Played It, Beat It, Still Don't Know How Good Brink Is

I knew I was going to have a hard time deciding whether Brink was any good. I still can't say it is.

I can't say it's bad yet, either.

I've played Brink for several days. It's a hard game for me to judge.

Others have judged it, of course. It's been given wildly divergent review scores. I've played the game through, completed both of its missions and felt confident about how the game works to create a 10-minute video to show you how it works.

But I still can't give you a straight answer if you ask me if the game is worth buying.

The first problem is only sort of a problem: I'm no expert about this kind of thing. Brink is a class-based first-person shooter, just like the wildly popular Team Fortress 2, which I last played on or close to the day Team Fortress 2 came out. I'm not at all the kind of player who's ready for an eight-on-eight battle, with each player utilising their class role to the utmost. We've got the Security, who are the police of this floating city called The Ark, against the Resistance, a ragtag group who just might be terrorists.

I had expected my liability, my unfamiliarity with team shooters, to be a plus. One of Brink's innovations is its dynamic mission wheel that, on the fly and in the middle of a heated mission, can show you which things a character of your class can do and which of those are most worth doing. So far, in matches I've played of the game with computer-controlled allies and with real people, that wheel has worked. It's taken the place of having an expert player sitting next to me on my couch, suggesting what I can do next.

The mission wheel has helped me target key objectives, like a safe that needs to be cracked or a pillar that needs to be blown up. It's also helped me figure out what best to do when I'm playing a support role. It's shown me that there are machine gun nests that need building or other characters who need guarding.

The developers of Brink might as well call the mission wheel the Training Wheel, because I suspect that, as I get better at Brink, I'll use it less. I don't need it when I switch mid-mission to playing as a medic, since I'm pretty good at sticking with other characters on my team and healing them - the wheel's directions toward the next wounded players are irrelevant. It's been a good back-up though, and it proved most handy when I played the game with strangers. Instead of chatting with them to sort out their needs I could check the wheel, an advantage considering that they weren't stopping to strategise. It was best for me to use the wheel so I could figure out how to save them from their gung-ho selves.

The second problem is that Brink feels like the second day of college right now. The game is brand-new and not exactly the experience I imagined it would be. It's also not the experience I expect it will be remembered for. The game marries singleplayer and online, essentially allowing any of its 16 campaign missions to be played solo, with seven computer-controlled allies against eight enemies, or with up to 15 other human beings. You can, as I did, leave your campaign settings open, which means you may wind up starting a mission with real people in it, or have real people tumble into your match. The presence of human players transforms the game, for better and worse.

Played alone, Brink is OK. The teammate artificial intelligence is weak, but the enemies aren't much smarter. You can be a hero and win most of the game's adventures on your own, relying on most of the bots in the game to kill each other while you do the work of hacking, or setting charges or whatever. I, for example, was the only player on my team of otherwise computer-controlled heroes, who was smart enough to put a turret at a choke-point of one map, preventing the enemy force from advancing. Human enemies would have figured out how to flank me; the computer enemies did not. Sometimes its your computer-controlled buddies who let you down. Other times, the disappointment is the enemy.

But who is to say that relying on artificial intelligence will be the typical Brink experience? Over the weekend, I played about half of the game's campaign with another games reporter. Our two real brains were too much of a match for the computer-controlled enemies on the tougher missions. We played differently than I had with computer-controlled allies. He'd guard me when I was hacking a computer in an airport. I'd keep healing him as we sprinted, him in the lead, toward an escape route. When we played with a third person, the experience was even better, except when our connections were lagging. Occasionally the game did choke, stuttering its frames and turning into an unplayable slideshow, though this problem didn't seem to correspond to the number of people who played. (It's also an issue that's supposedly set to be addressed by a patch, though you never know how those things will go.)

One time, last Sunday, I was playing the game by myself. At least, I thought I was playing by myself. I was in a tough mission that I'd yet to complete without a real person helping out. I was struggling for a while, when suddenly things started going my team's way. It took me a little longer to realise that two strangers had joined my game. Real people. Helping out.

