Unreal Game Review: Brink

0.5 out of 5 stars

I was really looking forward to Brink.

I’ll admit it, the trailers hooked me. An FPS with customizable characters, classes, Borderlands-style animation and Mirror’s Edge free running? Sold. So needless to say I was pretty heartbroken when the first reviews came out.

Everyone called the game a disaster. They said on consoles, it was borderline unplayable due to glitches and lag, and Bethesda had release what essentially was an unfinished product.

A patch was soon released that fixed most of these issues, and the fervor died down, so now a few weeks later, I decided to put it on my rent list and see once the technical issues were fixed, if there was still a good game lurking in there somewhere.

There isn’t.

For as many good elements as the title would appear to combine, and being a new IP in a world of sequels, I cannot deny that the game is anything but an unmitigated trainwreck through and through. I’ve never seen a $60 title with less actual content in the game, and it’s hard to believe this is an actual retail release rather than a $15 XBLA download.

I started the single player campaign by choosing a side, “Security” or “Resistance.” They all live together on the “Ark” a floating city that was the earth’s only refuge after the world flooded, and it’s admittedly a rather cool setting and backstory for a game. The Resistance wants to leave the Ark and look for other signs of life, Security wants to stop them and maintain order. Now, say goodbye to the plot, because that’s the last you’ll ever see of it.

An interesting story idea, yet one never remotely explored.

The only redeeming part of this game I can actually praise, I’ll do now, before the avalanche of negativity starts. I really enjoyed the character creator, and even though all the faces in this game look like caricatures that a Disneyland street artist would draw of Folsom Prison inmates, the accessories and costumes and color schemes can be combined to create some truly wicked looking characters, and I had fun picking out armor sets and face paints and such like I was playing with post apocalyptic Barbie dolls.

Now that I had my Resistance member dressed and rearing to go, I started the campaign. There are eight missions, with two more “alternate” ones depending on if you failed or completed certain objectives.

But this is like no campaign I’ve ever seen. Instead of a linear journey or open world, you’re thrown into small maps where you play objective based games with and against an army of bots. These objectives range from planting a bomb, to hacking a computer, to fixing a bridge or escorting a hostage. Conversely, they can also be preventing all of the aforementioned tasks from being completed by opposing forces. There are four different classes that each specialize in a different type of objective, and have different combat powers that can aid them in doing so.

The classes are very straightforward, and lifted from other games. There’s the soldier who replenishes ammo, the engineer who builds turrets, the medic who can heal people and the infiltrator who can assume enemy identities. Any of those sound familiar to you? Much of Brink is lifted from Team Fortress in terms of classes, but any character is allowed to use any weapon, making the distinction between them almost nonexistent most times, other than when it’s a bridge that needs to be blown up or a terminal that needs to be hacked. However, the engineer’s ability to increase his and his teammates’ weapon damage, and also build automated, powerful turrets puts him leagues above the other classes in terms of usefulness, and rarely will anyone choose to be a medic or infiltrator, as their powers are far less helpful.

“Yeah the auto turrets can handle it, I’m going to go take a nap.”

I already can’t stand objective-based matches most of the time in FPS titles, but to play them with bots who appear to have the brainpower of a graphic calculator? It can be infuriating. Most of the time they’ll be dithering around like they don’t know what the word “support” means as you get your ass blasted by the entire team while trying to complete an objective. But on a few occasions, I barely had to do anything, and just by wandering around aimlessly I apparently encouraged my teammates to be go-getters and they’d run off and complete an objective without me as it seemed it was the other team’s turn to go into uber-idiot mode.

The controls of the game are very odd, and I’m not sure Bethesda thought them through as much as they should have. LB lets you freerun by holding it down, and it will leap you up and down obstacles and off ledges the way it might in a game like Assassin’s Creed that uses a similar (but more effective) system. However, there’s also a separate jump button, the usual A, but while freerunning lets you hurdle obstacles, I don’t know why that wasn’t just mapped to A, and LB was freed up for special ability use. Rather, that functionality is put into the left stick, which you have to click and hold to perform actions like refilling ammo as a soldier or injecting yourself with a medic’s syringe. Ask anyone who has ever had to hold the L stick down to crouch, it’s not the most comfortable motion, and it doesn’t feel right here either in the midst of combat, which is why it would have been much better equipped to LB, which is equally as awkward as a sprint button. Or better still, running could have just been clicking down the stick like oh I don’t know, practically every FPS out there. The whole system is a mess.

The weapon line-up is stranger still. There are only a handful of guns in the game, with most being some sort of SMG/Assault rifle variant, and it was hard to distinguish between them. I counted two sniper rifles, one shotgun and a grenade launcher, but due to poor physics none of these were terribly useful. Also, nearly half the weapons listed could also be used as secondaries. Every single SMG and even sniper rifles were available as your sidearm, and I had no idea why there was any reason to ever use a pistol. The best loadout was always just two machine guns no matter what mission you took on. I thought you unlocked more guns and attachments through gaining XP or kills like a normal game, but no, there’s a series of four rather short “challenge” maps that are literally the only way you unlock every gun and attachment in the game. Truly, a bizarre system. It’s like playing Call of Duty and unlocking every possible loadout by only playing the shooting range.

A pistol? Well there’s your problem.

Physics is another problem Brink endures, as the simple act of shooting a gun and hitting an enemy feels leagues below most FPS games you’ve played before. It’s all just very sloppy, and players constantly slide around the screen, and I saw more character model glitches than I could even count. It feels very unpolished, and for a game that claimed to be about fluid motion via freerunning, is one of the chunkiest shooters I’ve played this console generation.

