Brink teaches you how to play with a 40 minute long tutorial video, which you're coaxed into watching with the promise of 1000 experience points, yet rather quickly realise it's an utter shambles and really needs a 'Show, Don't Tell' sticker slapped on it. Brink begins with you choosing whether you want to be part of the Security of the Ark, or the Resistance movement, although it quickly becomes apparent that it really doesn't matter which you choose, since you'll keep swapping between the two anyway.
Brink is an extremely confused piece of software, that isn't quite sure exactly what it is, or what it's meant to be doing. When it gets into its stride and the gameplay flows, there are moments of beauty to behold. For the most part, however, it's all a bit irksome, as you battle with server issues, single player modes that aren't really single player at all, and a severe lack of direction.
Run! Jump! Gain XP from doing absolutely anything!
Sometime in the future, the Earth has flooded and a floating city called The Ark has been constructed to house survivors. Unfortunately, The Ark is overrun with residents, and soon there is not enough food, water and essentials to go around. A band of rebels decide to join together to fight for their rights, while the security on The Ark fight back to keep them under control.
Games play out as 8v8 ordeals, usually with one team guarding something or someone, while the other team attempts to hack, steal, destroy and maim. There are four classes to choose from, and each has their own uses on the battlefield. That's putting it likely - it's actually essential to have specific classes on your team for certain objectives, such as using the Operative for hacking terminals and having the Soldier plant explosives on marked targets.
When play comes together, it feels solid and flows majestically. Players can find a variety of side-missions using the Objective Wheel, and can easily spot when it's time to change to a different class and lead their team to victory. Command posts act as both spawn points and restocking areas, and can be captured and lost throughout play.
There's an absolute ton of customization to flick your way through as well. Every inch of your character can be altered, from heads to clothes to tattoos to voices, and making your own unique man of war isn't difficult. Points earned from leveling up can also be used to buy new and upgraded abilities, making your life on the battlefield that little bit easier.
Essentially, Brink is all about teamwork, and the game tries to coax you into helping your team-mates out at every turn. A power bar can be used to give your co-workers boosts and buffs, and escorting or helping friends will earn you both a bundle of XP.
It's a shame, then, that Brink is also a prime example of how not to do online play. We played through the Xbox 360 version of Brink, and therefore cannot vouch for how online works in the PC edition - but boy, is it shoddy on console. There is no lobby system to speak of, and instead you need to arrange games through Xbox Live Parties.
Customization is one of Brink's saving graces
In the age when lobby systems seen in the likes of Call of Duty and the Halo series have seen so much success, it's utterly ridiculous that Brink uses such a poorly designed multiplayer system.
In fact, Brink has the multiplayer aspects completely backwards. The game offers a single player campaign, but be warned - there is no single player at all. The campaign is in fact the multiplayer in disguise; essentially multiplayer with bots. "Bah, I wasn't buying it for the single player anyway!" we hear you cry - but believe us, when you realise that the single player content is in fact none existent, you'll feel cheated.
OK, that's not completely strictly true. There's a challenge mode which pits you against AI bots, and asks you to complete a series of tasks with different classes before the time runs out. However, you won't want to play these modes after a very short while for one reason alone - the AI is godawful. Utterly atrocious. Absolutely appalling. We've not seen bots this bad in a while.
Your team has no idea how to help you win at all, and will instead stand around getting gunned down, leaving you to take on half a dozen enemies by yourself. Need guarding while hacking a terminal? That's not going to happen! There is no sense of teamwork whatsoever, which - for a game based around the idea of working together - just doesn't come together at all.
If you've read up on Brink, you'll know that the game uses a movement system called SMART, that essentially allows you to run and jump anywhere by holding the sprint button - a bit like Mirror's Edge crossed with a multiplayer shooter. This system does feel nice to use, and being able to dash out of harm's way is a great feeling.
However, at the same time it simply does not feel like it's used as well as it could be. When we first heard about Brink, we were promised lots of areas where being quick and nimble would be beneficial to the player, as you'd be able to reach areas that other heavier players couldn't. These sections are few and far between, and most of the time it's comparable to being the Heavy or the Scout in Team Fortress 2. The system is definitely not as clever as is made out.
Why the long faces?
One final but meaty gripe - what are those character models about? The tall, long faces look like they've been modelled on a stable full of horses, and give the impression that the game is in fact going to be a little comedic - indeed, we went into it expecting a few jokes and perhaps even a Timesplitters-esque feel. Brink, however, is completely serious, and takes itself seriously too. Yes, even those characters.
It's fair to say that a lot of thought has clearly gone into the development of Brink, but perhaps not all in the right areas. We really wanted to like it, as there are clearly some nice ideas here, but ultimately the game is far too messy to recommend. One to watch out for in the inevitable Steam sales.
The first paragraph of this review has been revised to reflect changes made by a day one patch.
TOP GAME MOMENT
When a game really comes together, and two teams fight to the very end to keep a point.