When I read reviews, I am often skeptical. There have been some games that I have loved, but received terrible reviews (Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix, ’nuff said). Unfortunately, however, the critics are spot-on with Bethesda and Splash Damage’s latest game, Brink.
Set on a floating mega-city called The Ark – a place of refuge following the flooding of the Earth – Brink is a game where you can play as either a member of the Ark Security Forces, or the Resistance forces as your side (you have to pick one or the other) works to swing the arm of control within The Ark. Though suggestive of having a great deal of depth, the rigid story line seems to only vary depending on which side you pick. None of your battles affect the story, other than ending it and forcing you to repeat the level.
As you go through the story, there are a series of missions for you to undertake where you’re either defending something for a period of time or trying to overwhelm a defender (you know, the standard set of objectives for missions). However, I found it remarkably difficult to keep up with everything that was going on in the game as far as the story went. At first I thought that it was a lack of clarity in the game telling me what was going on – and there is plenty of that – but I’ve come to the conclusion that the bigger problem is, there’s too much going on simultaneously; it’s cluttered. You’re trying to find your way through the map and you find yourself with enemies on two sides, then your commanding officer tells you that you need to get back and defend the objective, and then someone tells you they need you to use your class power, then your commanding officer tells you the objective has been lost and to reclaim it. It’s an overwhelming amount of stuff going on all at once.
Adding insult to injury, the missions themselves often had a very nonsensical feel to them, leaving you wishing clarity or at least the ability to understand why things were the way they were. In the first mission as a Revolutionary, for example, you are tasked with defending a door. This door appears to block absolutely nothing. You can actually stand on one side of the door, then duck under some ducting and find yourself on the other side of the door, and the door is still intact and you did not open it. Then, if you fail in that – which I always seem to – you are tasked with preventing an informant from being kidnapped by the enemy, but you can’t kill him. When I say “you can’t kill him,” I don’t mean the mission ends if you kill him… I mean that it is actually not possible to kill him. What’s particularly frustrating about this is that the audio from your commander says that you’d be doing the guy a favor by killing him and preventing him from being tortured. So, just to make sure you’re following me, your commanding officer says to kill the guy, but the game won’t let you kill the guy. Don’t think I didn’t try. At one point I had all enemies cleared, and I stood over the guy shooting into his head for like 30 seconds, and even when his health bar hit zero, the guy still didn’t die. It felt like I was dividing by zero.
The length of some of these missions is arbitrarily set, and is far too long in my opinion. 10 minutes to defend a door, or to prevent a guy from escaping, all the while nothing new is happening. An enemy pops up, you shoot the enemy, then you wait some more, you get the picture.
One of the bright spots of this game was the character customization. Being as Brink is shooter with classes, there are four areas to choose from: operative, soldier, medic, engineer. If you’ve played any games with character customization or shooters (Killzone, for example) then you’re pretty familiar with these classes by now (very TFC-ish). This does add to the gameplay a bit since you can use your class to gain experience and really make a difference in how well your team performs. It was definitely one of the more enjoyable portions of the game (of which there were not many).
I really wanted to have fun with this game as I really do like wasteland scenario games. I was excited to see Bethesda doing another wasteland/free-roam scenario game, as they’ve done a great job with the Fallout series as well as the Elder Scrolls Series. The concept for this game would have been aided much more had it been done similarly to Red Faction: Guerrilla. While I personally believe an open-world lends itself to revolutionary games, I didn’t have much fun with Brink and it will likely be returned tomorrow.