AI bots pictured from left to right: Not on my team, Not on my team, On my team.
The AI in Brink works well the majority of the time, but it can be an absolute nightmare at the worst possible moments. When I was playing solo I would have medics ignore me. Brink's version of flag runners would stand still. The AI would rarely complete primary objectives. For example, if a terminal needed to be hacked, I could stand on guard as a Soldier and wait for an Operative for the duration of the match. I would have no choice but to run to the nearest command post and change classes, then try to fight my way back as a weaksauce Operative. Don't get me wrong, Operatives can be very cool. It's just that I've leveled up my Soldier skills the most, then Engineer, followed by Medic, and finally Operative. I'm also rolling heavy body, so I'm kind of like a squishy waddling duck when I'm not playing soldier class. The friendly AI is serviceable most of the time, but occasionally it will leave you very frustrated.
The biggest offender is the enemy AI. The game seems to have a sort of "rubber band AI." This concept is common in racing games. It allows the AI to keep up with you no matter how far ahead you are, unfairly balancing the game. In the first mission I mentioned above, don't be surprised if the easy to handle steady flow of enemy players turns into and eight man tactical onslaught in the closing minutes. To make matters worse, most of your own team will go off to complete secondary objectives at inopportune moments, and there is no way to give orders, ask politely, or even beg them to stay with you.
The simplest remedy for the poison AI is to play with a friend. I played Brink with a handful of other people online for a few days, and one human ally can change the tide of battle. Speaking of that, I'd like to thank Mollarom from TheWayOfTheGame.net for being an excellent team player during the game's pre-release weekend. If you don't happen to have random gaming editors passing through your play session, the second simplest solution is to drop the difficulty level. For some missions the "Easy" setting should be called "Fair."
The Campaign story is loosely held together by short cut scenes which you will most likely be skipping by the third mission. You will see your created character in the cut scenes, which is a nice touch. What's interesting is that you can play both the Security and Resistance campaigns with your character, no matter which faction you choose. Actually, you can play any mission at any time, right from the start of the game. You can even begin with the last mission of a campaign, if you want. Just remember, the missions generally get harder toward the end of the campaign, which makes the enemy AI more devious. Your character will change his look depending on which side you are fighting on. You can customize faction appearances independently of each other. i.e. If you change your Resistance hair style and shirt, it doesn't affect your Security hair style and shirt. Scars and tattoos stay, though.
Free Play allows you to play any map, and is the easiest way to get into a versus multiplayer match. You can also adjust options like friendly fire and voice chat. If you host a private match you can change player counts and other rules of the game. There are 8 maps available, and they play differently depending on which faction you are representing.
The Challenges are an interesting little diversion. There are four Challenges and each one focuses on the different skills you will need to survive in Brink. There are three difficulty levels to a Challenge and each level unlocks new items or features. You can play these solo or co-operatively with up to three other players. It's through this mode that you will unlock new weapons and weapon customization options. Most players will be able to complete the Challenges almost immediately, unlocking all of the guns and weapon attachments in their first few hours with the game.
Whether you view this as a plus or minus is a personal choice, but I was disappointed to have the entire arsenal laid before me so early in the game. I would like to have seen more Challenges with fewer guns unlocked at each stage. This would have spread out the rewards. The weapons themselves are a little disappointing, as well. I haven't noticed much difference in the guns I've unlocked and the ones that were available at the start of the game, with the exception of the mini-gun. Each one does have a cool look and fun customization options to play with, but it just isn't very deep.
Brink has been designed to play through multiple times. Unfortunately, everything can be easily unlocked in a week. I will have already reached the modest level cap of 20 by the time you are reading this. Clothing and firearms carry over to new characters, so each new avatar you create will have almost every customization option available upon creation. The only thing a new character has to unlock will be level-based abilities, and since you can respec your main character, it's kind of pointless to create a new one. Respecing will cost you one level of experience, which you can gain back in a few battles.
Mike got his hands on the PC build of Brink, and here's what he had to say:
"An issue that bears mentioning is the surprising lack of any sort of lobby system to organize co-op partners, which is nearly criminal in this day and age. Now, the auto-matchmaking during the campaign ensures you'll (almost) always be playing with others, but a better way to organize play sessions would have been welcome. What IS welcome, however, is the fact that the PC version has a server browser to find open games as well as dedicated server support. Direct IP connections are also available, but connection issues are plaguing users as of this writing (open those ports, people!)."
"While mostly solid, the PC version contains some particularly nasty bugs. One of the more common ones causes all of your non-environmental sound to cut out, which turns the game into quite a strange experience, let me tell you. That particular one lingers until you restart the game, too. Annoying. Loss of connection also causes a crash-to-desktop error, so be prepared should the game start getting laggy."
Brink has it's flaws, but it is a blast to play. The character models look great. The environments are a little dull, and I noticed some minor texture issues. These graphical hiccups are easy to overlook in the heat of battle. The controls are tight and the guns feel right. The gameplay experience itself should keep people coming back for more. Watching your XP score grow as you resupply ammo and heal your comrades can give you the same feeling of accomplishment as lining up a perfect headshot. Seeing small body types parkour (is that even a verb?) around the slow heavies is a trip. Repelling the last ditch effort of diabolical AI with a friend in an early level can feel just as rewarding as an end-game scenario in some other shooters. Even when a mission is unsuccessful you can still bank experience points if you're a good team player. It's not as deep as I would have liked, but Brink is a must play if you enjoy co-op shooters.
The Co-Op Experience: Brink promises to blend offline and online co-op into a seamless experience with persistent characters that can join games at anytime.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.