BRINK review (PS3)

BRINK is one of the weirdest yet most satisfying multiplayer experiences I’ve had in a very long while. It is faithful to the old school multiplayer Quake days yet strives to charm with its post-modern anarchic aesthetic under some basic Orwellian dyes. It’s an odd, odd game to play given it’s not that fleshed out. There’s a small (and I do mean SMALL) campaign and then there’s a handful of multiplayer maps, but the core of BRINK is executed so well you just don’t care half the time.

The game is set in the near future when global warming wipes out humanity (more ludicrous than a zombie apocalypse) and the last remnants retreat to the Arc. It’s a plastic carving in the ocean that houses civilians and security, until supplies all dwindled and a war broke out, leading to two arising factions. The Security took a militaristic stance on things, using 1984 as a guidebook, whereas the Resistance wants to escape the borders and go forth into the old world.

There’s a giant plothole that I’ve been wanting to find out more about and it never comes to be resolved. Why doesn't the Security get rid of the Resistance? Why not let them go? If they’re being such a drain on your resources, why not just let them escape? It’s something that’s never discussed and is thrown out of the way. The idea of multiplayer with actual context was addressed with the meta-game that is still growing with Team Fortress 2, but it just doesn’t fit BRINK given the hyperbolic story.

The weighty gunplay feels solid and that’s what counts. The guns can be customised to the nth degree along with your character which can actually cause problems when you’re trying to identify what class is coming down the hall. Team Fortress 2 did this well with silhouettes allowing you to identify character classes, but BRINK may not even need this identification element of play.

It brands itself as a class-based multiplayer shooter but, generally, all of the classes mix together with the same weapon set and general uses. You hold your use key at stuff and then shoot stuff. The only mix-up comes about in throwing health boosters or equipment at your team-mates to get XP. There’s no real need for any of the classes and it feels odd that the subsequent abilities themselves require you to play a class for a long, long time, except that’s impossible.

BRINK way too often asks you to switch classes to carry out the "next wave" objective to accomplish each match. It doesn’t feel right and I’ve always been the Medic in any class-based game. It feels weird to be asked to get off where I feel comfortable and do annoying, grinding things like hold down the use key and wait for someone to just kill me and then watch as the game slides into snail-paced combat.

It’s such a shame, too, because the idea of one giant XP pool of single-player/multiplayer is something I’ve argued that the industry needs to wise-up on and realise if games (especially single-player) are to survive, they need to enter a social environment or purpose. Halo Reach did this beautifully and it feels like one connected web of an experience, but with BRINK it instead feels so loosely tied together and there’s not enough effort paid to the story or the general aesthetic of cel-shaded-meets-hardcore photo-realistic gameplay.

It’s a disappointment to see that BRINK is just a well-connected mess at the end of the day. The gunplay is weighty and fun, the movement system reminds me of Mirror’s Edge (albeit kinda flimsy and useless at times), but the game’s attempts at story and other important elements that drive home its single-player = multiplayer ethos all boil down to failures. This is a ballsy experiment of a game and, if the price is right, it is perhaps worth your time just for the gunplay alone.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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