difficult challenge maps.  Speaking of which, that’s another oft mentioned dagger thrown in the direction of Brink – the difficulty of the challenges.  As the guys and gals on my friends list can attest to, I am not a top notch FPS player.  Therefore, if I can manage to complete the challenges – and do it solo, I might add – then you gents need to hike up your skirts, stop complaining and get to gettin’ on those challenges!

I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the game – I love it when I have a strong team, and I get frustrated when I botch the objectives and have a team that doesn’t work together.  All in all, Brink is a lot of fun, and I would disagree with our initial review score.  Being someone who doesn’t have the strongest internet connection, I really appreciate the option to perfect skills and strategies, during single player and then take them to the battlefield when playing multiplayer.  On the surface, the campaign has drawn bad comparisons to the shallow Unreal Tournament campaign modes.  Looking deeper, however, for what Brink is and what it has tried to do, I can’t imagine how the campaign could have been handled any different.  For the sake of argument, and the fact that I tackled this on PC where our previous review was on XBOX 360, I’m going to place my score, for the game below.  If you are a team objective player, and you have a strong base of friends migrating to the game, I would definitely recommend giving Brink a chance.  Keep in mind: the deeper you go, the better it gets.  If you are more of a cowboy in multiplayer, preferring to jump on for 20 minutes, see how high a death count you can raise, and jump off, then maybe Brink isn’t for you.

[starreview tpl=46 size=’30’]

Don’t forget, the FREE DLC, for Brink, ‘Agents of Change’, is due out this June!  The DLC pack will feature 2 new maps, The Founder’s Tower and The Labs.  Five new character abilities, two new weapon attachments and two new outfits, will also be included.  Lastly, the level cap will see a bump, from 20 to 24.  You can check out the full details, here, at the Brink Wiki!  Happy hunting!

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