I still haven't experienced Brink will a full crew of human players. I imagine the game will feel even more alien to the thing I played via my Xbox 360 this past weekend. Brink has been better when I've had people playing with me, but who is to say that putting people in every role will improve everything? This experience my turn again. I'm not a highly skilled class-based team shooter player, and I fear that a week from now, any improvement of the Brink experience that may be gained thanks to the presence of other gamers might be off-set by the punishing skill exercised by human players. I do fine in Brink right now, maybe thanks only to the limited artificial intelligence. A week from now, will I be dying from well-thrown grenades and compromised by so many disguised operatives that I'll be shelving this game alongside my copy of Team Fortress 2? Or will that training wheel save me again?

Should you buy Brink now? I'd wait. It's just now touching the oxygen of being played by gamers online. Let the chemical reactions take. Brink today is not the game Brink will be in a week; the game today may be better, it may be worse, but it's temporary. For now, I'll give you a shrug and tell you: I'm just not sure.


Comments

    The best review of this game I read. Clear, honest, thoughtful.
    A suggestion from a fellow gamer, a friend.

    Thank you so much,
    Dan

    I don't get the hype. The game looks like an awful TF2 clone with improved 'jumping' to me.

    I like the look of it, it reminds me of good old UT back in the day. I am happy to go back to a game that plays like that and making it class based just adds some good flavour to it.

    Not a bad review, but it sounds fairly negative seeing as there seems to be few problems with the game mentioned.

    There's been a lot of similar reviews about Brink.

    I'm disappointed, I've got this on pre-order through Steam and pre-loaded. I will probably still have a play for a bit but I think it is going to be another unfinished game on my steam account.

    I'm still awed by the fact that the games base mythos is almost a 1:1 from Wonderful Days (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonderful_Days) .

    Is it super fast and super twitchy with expansive maps like ET: Quake Wars? (a game I wanted to like so much but I couldn't hit anything from half a map away while they were running at 200km an hour - my bad I guess)

    Brink is a class-based first-person shooter, just like the wildly popular Team Fortress 2, which I last played on or close to the day Team Fortress 2 came out. "I’m not at all the kind of player who’s ready for an eight-on-eight battle,"

    Uhh so why are you reviewing it then?! That'd be like asking a CoD player their opinion on an MMORPG or a facebook game!

    It seems squarely aimed at the TF2 crowd, I love to hear what a regular Team Fortress player thinks about it?

      AGREED, I love tf2, and this game looks like a breath of fresh air into the genre. Looking forward to playing it with 15 other experienced players ^_^

    Buuuut, if you wait, then there's going to be less people playing and the people who do play will trickle away faster. I don't think the 'wait and see if the community is there' attitude works, people need to take a chance and get in there and be part of the community from the get go.

    I still tearfully lament the early days of Shadowrun, a game that, to begin with, had a good amount of players and it easy to find regular games, elves with katana and glider backpacks, teleporting trolls with miniguns, I loved it. A brilliant, perfectly balanced MP experience way ahead of its time. Six months later everyone I played with spoke Japanese, a year later I couldn't find a game. I still hope MS might dust it off one day and release it as an Arcade download.

    I like this review because of it's honesty, thing is I hope Splash damage stay with this game and keep updating it (rather than releasing map packs and forgetting it exists later). I remember when TF2 first came out and it didn't have many maps or gamemodes, now look at it today, new maps, new gamemodes, customization, hats and in general is alot of fun for 'almost' anyone (who likes shooters).

    We've taken the gold! We need an engineer!

    Yeah, that's right.

    What I've been curious about is why Kotaku has been running so many stories about this game? Hve they been pumping out the media releases at break-neck speed?

    Decent review, but one thing I don't understand with the overwhelming majority of reviews of this game are:

    WHY ARE YOU PLAYING IT SOLO?

    You wouldn't review TF2 solo. You would not review Monday Night Combat solo. You would not review a raid or guild-based MMO solo, so why on Earth are people complaining about poor AI for a game that 99% of people will play with a 15 others? It's ludicrous. I don't care about review embargoes or wanting to be the first to have their review out - as far as I'm concerned it's poor journalism to publish a review, while knowingly ignoring the main feature of the game.

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