There's an old joke about shooters: "No one plays the campaign." Everybody just skips ahead to the multiplayer. So why should developers even include that pesky story mode? Why not just build a few obstacle courses, add in character-appearance customization, and weave in a little addictive leveling-up to keep players hooked?
That's what Brink seems to be going for, but the game doesn't commit. There's still story here — but barely. There's a thin pretext for why there are a bunch of men running around a concrete city shooting each other in well-rounded groups of eight-on-eight, but don't kid yourself. This is just Counter-Strike with longer matches.
In the campaign, you'll play on an AI team against an AI team. Unlike real people, these robots seem indifferent about completing missions and laying down cover fire. The opposing team is clueless, too, until the last minute before the clock runs out when they transform into unstoppable headshot machines. Even if you play the campaign co-op with a friend, one other human companion in robot hell isn't enough to salvage the game. Go ahead. Just skip to the multiplayer.
|HOT TIP The Light body type will make you the fastest runner, but your character won’t be able to carry the heavy weapons you’ll need if you hope to stand a fighting chance.|
Playing an online team-based shooter can feel, at times, like a race to the highest kill count. But Brink is no Halo; if you go it alone and try to play hero, you'll die. Stick with your team so you can all throw weapon buffs, healing packs, or ammo at each other. The game has four complementary character classes: soldier, medic, operative, and engineer. This Left 4 Dead– or Team Fortress 2–esque teamwork emphasis is the game's best work, but Brink can't keep up with TF2 and L4D elsewhere. For example, Brink's operative class falls short compared to TF2's spy; one hit from the opposing team and your disguise disappears. Meanwhile, the soldier's grenades are too weak and too slow. The medic and the engineer end up being unbalanced powerhouses, since the medic can heal himself (and others), and the engineer can build turrets.
Brink doesn't even have female skins, a low blow considering the customization available to the men. Splash Damage's excuse? Not enough development time. Nor enough time to create a story mode beyond the same collection of maps and missions as exists in multiplayer, except with lackluster bots instead of people. Nor time to program some split-screen co-op. Nor time to fix any of the game's huge programming bugs. The game occasionally crashes in the middle of a mission, boots co-op partners out of the blue, or skips frames and slows down until aiming becomes impossible, forcing you to restart. The game's released a few bug patches, but huge problems remain.
Perhaps the development team should have spent less time designing the impressive array of men's outfits or wrestling with AI programming, and instead focused on tightening up the online multiplayer, since that's the only part of the game with promise. Unfortunately, uneven character classes and buggy gameplay leave that promise unfulfilled. Perhaps Brink needed another year in the can.