Have You Played… Brink?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Have You Played isn’t always a recommendation – first and foremost it’s a discussion about a game. And Splash Damage’s team shooter Brink certainly brooks discussion, in this case about the question “what went wrong?” Because it’s not as though the game itself was anything like a disaster, yet still its name seems to get passed around as an example of high-profile failure.

Splash Damage’s second follow-up to the revered Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory strove to have the slickness that its predecessor, the massively ambitious but fiddly Quake Wars, did not. Then it tried to introduce a narrative structure around it, together with a ton of character customisation. I remember early buzz, including when I talked to a group of RPS readers who’d just played a couple of rounds at EGX, was extremely positive.

So what went wrong?

Truth be told, it was fine. But in a world where we already have both Team Fortress 2 doing the wildly asymetrical classes thing and Call of Duty doing the straight-up shooting thing, perhaps there wasn’t room for something in the middle, parkour or not. It didn’t help that Brink was oddly anodyne given how much work had clearly gone into world-building, and that its body mass-based equipment system resulted in seemingly arbitrary and confusing load-out choices. That publisher Bethesda seemed to drop it like a hot potato, with no patches or add-ons until months after release, perhaps sealed its fate.

I guess I just feel sorry for Brink. It made its mistakes and it most definitely didn’t live up to its own hype, but it had a solid core, and I never like to see ‘good but flawed’ devolve into ‘disaster!’ in internet discussion.

62 Comments

  1. lowprices says:

    I have a great deal of affection for Brink. I loved the setting, which seemed a good deal more interesting than most sci-fi shooters because it was spinning off of real life issues rather than just “Space Monsters attack”, but the team multiplayer shooter side just didn’t grab me. If anyone wanted to make a guns’n’conversations game a la Deus Ex set in that world, I be the first in line.

  2. Elliot Lannigan says:

    I always loved the aesthetic but I was not in a position to be playing multiplayer PC games when it came out so I never ended up playing it.

  3. Bobtree says:

    Way to recommend a dead multiplayer game RPS.

    I liked Brink, despite the jankiness and launch issues and unlock grinding. Quake Wars 2 would rock, but Dirty Bomb is disappointingly minimal. Overwatch is the apparent successor to Splash Damage’s class/objective shooter heritage, IMHO.

    • drhazard says:

      The first line of the post!

    • Perjoss says:

      This is a regular feature called ‘Have you Played?’, not ‘You Should Play’

      • Bobtree says:

        “Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations.”

        • bjohndooh says:

          Have You Played isn’t always a recommendation – first and foremost it’s a discussion about a game.

          It’s literally in the next line.

  4. Vandelay says:

    Brink had many great elements, but was hampered by some fundamentals being completely wrong. Firstly, before you even are in a game, the unlock/customisation system was at odds with the style of game. There was a class or two that literally had nothing unique they could do before leveling up once or twice! This should have been ditched straightaway, with all customisation outside of cosmetics being available from the start (I’m sure me and most people on this site would say the same about all multiplayer games though.)

    Secondly, they decided to go with a low player count of, if I recall, 6 players per team. I’m all for having player counts match the game and I do not believe that big numbers automatically make a game better, but the lower player count combined with the attempt to have maps with multiple mini-objectives just did not work. 2 or 3 people going off to try and open up another path would generally make your team lose at a chokepoint. This meant that fighting pretty much always centred around the chokepoints, meaning defenders always had the upper hand. The maps needed to be wider and designed around more players, say about 10-12 per team.

    It was such a disappointment, as everything else was really great. There was actually a time to kill, instead of most modern multiplayer fps where the person who shoots first wins; the parkour worked really nicely to allow you to traverse in different ways (maps with more options would of helped this further though); the art style was really unique and the world was very well realised. It was a shame that it had to die, as the game could have been improved with reworked customisation options and more maps.

    I remember this came out around the same time as Section 8: Prejudice, a very different multiplayer fps that similarly died far too soon. I think Section 8 was a better game overall, but both deserved better.

