We've been anxiously awaiting Brink's release ever since it was first announced way back in 2009. When developer Splash Damage promised customizable characters and weapons, a parkour-style SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) movement system, and of course, eight player online co-op, Brink seemed too good to be true. I'll put any fears you may have to rest now; Brink is a very good co-op game. That being said, there are some serious flaws that keep the overall game from being great, mostly on the single player front.
When you first pop Brink into your system of choice you will be asked to join a faction on the overpopulated, artificial island called the Ark. You can either play as the Security or the Resistance. Think of the Security as the clean-cut Haves, and the Resistance as the rag-tag Have Nots. After you've picked a side you choose a face and voice for your character. One of the first things I noticed was how bright and clean the menus are. The black and white contrast is very striking. The next thing I noticed is that most of the available faces are dog-butt ugly. Don't get me wrong, graphically the faces look fine, but the characters' mugs are slightly reminiscent of the puppets from the old UK show Spitting Image, just not as grotesquely exaggerated. Thankfully, Splash Damage didn't include female characters. Now I know why the pre-release vidoes of this game featured so many masked characters.
You can choose to jump right into battle from here; or you can spend time tweaking your appearance and choosing your default class and weapon preferences. It is also here where you will decide whether or not to give your character any scars or tattoos. You will be able to apply scars or tattoos only once, and then you're stuck with them. (Until you make a new character. The game allows for a roster of 10 avatars.)
Body size is important in Brink. The skinnier you are easier it is to move up in the world, just like in real life. You will have access to the medium body type at first. Later you will unlock the small and large body sizes, which greatly impact your movement speed, SMART capabilities, and weapon load outs. Unlike the scars and tattoos, body type isn't a permanent decision, you can change it between matches the same way you can change a hat.
Once you're happy with your character you'll dive into the gameplay. Brink gives you three options: Campaign, Free Play, or Challenges. You will earn XP and level up in all three modes, plus, each mode can be played co-operatively. The Campaign is where most people will start, and where most people will have their problems, especially if they try to go it alone. When you first begin the Campaign you can choose solo, co-op, or versus play, public or private accessibility, bot difficulty, and prefered skill level of joining players.
Every campaign mission in Brink is an 8 versus 8 contest. Make no mistake, this is not a team deathmatch. There will be no Kill to Death score at the end of the level. Each map has several objectives for each side to perform in a set amount of time. We'll take the first mission as an example. If you're playing as the Resistance, you have to guard a door. There are plenty of side objectives, but your main focus better be protecting that damn door. A ten minute timer counts down. If the Resistance holds the door for the entire ten minutes, the mission is declared a success and your team wins. If the Security manages to breach that door in the ten minute limit, a chunk of time is added to the counter and a new objective opens up. After a brief cut scene the mission expands with new objectives. Now Security has a wounded VIP they are trying to evacuate from the area. Your mission as a Resistance team member is to stop them. If Security moves their VIP to the evac zone before time runs out, the Resistance loses. If you stop the evac, the Resistance wins. At the end of the match the game displays a scoreboard depicting the top player in each class, the top player overall, and who had the most kills. With the exception of the kill score, these rankings are based on the amount of XP each player earned.
How you decide to be an asset to your team is entirely up to you. The squad commander will bark orders at you constantly. It's helpful in the early levels, but it began to grate on my nerves later in the game. You can access an objective wheel by holding Up on the D-pad. Here you can choose whichever objective suits your chosen class. Or, you can stop by a command post and change classes so that you can complete a specific task. It you tap Up on the D-Pad you will assign yourself to the main objective. Another nice thing about the objective wheel is that you can see how many players are attempting each available task, so you can fill in the gaps as you see fit.
In a game where communication is key, voice chat is switched off by default. You can select players to join a fire team to open a voice chat channel, but we quickly bypassed this in favor of an Xbox LIVE party. The party option was also the way to go if you wanted to organize any friends, since there is no lobby system. If no human players are talking you can rely on the objective wheel to tell you where to go. When a mission is selected an icon appears on your HUD. Head toward that icon, and you'll find some action. You can choose a wide variety of options, from escorting players, to hacking terminals, to reviving downed teammates. If your way is blocked, simply hold down the left bumper to enter the SMART movement system, and your character will vault, slide and climb their way there. Small characters can wall jump and scale most things, allowing them to traverse the battlefield quickly. Larger avatars lack speed and mobility, but gain a defensive edge and the ability to equip heavy weapons.
Each of the four available classes possess their own unique roles. Operatives can take on downed enemy's appearances, get behind enemy lines, and capture team-buffing command posts. Medics can revive, buff and heal themselves and other players. Engineers can deploy land mines and turrets. Soldiers can absorb damage and supply other teammates with ammo. All of these actions reward players with experience points. Sure, you can get XP for kills, but you'll get tons more if you support your team and complete objectives. Each class has ten to eleven abilities you can unlock and purchase through leveling up. If all this sounds great to you, it's because it is. Brink is a fantastic co-op experience with other players. Unfortunately, this is not the case when playing solo.