In Defense of Brink

We live in a gaming time of triple-A titles, where a company is made or broken on the success of its tent pole release. Alas, much like the film industry, this leads some companies to lean on established franchises and brand names in order to get those coins rolling in. The casual cynic’s first target is usually Nintendo, who perform an almost predictable cycle of Mario, Zelda and ‘Random Misc. Character From Their Back Catalogue’ for the likes of the Wii and (3)DS. However, fingers can also be pointed at the annual Call of Duty games that are churned out, as well as the resurrection of old classics, long since forgotten (Duke Nukem, Max Payne, etc.). There is a fear to produce a new IP in case the gaming masses snort in derision at your attempts, or write you off as just another Halo Clone.

In the last year, however, we have seen some innovation in the retail world, but with that has come some backlash. Despite its unique way to play, Bulletstorm was derided for its use of bad language and general storyline. Alan Wake got mostly back-handed praise, but again found itself floundering against the ‘big names’.  These got off lightly, judging by the likes of Homefront, Mindjack and Bodycount, which got slated by gamers for various technical and gameplay reasons, but the one I couldn’t help noticing getting a violent stream of vitriol was one that I think deserves to be lauded by all those who handle a controller: Brink.

Brink sold itself as a team-based, objective-based multiplayer shooter with billions of customisation options, however it suffered from the greatest problem a game focusing on multiplayer could have: lag. And it wasn’t just the odd glitchy jump in space and time which caused an inadvertent death, it was crippling, game-breaking, smash-the-controller lag. This left most people who bought it on release with a very bad taste in their mouth, and Brink was widely condemned by gamers across the spectrum, left to rot in the bargain basements of your local supermarkets.

But wait! As you may have guessed from the title, I am here to defend Brink, and defend I shall. Starting with something that will earn me a few shakes of the head and pithy remarks from the learned internet masses… Brink is a surprisingly good single player game. Naturally, the game is best played with others, but there is a certain intensity when playing by yourself. You adopt a lone wolf personality, aware that your team mates don’t share your adept skill and cunning, and instead are the run and gun types you’re fighting against. You can choose to either go for the objectives yourself or diligently defend one of your automaton teamsters to glory. Yes, there are moments of frustration, but the AI isn’t bad enough to see bots running full steam ahead into a minefield of death and bullets. Even without the shouting voices down your headset, you do get a sense of teamwork that adds to a thrilling experience.

One of the main selling points of Brink is its style of play. It’s not about how many of the opposite team you can kill, or how big your guns are, it’s about getting the job done. While it would be easy to break these down into simple attack and defend generalisations, there is a multitude of different things to do in Brink. When on the offensive, this can range from protecting a engineering buggy, to hacking into a computer, to simply breaking down a wall to create a shortcut. The variation of tasks is also split across the different player types that you can be. While they are the standard Soldier, Engineer, Medic and Spy classes that we see in most multi-shooters, each one’s skills and objectives are intriguing enough to put them on a level with games such as Team Fortress.

And that’s not to mention the fact that you play as both factions. As both the Resistance and Security, you see both sides to a mission via the game’s story. So while you were tasked with blowing up the gates as the Resistance, as Security you find yourself on the other side of the fence, making sure they stay in tip-top condition. As noted in reviews for the game on release, neither side is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, making both stories interesting enough to keep along with.

In the end, Brink didn’t have a fair shake of the dice when it came to entering the world as a new IP. The controls weren’t as sharp as most games, the cartoony graphics were seen as ugly and the lag all but killed it for most players. Hell, even this gamer will admit that the customisation levels are fun, but ultimately shrug-worthy at best, and that in single player the game does bottle-neck in places, meaning it is a war of attrition to get your objective completed. But it is a good game! And most of all, it is a fun game. What’s more, the level of patches that have since been released have meant that the lag, while still present, isn’t as terminal as it once was. Most of all, due to the backlash, Brink is now so cheap that you can pick it up for next to nothing.  Given the quality of some low-class games, Brink is a diamond in the rough, waiting for you to jump in and make your own Easter Island look-a-like and shoot your way to glory. Okay, Splash Damage, I’ll take that commission any time now…

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  1. Stu Stu says:

    I picked up Brink recently for a penny under a fiver. It was one of the better purchases in terms of looking to scrape some fairly easy achievements. The lack of online players ensured I rarely met anyone (which suited me perfectly) but could reap all the additional xp rewards of playing ‘online’.

    I found the missions interesting, although I quickly had favourites that I’d repeat over and the lack of levels would have likely had me fuming on release if I’d shelled out forty quid. For a fiver though, it was a blast. The customisations were nowhere near as expansive as was touted prior to the games launch and I agree, they are not much of a feature.

    I agree with you on the whole though, it wasn’t a bad game (certainly compared to some of the trash i’ve played) and had it not had the issues on launch and a few more levels to play through then it could have gone the other way. :)

  2. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I fell in love with Brink as soon as I saw the first few screenies. Then I saw some videos and fell in love a little bit more. Not as much as I did with RAGE, but still enough to make me want to play it. I’m not really sure what happened after that, to be honest. Interest just waned for some reason, and it was only a few days before launch that I thought I should probably think about picking it up when it came out but it just didn’t happen.

    Then all the negative reviews started to flood the ‘net and it made me a little more cautious. I believe you when you say that it’s not as bad as everyone makes out though, as few games ever are (except maybe E.T.), but the number of negative reviews will undoubtedly have shaped the minds of the potential buyers and even sullied the perception of those who went ahead and bought it, always on the look out for the problems that people brought up even though they may never have noticed otherwise.

    I was the same with New Vegas, actually. People complaining about how broken it was, same with Skyrim, yet I never experienced issues with either of them. I WILL get around to picking this up though, especially if Stu’s saying that you can pick it up for a fiver now. By the time I get around to it, there’ll be nobody else playing it online anyway so I won’t notice the multiplayer issues!

  3. Ste Ste says:

    This game should have been so good. I was very excited about it in the build up to release and brought it almost day one. I had the PC version and while lag was still an issue it wasn’t as bad as the lag on the console versions.

    Lag aside it just didnt live up to the expectations. The few missions that existed were very disappointing and as you said were basically just a war of attrition and players had to rely on swarm attacks rather than actual tactics. The SMART movement feature was one of the most interesting features of the game in the run up to release but when it came down to it the system fell flat on its face.

    Its a shame as I agree that new IP’s are few and far between but unfortunately this one deserved to fail.

  4. Richie Richie says:

    I was in party chat with a chap yesterday and he was playing this game. He sounded angry.

    That said, I’ve picked up a cheap copy and will give it a go. I mean you’ve got to love a lemon, right?

  5. Edward Edward says:

    I was quite exicted by Brink, but it’s always a shame when a game gets something so fundamentally wrong that it affects the entire game’s mechanics and impacts the entire experience. I dunno if I’d bother with this anymore, either, but it’s always good to see games like this getting defended from the backlash :) Good show!

  6. Lorna Lorna says:

    The game always looked visually appealing, reminding me of Mirror’s Edge in many ways, with the clean, crisp visuals and vibrant colours against stark white. However, shooters really aren’t my thing and nor is playing with other people and Brink seemed very much to be both of those things, which was a shame. I am still interested enough not to have written it off however, and since the price is now very reasonable, I can see myself picking this one up.

    Good for you for championing a much-maligned release. I’m the same with Fairytale Fights which, despite being a bastard in many respects, is actually a damn good game with a great concept, once you get stuck in.

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