    • Tacroy says:

      Section 8 committed the seppuku of all small multiplayer games – they released a paid map pack.

      • KDR_11k says:

        It used the old server browser approach, as a result people simply ignored the new maps because everybody was playing on the servers running the stock maps.

    • airtekh says:

      I remember having a few games of S8P with a fledgling RPS group. Sad that it never took off, it was an interesting game.

      S8P was unfortunate enough to be saddled with Games for Windows Live, which wouldn’t have helped matters.

      • Napalm Sushi says:

        Issues with GFWL were the literal sole reason that Section 8 didn’t take off among my gaming group. The cost of that piece of noxious malware to the titles enslaved to it can never be understated.

        • pekingduckman says:

          Section 8 worked fine, along with other GFWL games like Halo 2 and Gears of War. Most of the accusations against GFWL were simply hearsays, or nitpicks about how it’s not Steam.

          • Napalm Sushi says:

            That was what I thought until I tried to get a group of people playing a game that used it.

      • KDR_11k says:

        I still don’t understand why devs used that POS…

        • C0llic says:

          There would have been a monetary incentive offered (not necessarily them being paid, but a lower cost for the infastructre), that as a smaller dev team they ended up trying to take advantage of.

          Sadly, a very poor decision though. Thank god GFWL has finally died the death it so greatly deserved.

  5. w0bbl3r says:

    Very good game, died because it launched in an extremely buggy state and wasn’t fixed in time.
    It was patched up to working order, but by the time it had gotten there the vast majority of people had moved on. Since it was only a very good game, and not a great game, it didn’t have the power to keep people around waiting for it to be fixed up properly.
    Such a shame. If people had hung around it would have gotten more patches, more content, more post-release love from the devs, and then it might have ended up being a great game.
    Not being a great game at launch killed it, because it was also very buggy in many different ways.

    • Tacroy says:

      yeah in a lot of ways it was a harbinger of things to come; it’s one of the first games I remember seeing people rage about the release state. These days loads like Battlefield 4 and AssCreed Unity can drop without more than the standard tutting.

      • Cronstintein says:

        Hmm I’m not sure I’d call the reaction to BF4 ‘standard’. It was a pretty big kerfluffle at the time that I think actually managed to damage sales. It dominated the discussion on that game for the entire year post-release and even altered their DLC release schedule.

        • Unclepauly says:

          Yeah BF4 was a huge deal with armies of people ranting on the boards

    • Snargelfargen says:

      What a shame. I remember seeing the number of players trickle down steadily. Still it was my favourite chillout game for 3 months or so.

  6. fuggles says:

    The first line of the post says that have you played is a series of recommendations etc.

    The second paragraph about brink specifically then contradicts it – hat must he where the confusion lies .

  7. airtekh says:

    I tried playing Brink, but my PC at the time refused to run it without some kind of fatal crash. There was some conflict with AMD video cards that was never fixed by the dev team.
    A shame really, since I know it’s a game I would have got some enjoyment out of.

    Still, Splash Damage are continuing the Wolfenstein ET legacy though with Dirty Bomb, which is shaping up quite nicely.

    • Vandelay says:

      Except they haven’t learnt from the impact unlocks had on gameplay. In fact they have gone one step worse and added a pay wall. Dirty Bomb is crying out for a Smite style of f2p model, as the main game is very nice.

      • wyrm4701 says:

        Yeah, I was surprised that they doubled down on unlocks with Dirty Bomb. One of the most frustrating decisions of Brink was locking core abilities behind tedious grinding (not to mention the cosmetics). DB isn’t bad, but I’m not going to grind just to play as the sniper character. It’s a complete waste of time, and warps any chance of proper competitive play.

        Also, DB needs Brink-style parkour, as the current ‘sorta-walljump’ option is just weak and embarassin’.

