Set in a nearby future, Brink attempts to do something different with multiplayer gaming by focusing on free-running and parkour. With some good ideas, Brink borders on fun, but its repetition and lack of depth keep it from being a real contender.
Brink is set atop a floating city called The Ark that has been isolated for over twenty years. A bastion for surviving humans, the Ark is split into two zones, one guarded by security forces, the other by rebels. Brink immediately asks you to choose a side, but, you can take your persistent character through both sides of the bland story, making it pointless. In fact, during character creation, the only permanent choice is a character's facial appearance and their tattoos. Beyond that, you can change your size, look, weapons, class, and faction on a whim. This makes starting multiple characters almost irrelevant, except that experience maxes out at level 20.
There are four classes in Brink, but there's a disappointing lack of definition between them. Due to the nature of Brink's maps, classes require constant changing. One objective might need repairs from an Engineer, while another might have a Medic heal a VIP. But classes don't really play differently. I was often confused when I couldn't drop a turret only to remember I was a Soldier, a class with a different set of skills. There's not much of a chance to pick and master a favorite class.
Brink's one shining aspect is SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain). Using SMART, holding a single button lets you navigate up walls, over obstacles, and through the game world. Depending on your body size, you can do more or less with movement, but overall this finesse is fantastic. Nothing in Brink feels quite as good as sliding under gunfire into someone, taking them out with a shotgun.
However, it's easy to forget which size your character is in first-person perspective, as movement abilities don't change dramatically. While the Large size allows miniguns and shotguns, they still move only slightly slower than the Medium size. Only Small characters can really burst through levels, leaping off of walls and finding clever passageways.
Brink offers 50 skills to unlock, but only 20 are assigned to a specific character. While some high-level skills can really augment how the game is played, such as the Cortex Bomb or firing while incapacitated, a first level player can generally compete with a twentieth level player if they know FPS games. No skill choice is set in stone, so the ability to reassign points at any given time is available.
Brink gives experience upon completing objectives, killing enemies, and helping the team. There is no incentive to become a lone wolf -- there are more points for reviving a teammate than going it alone. Brink's lack of stat tracking is glaring, though. As of this writing, the "Online Stats" option is grayed-out in the menu.
While Brink's campaign explains both sides of story, the missions don't need to be played in order. Brink's entire campaign can be played solo or online. Any gaps in a match's player count are filled in with bots, which can't really compete with the real thing. The AI always makes a full team push to their objective at the last second, so you always know where to be.
With private servers and more customization than on Xbox 360, Brink feels at home on the PC. Using a comprehensive search function, hundreds of options pop up to show exactly what game type, and which rules, a match has. In addition to this search prowess, PC offers up full control over match rules including friendly fire, buffs, and player count. The Xbox version lacks this fine-tuning ability that can help ease a player into the right kind of match.
You can jump sides at any point outside of a mission, and even general multiplayer just presents the same set of missions, shuffled like a deck of cards. Cut-scenes vaguely indicate a reason to fight. Each faction has a leader and a goal, but neither is very interesting, and the player merely shows up as a background character as other NPCs discuss mission plans and story details.
There are eight maps in Brink, and depending on the faction, the goals are slightly different. Teams either place explosives, hack devices, escort a VIP, or operate machinery on one side, or simply do the opposite for the other faction. Unfortunately, there are only so many ways to tackle these same objectives time and time again on a small number of maps.
Brink's objectives are repetitive, but the level design is better. Because different sizes of characters allow access to different areas, discovering the full breadth of a map will take quite a while. But again, since objective locations never change, I realized there are a finite number of ways to get things done, and grew weary of certain maps. With a game dedicated to the online experience, there truly needs to be more content in this department.
Time plays a huge factor in every match of Brink. While a bomb timer makes sense, there are some truly odd design choices based on an arbitrary ticking clock. For example, when one team needs to save a VIP, the other team's job is to stop them. But when downing the VIP, the team must guard the body lying on the ground for up to ten minutes, just keeping the enemy at bay and waiting for the clock to run out like it's the end of their shift. The waiting is frustrating, especially when dominating a match or if stuck helplessly battling a talented team.
At least the visual design of the overall package looks cool. Brink's elongated characters have a style all their own and leveling up unlocks new clothing options. In the menus, the solid character models and appearance choices look fantastic. Characters also appear cleanly in both cut-scenes and in-game, but throughout the game the backgrounds don't hold up to the characters. Certain textures delay while loading, so they pop into focus throughout playing. The walls and ground look bland up close, but this version does not suffer from the murky overtones of its Xbox counterpart.