The RPS Verdict: Brink

By RPS on May 13th, 2011 at 12:26 pm.


Brink is here, and we’ve been playing it. We’ve even got some servers up. But what do Alec, Jim, and Quintin actually think about it? Let’s find out.

Jim: Brink then, the long-awaited multiplayer shooter from British devs Splash Damage. Everyone had a bit of a play?

Quintin: I have shot so many men.

Alec: But were they men? Or were they computer-men? (I have also shot so many men.)

Quintin: Perversely, I’ve also brought so many back to their feet! And then watched them get shot again. I’ve been focusing on the Medic class. How about you two?

Alec: I’ve been medic too, for the most part. I think a reasonable number of players feel the same way.

Jim: I have alternated pretty evenly between all the classes, not least because no one seems to go engineer or covert dude when you actually need them for objectives. I feel like even though the game goes to great length to explain its objective-based stuff, you really have to have played each map a couple of times to actually know what’s going on.

Quintin: Especially so in single player, where your allied bots aren’t the brightest.

Jim: Okay let’s explain what single player means. Brink’s single player is not REALLY single player. Instead the game has set up each of the levels as missions within an over-arching campaign, each with its own little story and interstitial cutscenes. That means you play multiplayer maps with bots. If it were being judged as a single player game, we’d say “lovely setting” but er what.

Alec: Yes, this whole ‘mingleplayer’ thing isn’t really true.

Quintin: Right. I expect we’ve spent more time with those bots than most players ever will, what with us getting the game prior to the servers going live.

Alec: I’d really hoped that all the talk about the narrative and it flowing like a singleplayer game was going to lead to something meaty and surprising, but while the cutscenes and the voicework is strong, the nature of the game – winwinwin – means the temptation to simply skip ‘em to get straight into things is almost overwhelming. Which means you do end up treating it as, basically, TF2.

Quintin: Yeah. It’s an odd one. I enjoyed those brief 30 second cutscenes so, so much. I adore the effort they’ve put into amassing voice actors with different accents, to drive home the Ark’s nature as a global safehouse.


Jim: Yes, which feels like a waste of fantastic world. The script and world design is really very strong. I’d like to play a Guns & Conversation game in that world.

Alec: And everyone’s so morally confused, there’s no right answer and all that, but of course once you’ve seen every cutscene once you’ll just skip ‘em from thereon in.

Quintin: That said, have you seen how many audio logs you can unlock? And then you have to listen to them while staring at the main menu?

Alec: There’s a lot of menu stuff I think has gone a bit wrong, especially on pc

Jim: Menu stuff?

Alec: I keep getting chucked all over the place in character customisation; press the wrong Back and it takes you out of the whole thing rather than back to the paper doll so you can change from fiddling with trousers rather than fiddling with beards.

Quintin: I didn’t have too much of a problem with the menu.

Jim: Ah yes, that failure to navigate the beard selection bit is crappy. Also I don’t understand if the filter is just broken in the server browser.

Quintin: The servers- yes.

Alec: It’s got so much going on in terms of UI and menu, but I don’t feel it’s got that ease and slickness it needs despite looking as though it does.

Jim: The character design and customisation is totally fucking brill though, best ever for battle-men.

Alec: Indeed, I can get lost in that.

Quintin: It is. And annoyingly, I peaked very early. I made a topless man covered in bandages and plasters that I really, really liked, and then was happy. I don’t want to cover him in fetish gear and skater jackets and tattoos.

Alec: I do have the serious reservation that you don’t really notice what anyone looks like in game, because it’s a flood of UI elements and tiny people running away. Actually, that bothers me a bit – there’s a bit too much clothing dedicated towards a certain kind of punkery. I’d hope it would be a bit broader in its aesthetic.

Jim: They do appear in cutscenes, actually.


Quintin: And now we’re getting back to this idea of Brink wasting a fantastic world.

Jim: And yes, the world is fantastic. That doesn’t translate to the level design, for some reason.

Alec: Yes, the level design. It’s bewildering corridors with epic backdrops, isn’t it? And there’s a strong, strong need to learn the maps.