  8. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Endless character customization doesn’t count for much when most of the promotional images show character designs that revolve around playing a grunty uncharismatic pinhead.

  9. Psychomorph says:

    Way too young, I like them old and granny.

  10. El_MUERkO says:

    Brink is a stain on gamings history, an unfinished buggy mess, released alongside some very, VERY questionable review scores and promptly forgotten about by the developers. One of the few games I feel utterly robbed for purchasing.

  11. EvaUnit02 says:

    Oh come on RPS. You’re doing nobody any favours by recommending MP focused games with long dead playerbases.

  12. wyrm4701 says:

    What went wrong? Right off the bat, the sixty-dollar price tag for a multiplayer FPS hampered by buggy netcode and terrible bots didn’t engender much goodwill. And yet I still really liked it, or at least, the parts of it that worked. The parkour and body-mass options were great, and I’d like to see more games incorporate that. I’d also like to see more of the Ark (Arc?), as they somehow attached a really compelling world onto a game with only a handful of maps.

    My guess is that Bethesda tried to release one-third of a game at full price, intending to sell the rest as DLC. When the first bit didn’t meet sales expectations, it (and Splash Damage) got quietly abandoned. I feel sorry for it, too, because everything about it was great, except for the part where it never got quite finished.

  13. rocketman71 says:

    What went wrong was that they released an unplayable beta, but they had the cheek to release it two weeks early saying that it was ready. BS.

    Also, no LAN support and no public server files at a (happier) time when companies cared about their players and released them.

    And many broken promises.

    It was the last time I preordered a game. Never again.

  14. int says:

    In case anyone is interested in seeing what a real life version of a Brink character looks like: link to imdb.com

  15. Artificial says:

    Tried it during a free weekend on Steam and thought it was rubbish. Everything you could do was just buried in a maze of menu’s and during the first game I played it wasn’t even that clear if I was playing against real players or bots or what the hell was going on so I gave up and never played it again.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I enjoyed the free weekend enough, but I’d also finished all the content within the game within those two days, the bots were beyond awful, it didn’t feel like it had the replayability (or playerbase) of good ol’ W:ET, and it was some ridiculously nontrivial price for so little game. So it ended up as a kind of likable game it would have been completely crazy to buy. :/

  16. FussyBadger says:

    I really enjoyed Brink – though I know I’m in the minority. It was a mess on release and quickly players left, but it was still a lot of fun and a great break from the norm. Splash Damage gets what I love about shooters, so I’m really digging Dirty Bomb.

    • jezcentral says:

      Agreed. The bots weren’t up to much, but it went down very well at the next LAN party I went to, with others to play with, and I logged about 20 hours of it that weekend.

  17. Raquel says:

    Brink was terrible, Dirty Bomb is much better.

  18. Oak says:

    Jim wrote an href=”http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/05/17/disposable-worlds-and-imagining-brink-2/” title=”excellent piece”> at the time that highlighted what now makes Brink – which I loved, warts and all – a bittersweet memory: it introduced us to this vivid, thoughtfully-constructed world, a colorful and atypical failed utopia, and kept it at arm’s length. Even if story-driven single-player weren’t completely outside Splash Damage’s wheelhouse, the game’s reputation alone would mean we’re probably never going to see another game set on the Ark.

    It’s funny how Dirty Bomb, Brink’s spritual second cousin, takes the opposite tack. The specifics of the setting, missions, motivations, et al are deliberately vague and presented with kind of a smirk. Like the in-game mercs, you’re presumably not expected to care too much about what you’re doing or who’s paying you to do it.

  19. bramble says:

    Anyone else have fond memories of Quake Wars? Maybe I just didn’t know any better back then, but it was without a doubt my favorite multiplayer FPS for years. When the community started dying off and Brink was announced, I was really interested and I think even pre-ordered.

