With an excess of FPS’s on the market, it’s refreshing to play a shooter geared to engage the player as much with their own team as the opposing forces. Welcome to the world of Brink, a new title from developer Splash Damage who brought us Enemy Territory: QUAKE. Utilizing a class based objective system, parkour–esque S.M.A.R.T. movement and highly customizable costumes and weaponry, Brink offers a fast-pace team shooter where co-operation and teamwork is key to success.
In the story of Brink, the oceans have reclaimed the planet leaving only the Ark, a floating city in what remains of the flooded earth, to shelter humanity. The Ark becomes the safe haven for all survivors, with new wings built to accommodate the ‘guests’. However, as years and resources wear on, the people begin to grow restless. The founders rule the inner city, rationing food and water to the former ‘guests’ who have become refugees, living in slums and laboring to keep the Ark together. Eventually, conflict breaks out between the Security Forces of the Ark and the Resistance, a group of refugees whose goal is to establish contact with the outside world and leave the Ark. The story is conveyed through voice overs as well as short cut scenes before missions. Every mission, including a couple of “what if” scenarios, is available to play for either faction at the onset, preventing the game from becoming a bi-lateral path and allowing players to play any mission from either side at any point.
The action in Brink is a mix of run and gun tactics and multiple class specific goals. These goals vary from bombing specific target doors or structures, protecting VIPs to extraction points and hacking secure terminals. The objective for either team is to complete the goal or prevent the other from doing so. While the goal itself might be specific to a certain class to complete, there are often supplementary side objectives that can change the outcome of a battle. These include building mounted gun nests, hacking locked doors for shortcuts in the map and securing health or supply command posts. The four classes, each with its own unique buffs and abilities keeping player choice balanced; work best when used in conjunction with one another.
Soldier – Specializing in combat, the soldier can replenish ammo for teammates, throw molotovs or flashbangs and deploy satchel charges. Their objectives usually focus on destroying targets with timed explosives that have to be protected.
Medic – Providing players with health boosts and revive syringes, the Medic keeps the team up and fighting. At higher levels, skills such as faster regeneration, adrenaline and speed buffs can be purchased, although not all can be self-administered. The Medics are responsible for keeping VIPs moving amidst heavy gunfire.
Engineer – Focusing on constructing and repairing equipment, the Engineer is able of deploying mines, turrets of upgradeable firepower and buffing weapon damage for the team and themselves. Capable of building mounted gun nests and removing enemy hack boxes or timed explosives; the Engineer is one of the more versatile classes. The goals set to the Engineer involve repairing maintenance bots, cracking safes and preventing enemies from completing their goals.
Operative – Cunning and cleaver, the Operative is responsible for hacking sentry guns and enemy communications. With the ability to disguise themselves as opposing players (complete with gamer handle), the Operative can go behind into enemy territory. Caltrop grenades and sticky bombs can be purchased in higher levels as well as being able to outline a specific enemy to the entire team by targeting them. Operatives are tasked with hacking terminals via hack boxes, which is faster when a couple Operatives work together.
Players navigate the world of Brink using the S.M.A.R.T. (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) parkour movement system that allows characters to move seamlessly over or under any obstacle. Providing players with agility and speed, S.M.A.R.T. takes the form of various actions such as vaulting, climbing short ledges and wall jumps. How S.M.A.R.T. interacts with the environment depends on factors like velocity. Should a player approach a bar and press the S.M.A.R.T. button they would likely hop over or on top of it, as opposed to sprinting which also enables S.M.A.R.T. causing the player to vault and slide to the other side of the bar to use as cover. While it’s certainly a fun mechanic to have in a FPS, it doesn’t add any depth to gameplay. Sprinting to get across the map quickly becomes your primary means of movement. It would also be nice to see more dynamic level design to showcase mobility as well as provide a challenge. An intriguing concept, Brink would be just as entertaining with or without the S.M.A.R.T. system.
Rounding off the fast-paced run and gun objectives and ambitious movement mechanics is a character creation system with a decent level of depth. Limited to only male models, players choose character appearance and voice from a varied assortment of races and accents. Both Security forces and Resistance fighters offer a plethora of options for clothing, hats and hairstyles, tattoos, scars and even war paint, each available in several colors, giving players enough control to create a unique character. Splash Damage was kind enough to allow for swapping the same character between their two wardrobes at the push of a button. Weapons can be customized as well, offering faster reloading times, improved accuracy and larger ammo clips. Style and weapon options are unlocked as players level up and complete challenges designed as practice of essential gameplay elements. Another cool feature is that once each option in unlocked, its available to any new character you might create later, removing any tedious repetition for a preferred jacket or mask. The unlockable light and heavy body types are the only options that do not carry over for new characters. The light body is faster, capable of wall jumping but is less durable. The heavy can take a lot of damage, as well as carry large weaponry the medium and light cannot, but moves slower and is less agile. I’m usually not one for meticulously designing a character which is why I was surprised when I found myself going to check each new hat, jacket and pair of pants as they unlocked, with new styles retaining the same color scheme as the previous choice. With a simple interface and multitude of choices, customizing became just as entertaining as the action itself.
Splash Damage stays committed to the concept of cooperative gameplay by essentially combining the solo campaign and multiplayer. With both modes focusing on the same missions, players can choose to play the campaign solo, exclusively with friends, sorted into games with others or compete against each other. Playing solo means the roles of your squad and the opposition are bots. The bots fill out the remaining seats to even out either side during co-op campaign and competitive multiplayer, a feature seen less in recent online games. There are dual perspectives from completing mission objectives with responsibility placed only on you and distributed to a team, teaching players how to work skilled independently and then together as a unit. The game can be a little impulsive and starting an online game with a minimum number of players and fill it with bots, which is a little frustrating when you want to play with actual players, but overall it works well. Initial lag issues have since been patched and with the restoration of the PSN Brink has played fine both on and offline.
Brink is one of those rare occasions where the games art style is a perfect match for the world of the story. The look is gritty yet colorful, opting for a cel-shaded palate. The visuals are fairly well polished; highly stylized character models look gruff and detailed. The Ark is home to a variety of levels from shopping malls, shipping yards and resort hotels, each with unique interior layouts and aesthetics. Least memorable was the music. A series of techno beats and piano keys serve as the only interruption to the gunfire and slightly repetitive one liners updating players on the battle. Weapon fire sounds realistic but explosions lack a certain oomph.
I can say Brink is a definitely a title to try for yourself, the full retail release price tag might leave some unsatisfied. It’s a solid game; the story and missions are interesting and keep the game moving. Playing online is fun, offering players various ways to game with one another, and customizing your character just adds that personalized touch to tea bagging the opposing team. With a decent concept and execution, Brink is sure to tantalize fans of the team-based FPS.Note: The Brink review is based on a retail PS3 copy of the game