Jim: I barely notice the epic backdrops, to be honest. It’s tunnel city.

Quintin: It absolutely is. While the levels all have plenty of paths through them, almost all of those paths are incredibly enclosed.

Jim: And yes, it’s Quake-like in its demands on spatial learning.

Quintin: That has massive repercussions.

Jim: I noticed in the game before last we basically chokepointed the map across two corridors for the last 10 minutes.

Alec: And in its combat. I mean, it’s spawn point hell at times, spawn camp hell, I mean. Totally rewards the hardcore and merciless at the expense of the funtimes player.

Quintin: What? I haven’t encountered spawn camping at all. Unless you mean the enemies blockading the corridor outside of your spawn. Which is really no different to them or you blockading any other corridor.

Alec: The first of the two games we played this morning, my team could not get more than about 10 metres from the spawn. There were two very short corridors pointing into that area, and the other team had them totally locked down. It was just carnage for about 10 minutes.

Quintin: Right. And this is the point I really want to make. We’re finally emerging from that old school shooter design wherein the game is no fun if you’re outclassed. Brink feels like a return to it.

Alec: Clearly a coordinated team could find ways around that, but that sort of thing means it’s just going to feel punishing for the more mainstream player Brink wants.

Jim: Yes, the game feels “hardcore” in its structure, even if the dakka-dakka guns and general combat dynamics are Call-Of-Duty-accessible. As in, I think it will reward very tight teamplay, and probably be less interesting as a public game. (I mean that’s almost ALWAYS true, but specifically here.)

Alec: Yeah, it doesn’t feel like it could break out like TF2. If you’re not in the club already, you probably won’t want to join it.

Jim: I am enjoying the combat though, i have to say. It feels resonable tight when you are chucking around ammo and health between a small group of you. That stuff really works.

Alec: Tell you what, I like the Challenges a lot, and they’re the closest to it being a singleplayer game . It pushes the more interesting systems front and centre. Reminds me a little of Mirror’s Edge, the way the campaign was all kinds of gone-wrong, but the race challenges made it make sense. This, of course, may mean it’s a long-term success. There’s a desire for that, especially what with TF2 becoming so hatty.

Jim: Agreed, the challenges are a neat addition.

Quintin: You know, I was watching TV with the girl last night, and an advert for Brink came on. It looked incredible- people parkour-ing over rusty containers, scrambling all over this beautiful playground. And that’s the game I want to play. I don’t want to be pushed down into gulleys and killzones.

Alec: I was looking at the screenshots I’ve taken vs the screenshots we were sent for previews and things. And it’s just heartbreaking. A mess of text and cramped spaces, not these fantastic looking, exaggerated muscleguys in apple-crisp locales.

Jim: Ah yes, the SMART? How do people feel about that?

Quintin: Very, very happy. It’s great.

Jim: Sliding to dodge gunfire works a treat.


Alec: yeah, I’m good with SMART. I pretty much have it held down all the time.

Quintin: Sliding is great. Learning to use the Agile body type is great. Clambering up obstacles to get to a vantage point is great. My only problem with it is that you can only ever clamber up about six feet.

Jim: And in the game?

Quintin: Shit, are we still talking about Brink?

Alec: Yeah, it feels a bit mathematical, learning which areas you can climb and which are just a bit too high.

Jim: I think the thing that disappoints me most, and it’s a bit of an odd gripe, is that all the weapons (grenades aside) are basically dakka-dakka machinguns. There’s no big thumping plasma weapon, no flamethrower to mix it up.

Alec: there are some shotguns, which I guess come to the fore if you’re defending something.

Jim: It feels oddly like the multiplayer of Kingpin, too, and the flamethrower was what made that sing. And yes, true, there ARE shotguns.

Alec: It’s got that problem of wanting to offer all the unlocks and upgrades in the world, but also fearing that anyone gets too much of an advantage. I wonder if that’s why the weapons are so of a kind.

Quintin: On the subject, the grenades are pathetic. You can be staring at one from seven feet away when it goes off. Unless it’s a flashbang. In which case, yeah, staring is unwise.