    I bounced off pretty quick. The parkour didn’t make sense, the bugs were annoying, the story was distracting, and I just stopped logging in after a week. Still waiting for the next “Quake Wars”…

    • Beefsurgeon says:

      ET:QW is the most fun I’ve ever had in a multiplayer game.

  20. Bweahns says:

    I was looking forward to this game due to all the pre-release hype. I then read reviews and it sounded incredibly bland. I gave it a try when it had a free weekend on steam. It was incredibly bland. The whole parkour thing was exceedingly lame and superfluous. The combat and objectives were by the book first person shooter grist.
    Enemy Territory for Q3 was a fantastic mod that I played an awful lot of. I hadn’t played anything like it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  21. KDR_11k says:

    I got it after it ceased being a technical mess so I didn’t get burnt by that particular problem, instead I disliked the core gameplay…

    First off, I don’t really like game types where one team has to run down the clock, that just feels too passive. Doesn’t help that stopwatch isn’t the main game mode (UT’s Assault was always alternating roles and seeing who did it faster), I’m not sure that all maps were perfectly balanced between attacker and defender.

    Then there’s the terrible class system. Classes aren’t a problem by themselves but Brink required you to invest skill points into their specific abilities to be of any real use with those classes and yet you were expected to switch between all classes as the mission demanded it. So depending on what the mission required at that stage you might be nearly useless or very powerful.

    Class specific objectives are a bad idea (especially when players are encouraged to favor one or two classes) and I think they abandoned those in Dirty Bomb. The difficulty really wavered depending on how useful the attacking and defending class were. Worst were hacking objectives where the attackers had to use the spy class (which isn’t one that works well when most of the team uses it…), the objective prevented anyone helping with it from shooting and the defenders just had to use engineers, who with their turrets and mines were already perfect for defense. Plus it’s one of the objectives where defenders can undo the progress of the attackers. Just felt awful…

    Also I wasn’t a fan of having only one active primary objective in a 16 (or was it more?) player match, that made it feel like a huge mess with everybody storming one point instead of dispersing across multiple objectives and having smaller skirmishes where your contribution feels more meaningful.

    As a side note the weapon customization didn’t feel very useful either, could have used some of Payday’s gameyness where attachments have effects they would never do IRL but give you a more interesting choice.

    No, I didn’t play it with an organized group. If that’s required for fun then maybe it shouldn’t have been marketed at the masses.

  22. Zach Fett says:

    I really liked Brink, the parkour system felt great and really helped it from feeling generic. The devs screwed up with Dirty Bomb by not bringing back that parkour, and all you’ve got left is just a “meh” feeling multiplayer shooter.

    I played Brink when everyone else had already gave up on it, so for the most part I had to deal with the bots, which were just awful. It always felt like your teammates were dumber than bricks while the enemy team was constantly on your ass. I still had a lot of fun with it, though. Jumping around the maps, finding shortcuts, and the solid gunplay all worked well together. Wish we could’ve seen a sequel.

  23. Dodj33 says:

    A recommendation is a suggestion as to the best course of action. So it doesn’t have to mean that its a positive recommendation. p.s I think its great to have ‘dead’ multiplayer games on the list to give them a chance to be resurrected

  24. Bull0 says:

    To be honest I think of this as an enthusiast site and Brink is a game with some interesting characteristics that was broadly overlooked, so recommending people play it if they haven’t already to inform their understanding of modern games makes perfect sense. I have no problem with this at all.

  25. somnolentsurfer says:

    So, the feeling I’m getting from this comments thread is that it would be a waste of £2.49?

    I always thought it looked interesting but never got around to trying it…

  26. Chirez says:

    I really liked Brink, to the point where I was playing it long after most everyone else had stopped. I remember my last match ended up being me alone on a map, until some poor bugger joined on the opposing side and I spent the next fifteen minutes hunting him down over and over.

    The thing is, I generally despise multiplayer fps, the lightning reflexes, the pixel perfect accuracy, the horrific speed you have to play at in order to compete. It all means I would never consider playing something like Counterstrike, and I managed only a few rounds of TF2 before walking away without looking back.

