The classes may seem scaled back from more elaborate team games but you can buy upgrades for each class that makes them more versatile. Medics have a number of bonuses they can confer to their team, including increased regeneration and a bonus that delays all damage to a teammate for a limited time—until it all comes crashing in at once. Engineers gain increasingly deadly turrets and Operatives can eventually download intel from dead enemies, revealing all enemies on the radar to the whole team for a limited time. The way these powers are balanced works well too. Each player has a supply meter that depletes and slowly refills every time you use a class-specific ability, which is better than TF2’s medic supplying a constant healing stream, or running out of metal as an engineer.
Brink’s maps offer a wide variety of game types, from escorting VIPs and intel robots to blowing up structures and clearing a path through various objectives, but the goal is never to simply storm the enemy spawn. Each team’s starting base is armed with deadly indestructible turrets, which neatly eliminates spawn camping and keeps the action centered on the mission at hand. The maps do contain several neutral command posts that can be captured to buff team health and supplies and advance spawn points, a feature I’ve seen as recently as Conduit 2 on the Wii. Your AI commander will also shout out class-specific objectives ranging from rescuing incapacitated teammates to defending locations and VIPs. This mechanic is a helpful guide for new or disoriented players and keeps the team focused. If you’re using the 360 headset mic these objectives are transmitted through the earpiece, adding even more to the immersion. When you’re huddled next to a terminal, feverishly hacking away while half your team desperately surrounds and defends you with their lives, the rush is hard to put into words.
If you’ve played any online shooters since CoD 4 you’ll instantly recognize Brink’s leveling system. It rewards you with XP like every other shooter on the leveling bandwagon these days, but also gives you points to unlock the aforementioned class upgrades. The great thing is that these upgrades are cumulative; you don’t have to swap them in and out nearly as much as you do in CoD. This can unbalance things a bit for new players, as all the experienced people will have the good powers, but removing the constant tradeoffs gives a sense of accomplishment and growth for your classes and characters.
My only issue with Brink’s leveling is the amount of superfluous material. Most unlockables are costume and appearance modifiers, with a few audio logs tossed on in an attempt to pad out the story. You also have to unlock the heavy and light builds, with only the medium build available from the beginning. These body types unlock after only a short period of dedicated play, but I would’ve preferred to have these and the costume options from the start; aside from the build types none of these appearance mods really change how your character plays, so why don’t we get all of them at once?
Unlocking new weapons is also a little strange. You have to play though specific challenge modes to get new guns—your XP and level have no effect on your available arsenal. This does even the playing field a bit at the beginning, with everyone playing with the same basic guns, but it’s a little bland too. I’d rather not have to slog through challenges just to add some variety to my loadout.
All in all Brink’s gameplay isn’t anything we haven’t seen before but Splash Damage has found creative ways to balance out a few team multi clichés, and the SMART system adds a whole new dimension to the battlefield. The art style, story and production values save this from being another gray-brown smear like Quake Wars, but at the same time most of it seems untapped because Splash Damage still refuses to integrate story and setting into a dedicated single player mode. This makes Brink feel a little like the same game over again with new bells and whistles and a fresh coat of paint. That said it’s still a huge step up from their previous games and future shooters would do well to pay attention to the SMART system and the mobility options it opens up. If you’re looking for a solid team multiplayer game, Brink is a highly polished example with some enticing new ideas.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Brink doesn't quite live up to the narrative potential set up by its compelling setting and production values, but it does deliver a tight, well-polished team multiplayer experience. The SMART movement system saves Brink from being just another pretty face in the crowd by adding some much-needed mobility to the FPS formula. If you're looking for a creative new take on the Enemy Territory-style team multi shooter, Brink fits the bill.
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