Jim: But it despite the diversity of weapons there doesn’t seem to be any diversity.

Quintin: You mentioned Call of Duty before- even CoD has crossbows, rocket launchers, knives.

Alec: Let’s talk about the unlocks and upgrades. I’m quite into that stuff.

Jim: Ah yes, progression. That seems to work really well!

Alec: I’m often a bit sniffy about it, but there’s a good sense of creating my Build rather than simply getting better stuff.

Jim: Although I was annoyed I had to unlock the body types.

Jim: Not sure how quickly I’ll max out levels though. It doesn’t seem like it will take long.

Quintin: I like the progression a lot. I’m also a touch annoyed that you’re not rewarded for specialising quite so much.

Alec: there’s broadly a choice between tactical nitty-gritty and being simply a more robust fighter, which I think works well, me being me, I go for the easy option of more health, more ability supplies.

Quintin: You can happily max out one of the four classes, and if you want to play that class and that class alone, you end up buying stuff you don’t necessarily want.


Alec: It doesn’t want you to specialise, is the thing. If there’s an engineer shortage, it wants you to swallow your medic pride and switch to engineer. I can see why they did it; whether it feels right for the players is a different matter

Quintin: Mm.

Jim: That’s kind of true of all class-based games though, you’ve got to be able to do more than one thing.

Quintin: In terms of closing thoughts, well, we are being negative. It’s a solid shooter. We expected too much, perhaps?

Alec: Yeah, we talked ourselves/were talked into thinking it would be something far beyond a decent team shooter

Quintin: Tell you what is spectacular. The audio.

Alec: It really is a decent team shooter, and in time I reckon we’ll be happier about that. It’s the ever-present problem of hype and expectation, but I think this was critically, critically miss-described to the outside world at important points in its development

Jim: It’s a disappointing game, but not a BAD game, bugs aside, and those will be fixed. I’m enjoying plenty. That said, I am only enjoying it about as much as Section 8 Prejudice, which has a lot more crazy crap going on in it. Brink is JUST men with guns. There’s no vehicles, no getting into a fight with a giant ape bot, and no falling out of the sky. Given that Section 8 is the underdog this month, it’s also $15 and has coherent single player.

Alec: I will happily play it lots, but I will be sighing sadly whenever I remember that the game I thought it would be doesn’t exist Is it Splash Damage’s best game? I know Wolf ET had more impact, but I feel like this is a greater accomplishment in many ways.

Quintin: I don’t know about that, but I like it a lot for it’s intensity.

Jim: Quake Wars was a more interesting game, but this is better designed. What I’ve enjoyed most is in those moments when a team coheres, and you’re charging out together, people leaping over barricades, hurling buffs back and forth, laying down fire. That stuff is magic.

Alec: they’ve made a team shooter that doesn’t feel like a mod, doesn’t feel like COD, that includes a bunch of very complicated elements without being overwhelming. They may not have lived up to all the originally talked of, but that they actually made all this stuff work is pretty impressive.


Jim: It’s not the sum of its promises, no. But also most of the criticisms that surfaced in the initial barrage of 360 reviews are tosh. One was even criticising it for rewarding teamplay, which made little sense. This game cannot be judged on its single-player, because it’s a demanding multiplayer game, and utterly focused on that. Also, I was reading somewhere that RPS would be an apologist for this game, and I’m sorry to have to confirm that dude’s opinions of us, but the point is that Brink is simply a bit disappointing, it is by no means a bad game as some people have attempted to argue. That’s just nonsense. (And if they’re making that judgement based on the 360 version, well, you can imagine my feelings on that.) The bugs are atrocious, the pace of the game is odd, the overall sense is one of it being less than we’d hoped. But it’s still quite something.

Quintin: It does have it’s moments. I was carrying the objective on a map this morning, hunkered down behind some cover with the enemy closing in from one side and my freshly-respawned team-mates sprinting and leaping and clambering towards me from the other direction. It was a perfect race, and in the end they showed up first and we pushed on.