    I have generally believed that this is why Brink failed. It was a much more cerebral affair than shooters have traditionally been. The weapons were inaccurate, the movement fluid but slow. Winning depended not on being the fastest gun in the west, but on being in the right place at the right time, with several teammates doing the same.

    In discussions I have had with the people who do play twitch mp fps games, it has been exactly those aspects of the game which appealed to me which are cited as the reasons it failed. Brink was a game made for players who don’t like traditional shooters, I just think it never found its audience.

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  28. Hypocee says:

    I still love and mourn Brink. Quite aside from the beautiful, sun-blasted Ark as a setting, at the meta level it tried to do so much for players. The SMART system removing hassle and putting fun and mild challenge into movement for people who aren’t willing to treat themselves as a spherical gun particle; the fully and carefully populated character voice tree, making it that rare multiplayer shooter that didn’t require you to talk to monsters; shaping behaviors, like characters automatically saying ‘thanks’ for help; racial and ethnic (though not gender) diversity.

    I think it got some bum luck to be such a flop as it was on PC, but it would never have been a big success. Multi-only going up against TF2, Splash Damage’s trademark affectless design-by-spreadsheet grindathon… It’s beyond forgotten into a watchword for failure, though, because of the console versions. The PC version was crashy and janky. The console versions were awful. In particular the 360 version, i.e. the console anybody bought in that generation, was a comical mess of multi-minute load times, disappearing textures, and crashes on console where that’s not allowed. Splash Damage intended to prove with Brink that they were capable of taking their designs outside the PC simultaneously with development. They proved the exact opposite long, hard and loud.

    Like others above, I also loved Section 8 at about the same time. That one GFWLed itself to death plain and simple – my brother and I were among those who couldn’t play launch weekend because their DRM servers went down, after hours and hours and hours of trying to get GFWL into a working version of some shitty little file that had gone wrong on my brother’s machine. With its smart and VIP bots and omnipresent vehicle capability (S8) and parkour, small teams and colour (Brink) I view Titanfall as an amalgam of the two done right. But then, that didn’t exactly set the world on fire either, did it. It’s almost like most people want either cerebral singleplayer or co-op games or grindy casino circleshoots they can play between bong rips and nothing in between. I think the industry’s finally figured that out.

  29. tonicer says:

    I play BRINK from time to time with a buddy and bots (which are not that bad) just like i used to play section 8 and prejudice (both have solid bots to allow singleplayer action or small human teams) but when you start to know all maps and especially the navmesh of the bots it gets boring.

    I wish Battlefield 4 had bots … i can’t really play it online since my ISP thinks a 150+ ms ping is fine.

    I am old enough to remember the fun me and my friends used to have on our private little 2-8 person LAN’s with Battlefield 1942/2/2143 and Enemy Territories: Quake Wars which all had solid bots.

  30. Scumbag says:

    As much as it would be me sticking my head on the block for it to be cut off, I do think this could have worked really well as a F2P title. I’m not huge on the payment method, but I do think it could have kept the playerbase up for a good while longer.

  31. April March says:

    I played it once during a free weekend and thought it was OK. I liked it that if you hated the parkour stuff you could play as Big Muscleman and ignore it. I loved it that I could keep my starting mall cop uniform when playing as Big Muscleman and thus play as Big Fancy Muscleman.

  32. Unsheep says:

    I tried playing it in the single-player but felt the game-design was rather unsuitable for that. A regular, linear, campaign would have worked better.
    Also, I thought the weapons were quite boring. I mean its a sci-fi game, do something creative and unique with the weapons.

    I liked visual design though.

  33. scut says:

    Brink deserves a re-launch as either a solid singleplayer game, or better yet a co-op game. Its production design is so good that I found it perplexing the creators would have put so much effort into the look and feel of things that tend to get lost in the rapid twitchy pace of PvP.