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Brink is rough. It’s hard to love, and it gives a bad first impression. Is there a more user-friendly game under all that gruff?
The short answer is, sort of. Yes, there’s a fun game to be had but it’s almost more trouble then it’s worth. You play as either a member of the Security or the Resistance on one of a handful maps. If you complained about Team Fortress 2’s lack of maps at launch you’ll be up in arms here, too. Worse still is that the maps are unbalanced. They tend to favor one side or another, and if you’re on the non-favored side it can be unforgiving. Each map involves an offensive side completing objectives and a defensive side fighting to prevent them from doing so. The defensive side starts out more frustrating in that there’s usually little to do except camp the offense’s goals. The upside is that you usually have the advantage of fortification and location. Each side spawns from a particular spawn zone and in my experience that favors the defense. The offense often has to trek farther and farther from their spawn point with each objective they complete, which makes the game a struggle late in the game. By the time you’ve respawned (if a medic doesn’t revive you) and ran back, the defense is in place again. The defense’s downfall is the clock. Often the offense is given a plenty of time to complete their objectives, and you have no way of speeding that up or cutting them off short. If the offense completes a goal, the clock gets rewound and you have to play defense for another five to ten minutes. It’s maddening.
Playing online can be easier with human allies you can cooperate and communicate with, whereas the AI is brutal. Whether your allies or the enemy are playing well – and they’re rarely good at the same time – can make or break an offline match. I’ve had matches where I had to do every little thing for my side and other where my team could have won if I was there or not. The inability to give the bots orders hurts as well. At best they play a semblance of a team match and at worst they’re brain-dead lone-wolfers, running off on their own to get killed instead of doing anything constructive.
The graphics are average, but I do enjoy the menu’s clean, spare appearance. I don’t like overdone or really busy menus like in Call of Duty: Black Ops so this appealed to me. You spend a decent amount of time in these menus customizing your character, who you level and take to each match. This persistent avatar feature is my favorite part of Brink. You can equip him with two of a dozen or more different guns, tweaking each with attachments that change it’s performance. You can also dress your character up or pick one of three different body sizes – small, medium and large. They’re movements are moderately different but the large can take more damage and the small is more agile. You also picks RPG-style perks each level that can improve your character’s performance in the four different classes.
The classes, medic, engineer, soldier, and covert, aren’t separated enough in my book. You can have a large machinegun wielding medic, for example, since the weapons you pick aren’t limited by class. Since neither is appearance, you can’t tell on sight who is playing what class. This makes the old tactic, ‘kill the medic first’ harder to do, since a medic looks just like a soldier, who looks like a covert, who looks… you get the idea. Some kind of identifier would go a long way, maybe a colored arm band or something.
Speaking of not being able to identify someone, the only way you can tell who to shoot in the heat of battle is if they have a name over their head or not. Both sides are effectively indistinguishable in the heat of battle. Again, maybe some kind of marker or color change would help. If an enemy is around your allies all you can do is spray bullets into the pack, which shouldn’t usually be a viable tactic.
Summarily, I’m torn on this game. On one hand it’s concept and persistent avatar features are attractive. On the the other, it seems to go out of it’s way to make any fun you may have, hard to get to. In the future, if they can balance the maps better and make picking your class feel more strategic and worth while, maybe they’ll have a good game. I’m just not sure those are problems patches can fix.