Alec: I’m going to immediately play it again once we’ve finished this chat, I must say. It successfully tunnels you into its purpose, you’re totally involved in your objectives rather than in the scoreboard.

Jim: Yeah, I’ll be on the RPS server, if anyone needs me.

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188 Comments »

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  1. thebigJ_A says:

    How are the bots? I’ve read some really bad things about them, and elsewhere read that they are very good. Which is it?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Moderately bad.

    • laikapants says:

      Both? Sometimes they do have a bit of a staring contest with the air, but I haven’t seen that too often. Mostly, I’ve seen the bots be disturbingly good teamplayers (though in the medic’s case this is sometimes to their detriment) and at least on normal be the equivalent of a below/average-skill range human. Of course, they probably won’t surprise you as much as a human player, but such is life.

    • Nick says:

      They actually act kind of like random players quite often, I didn’t even realise some of them were bots when I was playing for a while.

  2. Milky1985 says:

    Looks like quite a major patch has gone live on steam, one that fixes the text issues for ATI cards, and the AI issues for the bots, looks like this takes the game back up to the 8-9 out of 10 mark again!

  3. alilsneaky says:

    Trying to read an impression of a game in this format is just painful..
    Laughed really hard at quentin comparing this to an oldschool hardcore game btw and about his apparent relief over the direction fps games are moving in.
    No good at cs ut rtcw and quake I guess.

    Also attributing the usual pub ails like spawncamping and chokepoint stalls to a game being difficult or hardcore?
    No decent player on decent servers has to suffer those in any of the oldschool shooters.

    Bad pub player’s opinions away I guess.

    • Torgen says:

      I prefer this format instead of the carefully groomed and massaged “press release” type of reviews, ending with a number that you see elsewhere.

      I do miss the Optimus Prime hands though.

    • Nick says:

      I agree, needs more Optimus thumb. Then again, the downward spiral of every game being scored from 3 thumbs to 4 thumbs would eventually take hold.. hmm.

  4. pinksock says:

    I agreed with most of your points, and the weapons bit specifically. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to go with fictional weaponry, you may as well throw in plasma cannons, rail guns and all sorts of wacky shit.

    However, I’m not really understanding the whole “we wish it was more casual” complaint, and how it’s not fun when you’re outclassed. I can’t think of a shooter that is fun when you’re outclassed. Isn’t it a good thing that the game has a higher skill ceiling, for longevity? CS isn’t exactly the most forgiving to casuals either, but it’s still one of the most played FPS games in the world, so apparently some people must enjoy a challenge.

    On being locked down at a chokepoint for 10 minutes – every map I’ve played so far has had multiple routes, and whenever my team would lock down the opposing side at a chokepoint for 10 minutes, it was because for whatever reason, they refused to explore the alternate route and preferred to simply throw bodies at the chokepoint. Also, a good rule of thumb if you’re locked down somewhere for a long time is to start capturing health and supply command posts – the extra health and supplies goes a very long way.

    I think I’m enjoying this way more than games journalists would let on. It’s exactly what I’d expect from the developer that put out Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      On being locked down at a chokepoint for 10 minutes – every map I’ve played so far has had multiple routes, and whenever my team would lock down the opposing side at a chokepoint for 10 minutes, it was because for whatever reason, they refused to explore the alternate route and preferred to simply throw bodies at the chokepoint. Also, a good rule of thumb if you’re locked down somewhere for a long time is to start capturing health and supply command posts – the extra health and supplies goes a very long way.

      I couldn’t agree more. This feels a lot like Enemy Territory. The maps are similar in design, having central spawn points, However, in ET:QW you would sometimes have to lemming your way through a choke point. This is completely alleviated in Brink. Every match I’ve been in where we choked them or my team was choked, it was because of a lack of exploration and deviation of attack. Sun Tzu would not be proud.

      Also, having two different teams attack from different flanks can do wonders to annihilate a team. That’s what the whole “Fireteam” thing is for. Setting up squads within your team. You can also choose to chat or VOIP to just your fireteam or to your entire team, to make it so that squad-specific chatter doesn’t confuse others.

    • subedii says:

      Yeah but Sun Tzu would’ve just beaten the crap out of them all with his BARE hands.

