The USS Quad Damage

Brink review

I play and review Brink, the latest game by Splash Damage.

The problem is, the concept here is better than the reality

Brink recently had a free weekend on Steam, and was priced at a very reasonable $7 during, so I got it, despite my various issues with Steam1. I’d heartily recommend watching Junglist’s excellent Five Inch Floppy episode on it. A number of people are calling it the most underrated game of the year. So what did I think of it?

I can broadly see why it was panned. I think a lot of people were hoping for a GOTY, but it isn’t. However, it’s incredibly good. In fact, the biggest problem with it might be the tiny community.

First of all, I love the aesthetic of it. The slight future setting of “the Ark” is compelling and refreshing, and has a definite visual and audio impact — definitely not zombies or steampunk. There’s also a fair bit of racial diversity which is great to see. However, this makes missing bits all the more curious. First, there’s no women. I’m not sure why. Second, there’s no one from the Indian subcontinent. In fact, you don’t see any women on the Ark at all. Makes you wonder if they’d really thought things through.

The next thing that’s great is the story and cut-scenes. This is exactly how I want story to be in a game — thoroughly embedded. The gameplay and story should intertwine, each enhancing the other, as opposed to the kinds of games where the player is more of a nuisance (MW, Uncharted). There’s so many little things that give away an aura of what’s happening in the story. It isn’t some massively complex saga, but it’s definitely a progression.

I love the idea of a hybrid multi-player. A sort of single player but where the AIs are controlled by real people who have the ability to learn and adapt. The problem is, the concept here is better than the reality. If everyone was playing the game in a particular way — and to be honest I don’t know how all the back-end works here — then you just click in and all the bots will soon be replaced with real people, or you join in someone’s hopefully recently created game. The problem is, I end up connecting to laggy servers — possibly some dude in the US on the end of a crappy internet connection. I can sometimes also get connected fairly late in the process, perhaps where nearly half the mission is finished. There’s also the possibility of losing a match, which means that you play a completely different mission as opposed to being able to try again.

Despite the slightly haphazard mission order and playing out of the “mingleplayer” campaign, it’s still a lot of fun, and shows a lot of promise, but it just doesn’t feel fully baked. “Normal” multiplayer, however, works a treat.

I haven’t had a chance to work through all the weapons yet, but they feel pretty good, and the overall loop of the game — shoot and buff others, complete objectives — feels pretty good. It is slightly contrived, but doesn’t feel overly shallow. This is in stark contrast to the rather simple dynamics of TF2, a game Brink is often compared to. The free-running system is also great, and I felt at home with it at once, running for walls I couldn’t have “jumped” in classical games, and sliding around like an idiot. That system in itself makes this game worth it.

So in short, Brink is a massively underrated game. I expect to have hours of fun in the fantastic setting and great game systems. I love what Splash Damage have done with this, especially with the way the storytelling is woven in to the game and the aesthetics. The free running makes this thing truly unique and the gunplay is pretty solid. You’d have to be silly not to give this one a go.

[UPDATE] I wrote about music in games in relation to Brink. The more I think about it the more I think of Brink as the ideal game.

1 The ultimate truth is that what uncle Gabe says is right: They’re making a value proposition (against pirates or any alternatives) and the one that Steam makes is often very enticing.