It’s the near future. Mankind has build a tremendous floating city called The Ark off the coast of San Francisco, a incredible feat of engineering that can sustain five thousand people indefinitely. But soon the world itself seems to flood thanks to global warming, and entire continents are apparently lost among the waves. Anyone who’s not a descendant of Kevin Costner scrambles to board The Ark and make their home there, somewhat similar to the Raft in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Soon fifty thousand people are living there and it’s simply too much for the place to take, and a war starts among the two main factions- the Security forces that the Founders of the Ark have hired to protect the place, and the civilian Resistance who’s trying to find a way off the place, hoping that there’s still land somewhere.
You will choose a side, make a character, and join the battle. When you first start up Brink you’re encouraged to watch a tutorial video that takes a good twenty to thirty minutes to explain the myriad of options and gameplay features, but I’d encourage everyone to simply play Team Fortress 2 instead. You’ll learn about nearly all of the features, because developer Splash Damage has lifted things pretty shamelessly from Valve’s great game. Brink definitely does its own thing but the new features it offers over Team Fortress 2 seem to be taken from other games- the first-person parkour movement from Mirror’s Edge, the “pull back!” staged multiplayer from Battlefield: Bad Company. But the framework is all Team Fortress 2, light-hearted objective-based multiplayer mayhem. And damn it if it isn’t fun, regardless of how unique it is.
Let’s start with the classes, and stop me if this sounds familiar! There are four- an engineer, a soldier, a medic and a spy. The engineer is used to repair various obstacles and defuse bombs, can buff teammates’ weapons to do more damage and place turrets and mines on the ground. Soldiers can supply teammates with ammo, blow up key enemy structures and get access to some strong attacks like molotovs. Medics can of course heal teammates as well as buff their speed and metabolism. The spy can hack into enemy computers and disguise themselves as enemy characters.
The matches split 16 people up into two teams, one attacking and one defending. A typical match sees the defenders trying to keep the attackers away from destroying/hacking/entering a key structure, and if that fails, they fall back to the next point and try to prevent them again over there. It works a bit more like Battlefield: Bad Company’s Rush mode than Team Fortress 2’s segmented levels and is very fun and frantic as you watch the time count down and only have a few more seconds to defuse a bomb or bring a VIP to a safe area. Half of the fun is that it’s all seamless- in one mission you’ll have to blast into a garage, steal hydrolic fuel, bring it across the map to a plane, break into a warehouse, steal avionics, bring it back to the plane, and then repair a fuel pump to get things going. That’s probably the craziest mission but it feels like you’re actually accomplishing something as a team, going through a whole story.
Besides the main objectives there are some other side objectives that you can easily find through an “objective wheel” that shows everything there is to do, whether that is construct a mounted gun, build or tear down a barricade, or claim a station to give your teammates more health. There’s a lot of strategy here that isn’t immediately apparent since the levels are all fixed, seeming to offer the same challenges each time.
There are a mere ten maps that can be played as either the Security or Resistance and they offer a decent bit of variety. There’s a campaign mode that lets you play through all these levels as both factions and see some cutscenes that tell the story, but really you’re going to want to play this one online. The AI is quite good but it’s the human variable that keeps things interesting and makes you want to play the same maps over and over again. For human is the most dangerous game, after all.
Brink does offer a few improvements over Team Fortress 2, in that it allows you to switch classes mid-match by simply going to a health or security station. Get enough XP and you can also unlock heavy or light skins to make your character a strong, slow beefwall or a flighty little wall-jumping fool, regardless of class.
The character movement is definitely unique in a game like this, if you forget about Mirror’s Edge. The first person parkour movement is done simply and effectively- if you hold down the left bumper (I’d say L1, but let’s face it, no one’s getting this for PS3 till it goes back online) you will hurdle over anything in your path, railings, crates, whatever that’s not too high. Click the B button to crouch while you’re running and you’ll go into a slide, the better to duck under enemy’s bullets or even to slidekick them onto their asses, leaving them open for a bullet surprise. It allows for vertical movement never before seen in a multiplayer shooter and allows you to quickly get up and down from structures.
The amount of customization you’re allowed keeps things fresh, as well. Everything you do in the game gives you XP, whether it’s in single-player, online or a challenge level, and your character can be carried across all modes with no hassle. Leveling up gives you Level Credits which can be used to purchase new abilities for your character. There are a group of abilities that all classes can use, that lets you do things like cook grenades while you sprint or regenerate your abilities more quickly, but there are also specific skills for each class. You’re just going to have to figure out if it’s more worth it that your Engineer can drop two mines at a time, or that your spy can hack enemy turrets. The skills stack so if you play the game enough you’ll become a beast, and it’s fun that you don’t have to pick and choose which ones you use. You get them all.
You can equip your somewhat cartoony characters in both Resistance and Security outfits, which you can mix and match to your heart’s content, you little fashionista, you. The same for the guns, which can be equipped with the usual array of silencers, grenade launchers, red dot sights and pistol grips.
Brink is a very fun game that will undoubtedly please those of you who are fiending for a objective-based shooter, and you can spend hours upon hours trying to unlock all the abilities and getting better at it, but it’s easy to get tired of it all. The future of this game will be seen in DLC, because if they’re smart with releasing cheap (or free) maps and updates this could be one you’ll keep coming back to. It’s just hard to fully recommend the copy when you’ve got the real thing right there.
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