  5. Glycerine says:

    Everything i read makes it sounds more and more like QuakeWars in tunnels with parkour. Honestly…that sounds pretty damned appealing! Although it also sounds like a bit more of QuakeWars’s outdoor-y building/debris-strewn landscaping wouldn’t have gone amiss.

    …and Strogg. Every game is better for a bit of Strogg. OI NEED STROYENT!

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Everything i read makes it sounds more and more like QuakeWars in tunnels with parkour.

      Basically. If that doesn’t bother you, then I’d say you’d probably enjoy Brink. That’s what I was expecting, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Brink. It does have some issues, and I think there’s some areas where it just doesn’t seem as strong as it could/can be. However, with free DLC coming, slated for June and giving more guns and maps, I think we might see Brink really blossom into it’s full potential.

      I think one of the things that has people moping about Brink is, where it didn’t live up to their expectations, people seem to act like this is what Brink is, and this is how the game will stay. However, look at TF2. That game really came into its own, for better or worse, and is lightyears what it once was, but still retains the same fun that it always had. The TF2 team took a good idea and continued to make it better. I’m hoping the same will happen with Brink.

      ET:QW was a great game that could have gone on to be something much more, but I feel that Activision didn’t see stellar initial sales and so they pulled the plug on map packs and expansions. Thankfully, Bethesda isn’t like that. I’m sure they want to see Brink sell, and I’m sure they know that providing SD with a little wiggle room to branch out their product can be a good thing for long-term sales and developing a strong product line.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Napalm Sushi says:

    If ever there was a game that demonstrates the utter futility of numerical review scores, this is most assuredly it.

    Does it have flaws? Undeniably. Will the patience and adjustment required to engage with it be too much for a lot of gamers, who’ll give up on it after a day? Definately. Are those of us who “get” it and have managed to crest that horizon enjoying it? Loads.

    It’s fairly clear at this point that Brink is headed straight for the status of cult classic.

  7. Sunjammer says:

    Caved and bough it. Wish I hadn’t.
    Why RPS and Eurogamer have decided to be ye olde Brink fan club I will never understand. It’s clearly, vividly not an 8/10, if you have a moment to look past its lovely design ideas. It presents such a list of things that you could imagine would make for a great experience, but shit gets unbearably frustrating for a ton of balance reasons. Weapons are all pitifully ineffective (what ARE those grenades? I know why they did it this way, but it just doesn’t work), the parkour stuff is cool but beyond the slide it goes nowhere, and none of the unlocks feel like they make a notable difference. Honestly, the single worst thing about it is, ironically, that for all the talk about customizing your character, no character feels different, and no class feels different. It’s so hopelessly gamey.

    It’s just a heap of cool ideas and they don’t fit together. For 50 euros this was a painful purchase. I’m disappointed. I’m going back to Bad Company 2 for now.

    • pinksock says:

      The weapons are fine. You just can’t kill people by spraying and praying with two stray bullets (unless they’re both headshots). A few rounds need to actually go into the enemy beyond pure luck or simply seeing them first. It was designed to feel like older shooters where you actually had health and gun fights didn’t end within a moment after spotting someone. As for the grenades, I’ve been finding them incredibly useful. It’s true that they don’t do that much up-front damage, but they do force people to panic and move, and if they get caught in the blast, it knocks them down for a second or two, and that’s invaluable for breaking up enemy fire.

      As for the parkour stuff – have you played the Light build yet? You get so many more options for moving around a map and ambushing (like, entirely new paths open for you). The Medium build benefits moderately from it (mostly just vaulting and climbing some stuff that the Heavy can’t), but it’s the Light that it really changes the game for.

      The unlocks aren’t supposed to be utterly game changing. That said, the Bulpdaun is a challenge mode unlock and pretty much a mainstay for me in both my Light and Medium builds. The close to zero recoil makes it excellent.