In fact, the only time freerunning was useful was not in combat, but when I had died for the millionth time trying to claim an objective, and had to trek through the entire level just to probably die again. Despite the fact that your team can capture new command posts closer to the action, you’ll always, always spawn miles away when you die, should you not choose to wait half an hour for a medic to get within two feet of reviving you, only to also be killed himself.

I got used to the controls and the mind numbingly repetitive objectives and worked my way through the Resistance campaign to find myself with a two second meaningless cutscene as a reward. Whatever, I thought, I can forgive a game like this for lacking a story, especially when the campaign is nothing more than a few rounds of Demolition, HQ or Sabotage. But I still wanted to check out the Security missions, to see if those were any more engrossing.

“Now hold that doorway for another 17 minutes!”

I started playing their campaign, also made up of ten missions, and I had a strange feeling. “This looks familiar” I thought. And then it hit me. I was playing the mirror image of the first level from the Resistance campaign. Where I used to be trying to blow something up and prevent a hostage from being transported. I am now DEFENDING against a bomb and trying to ESCORT a hostage out of the level. The campaign literally just puts you on the opposing team in all the missions you had just played through. I quit immediately, and didn’t feel the need to play a mirror of the entire section I had just completed. So there are only ten total missions in this entire the campaign, great.

My focus then turned to multiplayer because after all, that’s what the game was designed for right? I found it strange that my character who I’d leveled up pretty high in the campaign was allowed to play online, as presumably one could just sit around playing easy bots to hit max level, and then waltz into multiplayer with relative ease, stomping all those with inferior powers. I would learn soon enough why this wouldn’t be an issue…

My first clue something was amiss should have been that there wasn’t actually a “Multiplayer” option on the screen. The closest thing resembling that was “Free Play” where you could play any of the campaign’s missions in any order. “That’s kind of weird,” I thought, but I booted it up.

Sure enough, I was thrown into a level I had previously beaten, complete with opening mission briefing and cutscene. I loaded the game, and found that yes, I was literally just playing a campaign mission, but with other people on my team instead of bots. It was the same ten levels, and now I understood why the campaign felt like an odd string of multiplayer maps. BECAUSE THEY WERE JUST MULTIPLAYER MAPS.

Wow, this game looks 10x better in still images than it does while playing.

I couldn’t believe it, that this game truly had this little content in it. The objectives were exactly the same, and lo and behold nowhere in Free Play could I find something that resembled a “Team Deathmatch” mode, surely an essential inclusion in any online FPS. No, it does not exist, as this game seems to hate you actually killing people. It gives you far more experience for standing around near objectives or buffing your teammates’ armor or weapons. Racking up kills? Far less XP, and even in the score screen, there is literally no way to see how many people you’ve killed in a given match. I cannot believe a game like this exists.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, something dawned on me. I was doing fairly well in my multiplayer match, when I looked at the score screen, and began to examine the names I was playing with. “Jemaine” “Cole” “Chi” “Kristoph.” These were not gamertags. I was playing online multiplayer…with bots, just as I had been doing in the campaign. Oh. My. God.

This must have been implemented as a feature when player interest became so low that there was simply no one online to play with. During my entire time playing multiplayer, I never had more than four living human beings in a game of 16 players, and now it made sense why I didn’t have to create a new character. This entire damn game is simply one mode, and one mode only. The campaign is multiplayer, multiplayer is the campaign, and Brink is made up of ten missions. This game costs $60.

See what I mean about character design? This could have been awesome.

By beating one half of the campaign of Brink in about three hours, I had literally experienced everything the game had to offer. As the second part of the campaign was a mirror, and the multiplayer was the same missions repeated, I cannot think of another $60 title offhand that actually includes less content.

It’s just hard to believe that a game like this can be created and actually released to the public. Even if I dodged all the technical issues that made the game impossible to play at launch, what I found was a core product that was so malnourished and decrepit, it’s no wonder the only people I could find online to play with me were robots.

I have respect for any new IP for trying something different, but to release a game as unfinished as this one deserves nothing but contempt, which as you’ve seen, I have plenty to give.

0.5 out of 5 stars


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  1. Amen to this.

    I’ve never seen such a weird variety of reviews for a game; it ranged from 2/10 to 7/10. Despite heeding the review warnings, I bought it anyway. . My friends and I were waiting for this release for quite some time, so that also influenced me to give it the benefit of the doubt. Boy, was that a mistake. Played it twice and haven’t touched it in a month. I can’t get rid of it either! Everything this review said is true. Do not buy this crap.

  2. Trailer looking so awesome a year ago, I, too, really had high hopes for this game…

    Ditto Johnny D, what a mistake indeed!

    Only thing, I did get rid of it (traded it for L.A. Noire).

  3. Their is one real big problem with this game that Paul Tassi doesn’t mention, and probably didn’t notice with all the other massive problems with this game.

    The level designs are atrocious. The main problem that I had with this game was the fact that every damn stage had a big choke point that every multiplayer match devolved into. You would start a match, and literally, you would see no opposition for half the match until you reached that choke point. At which, you would then see the opposing team and actually start to fight. Unfortunately, most of the match will be stuck at this point, and most games end with nobody winning, because you’re stuck.

    This is god awful game design that everybody will quickly call BS on, and quit playing.

  4. Me and my friends were so psyched for this game. I got to level 17 and quit. I havent touched the damn thing in a month. Ide have been better off fully preordering skyrim or gears 3

  5. the game is absolute crap, however, you can’t complain about the controls. you could program every button to whatever action you desired. it was about the only thing the game got right. it was downright terrible otherwise. not even deserving of half a star.

  6. This game sounds a lot like the shadowrun game I bought on a whim. The multiplayer was fun but the lack of maps and game types made it one of the worst games I’ve ever purchased (force unleashed and stranglehold being the other noteworthy ones).

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