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Score: 72%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Splash Damage
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Co-op); 2 - 16 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Brink will live or die based solely on its community. I don't just mean in terms of pure player volume, but in their willingness to break out of the current FPS commando mindset. While all of Brink's problems can't be laid at the feet of its player base, it does help to highlight where the developer's best intentions go wildly off course.

Brink eschews the current FPS trend towards realism. I like the look and think the slightly over-proportioned characters add to the enjoyment. Much of Brink is built around the idea of crafting the game around the player. Your character is completely customizable, adding a sense of attachment to him. New upgrades are used as enticement to experience Brink's numerous play modes. Choice is nice, though the game is a bit stingy with how it hands out items. I can understand limiting access to performance upgrades, but cosmetic upgrades should come at a faster pace.

Although your speakers are usually filled with gunfire, audio still plays a large role in gameplay. Guns have their own distinct sounds and sometimes it's possible to tell what someone is packing - upgrades and all - just by listening. I also like the option to channel radio chatter through your headset. It's completely optional, though I thought it was a cool way to invest players into the game's world.


Brink makes the attempt to blur the line between online and offline play. Other players can join in on matches at any time, including Campaign missions. You can set your status to invisible, or make sure only friends join in, though I enjoyed letting anyone jump into a match. Sure, it means dealing with certain "undesirable" members of the Xbox Live player base, but it is a massive step-up from the doltish, single-minded A.I. bots that would otherwise populate matches.

The core of the experience lies in the dynamic mission setup. Rather than choose one role and stick to it, you are encouraged to constantly shift between roles based on your team's needs. I loved this aspect, though many players seem content to stick to one role and bully their way through missions. Teamwork is so important to the experience that, without it, matches can evaporate into fractured kill boxes with no real direction. Even two weeks after release, players are still trying to come to grips with Brink's subtleties. Many players still seem stuck in the idea of mastering one role while ignoring others. It is understandable, and in some ways Brink's leveling system encourages it, but at the same time, it goes against the spirit of teamwork the game is attempting to foster.

When it comes right down to it, Brink is about who you're playing with. Campaign mode is well intended and attempts to piggyback a shifting narrative on top the dynamic mission set, though it doesn't work. Each mission is bookended by cutscenes that reduce your character to background furniture and offer a vague idea of the larger plot. However, it doesn't work, especially since your character is persistent across both factions. At least with real players, there's some sense of camaraderie and spirit. Otherwise, it is a sterile experience where you're simply going through the motions.


Brink asks a lot of players. The basics are easy to grasp, though everything else requires players to completely rethink how they approach matches. Although a few regular players are starting to get the hang of it, Brink does very little to encourage more players to take the plunge.

To their credit, the developers did everything they could to entice players. You're offered a generous XP bonus for watching a video tutorial and earn both XP and weapon upgrades for completing Challenges. Both methods are flawed. The tutorial is nearly ten minutes long and a source of irritation. Challenges are fun though they fail to properly build up player skills. You're not building on core concepts and learning how the game works.

Game Mechanics:

Brink's greatest contribution is the SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) system. Similar to the one-touch technique used in Assassin's Creed, SMART eliminates the clunk associated with running through maps. With the press of a button, your character can quickly scurry up nearly every obstacle in his environment. It removes the awkwardness of having to jump over obstacles and not quite making it and lets you focus on aiming.

The system also plays a huge part in opening up new paths to objectives. SMART is tied into your character's body type. Light-bodied characters are quicker (and weaker) and can climb walls with all the grace of a radioactive spider-themed superhero, allowing them access to smaller openings most characters will never see. On the opposite end, Heavy types can barrel through levels, but are much slower and have difficulties scrambling over cover. Although this is meant to encourage exploration, it still relies heavily on players actually taking the time to explore rather than simply moving towards the nearest goal on their HUD.

In addition to cosmetic upgrades, your progress is also awarded with weapon upgrades and character perks. Weapon upgrades increase your weapon's performance, such expanding ammo capacity, though others offer character abilities such as quicker swapping of weapons. Character perks offer the same sort of upgrades. Some, such as the ability to shoot grenades, offer whole-character upgrades. Others, like faster repair times, increase specific character abilities.

The level cap is pretty tight to keep players from mastering everything, though I'm still conflicted on the option to redistribute points at any time. As someone who spent hours agonizing over which Perk to pull in Fallout 3, I like the idea that my choices have an impact on how I play. Not everything works out the way it should and part of the fun is learning to make something work despite bad choices. At the same time, I like that you're not penalized for experimentation. Still, it detracts from the game-player connection the game is trying to develop.

Brink is an ambitious title and has the right idea. Unfortunately, I think Splash Damage may be overestimating the player base's willingness to give back and yield to the experience. When everything is working right, Brink is an incredibly enjoyable game. When it doesn't, the entire game crumbles into a directionless mess.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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