      The classes don’t feel radically different at first because guns are based on build rather than class. However, once you start investing heavily in a class’s abilities, you’ll find that they play rather differently because the abilities are powerful and varied in usage. As a Medic, I can throw Adrenaline Boost on a Heavy soldier buddy with a minigun and watch him mow down an entire room without taking damage, throw a Speed Boost on a Light carrying a data key or revive half my team that just got themselves killed with a single Lazarus Grenade. As an Engineer, throw down a heavy sentry turret and hold down a chokepoint with just a Medic if I’m good at placement. Soldiers get flashbangs and molotovs, which are excellent for clearing out crowds, and Operatives are all about sneaking around and taking stuff under the enemy’s nose, while revealing enemies on the radar and catching other disguised Operatives.

      The character customization is pretty bare (like 12 choices per category or something, and a few color options per piece), but it’s not like other FPS games give you more, and the options you get are generally pretty rad looking.

      The game’s definitely not for everyone, but I think it does what it set out to do rather well. It’s meant to be a more modern take on games like Wolfenstein: ET, not a COD or BF clone.

  8. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    Yeah I hate when I’m fiddling with trousers… and find myself pressing the wrong back.

  9. Newt says:

    :rant

    So lets get this straight.. Two of the most lauded games in the PC shooter world (Q3 and UT) spawn SS which we adore. No-one touches the genre for years since mindless kill fests are still covered by those games. Still Serious Sam servers up for both games, servers for multiple mods of Quake, UT servers are still around. Hell, saw a Quake 1 server the other day.

    Then some company thinks, how about we do something totally different.. Lets make a Q3 game that is as original as we can make it, as customisable as we can make it, and as unique as we can make it.

    NO GALS!! GTFO OUT OF HERE YOU CHAUVINISTIC BASTARDS!!

    Seriously, get fucked. The game is the best mix of team play and mindless fun that’s come out in a long while. To the point where if you don’t play as a team you die a horrible, horrible death, but playing as a team still lets you rack up a nice amount of kills. That isn’t a bad thing, and we’re PC gamers, we are more than capable of playing as a team instead of that stupid console mentality where it’s “Fk team, moar kills, MOAR KILLS!”. Playing as a team doesn’t mean you can’t kill people, far from it. You can go medic and chuck someone a syringe and keep gettin’ kills while your teammate rezzes themselves and gives you points for it. You can go engineer, whack a turret down and keep shooting away while your turret gets even more points for you.

    I accept that not having females in the game makes it slightly disappointing if your idea of cool is this punk chick with tatts, a bandanna and a scar down the side of her face. But given they couldn’t even get the networking code on the X360 going properly, and it had some pretty annoying bugs on release date, I’m going to go out on a limb and say somebody rushed it. Now, I’m with everyone else in saying I can’t wait to put the butt of a rifle through a gals face in the name of equality, and “shooting a load” jokes will be the only thing you’ll be able to hear for a full month when it finally comes out. Just ’cause we can play as a team, be inventive and pull shit off that the devs can’t doesn’t mean we’re mature.

    However, in the meantime, enjoy the game for being a solid team based shooter that’s pretty out there in terms of what it can do. I know, I know, we can’t play like Assassins Creed or Mirrors Edge, but no FPS I can think of does that either so you know. The devs seem reasonably apologetic for not letting us make extremely sexist jokes and harass all everyone in a female skin so DLC should be on its way. First DLC (which looks massive) is already free, convincing them that releasing females free also wouldn’t be too hard, especially if you say that instead of just calling them sexist fucks.

    So relax, accept that the devs are actually listening to you, accept that this isn’t Mirrors Edge (which is pretty good, I like not dying randomly because the floor dropped out from under me), accept that you need to work as a team and enjoy the game. Figure out how the classes work, watch the world around you (remember how in Q3/UT you had to know what was going on beside you, behind you, where a ramp was to get out quickly and all that? Yea, Brink is like that but easier), level your classes, so when females come out you can go straight into your dream gal. ( ^ ^ ) And you know, just have fun.

    Be cooler if Aussies weren’t paying out a small fortune for it, but at least one DLC is free so that saves a bit.

    /rant

    Also, I think I just broke the comment parameters. All in the name of rant? :D
    ‘hides from mods’