Splash Damage has been making multiplayer games for a decade now, starting in the days of "Quake 3." In recent years, the scope and scale of their games have expanded, with titles like "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars," which features massive maps and requires intra-team cooperation. Although the scale of their latest game, "Brink," is not quite as massive, it's just as ambitious. And while it impressive conceptually, and quite fun when it works, there are serious concerns which hinder it from being a threat to games like "Battlefield: Bad Company 2" and "Call of Duty: Black Ops."
"Brink" is a multiplayer game where-in two teams of eight battle it out over objectives scattered across a futuristic, floating city known as The Ark. Teamwork is mandatory here, as players select from four different classes, each with their own special abilities and objectives. For example, only the soldier can plant C4 and only the engineer can repair mechanical devices. The classes can be fully customized with a wide variety of options.
The game is set across eight different maps, with cutscenes filling in the story blanks as to why you're blowing up a bridge or attempting to hack a mainframe.
As I mentioned, "Brink" requires teamwork. What's rather neat about the game is that it never feels like a chore to help out your squadmates. Every action you take, whether it be to revive a downed partner or repair a friendly turret, earns you experience points and helps you to level up your character. The end result is that, when dropping into a multiplayer game with random players, people are automatically helpful. You don't get the standard selfish players, just looking to get the most points in a round. Instead you get cooperation, everyone working to complete the same goal, all without the need for voice chat.
Customizability And Character Art
Splash Damage clearly wanted players to feel like they were unlocking something meaningful by leveling up their characters, as "Brink" constantly rewards you with new customization options. A wide range of player outfits and abilities can be unlocked over time, letting you create an extremely unique-looking character. The heavily stylized character art only helps this, as the unique soldiers feel charming, almost like they were ripped from a mature Pixar movie.
One element that I'll definitely hope to see in other games is the addition of a parkour button in "Brink." Holding down the button and running into obstacles causes the player to automatically vault or climb over those objects. Considering the number of times that I've died after getting stuck on the geometry in a multiplayer map, it's really pleasant to have a dedicated escape button.
For a multiplayer game, you would think there would be a dedicated team focused solely on ensuring a smooth online experience. Unfortunately that team was apparently asleep at the wheel, as the lag in "Brink" ranges from annoying to downright unplayable. In most multiplayer games, you might experience lag in the form of a teleporting enemy. In "Brink," the lag feels more like performance issues, slowing the game to, at times, 3 frames per second. Imagine trying to shoot someone who is running past you like a cheaply-made flip book. Over the course of a week, I never played a single match that wasn't at least marginally hampered by lag, and that includes matches with just me and a single other player who lives 5 miles away from me. It's simply inexcusable.
A Question Of Value
If you're not really paying attention, you may think that "Brink" has sixteen multiplayer maps. It doesn't. In truth, the game splits its multiplayer maps by attack and defense, so really you're looking at just eight maps, which can be played from the attack side or the defense side. Considering the game's single-player campaign simply involves playing these maps with bots (that have terrible AI), it's not exactly a robust amount of content compared to similar offerings like "Black Ops," which has a dedicated single-player campaign.
Were it not for the technical issues, and if it offered a bit more content, "Brink" would be a rather enjoyable experience. The game does offer some of the best teamplay I've seen in a multiplayer-specific release. Unfortunately, at least on the Xbox 360, the lag makes playing through matches an absolute chore. It basically feels like you're attempting to play a modern, PC FPS on a computer that's five years too old for it. Unless the promised day-one patch miraculously fixes the performance issues, there's no reason you should subject yourself to this game.