Brink Preview

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 12th Mar 2011


Brink might be described as just another post-apocalyptic shooter with a deep story line and wide selection of weapons and tactics, and that would be an accurate and useful description -- and totally miss the point of the game.

Judging any video game requires not only an assessment of its entertainment value and how well it lives up to the genre it is slotted in, but also includes the subjective judgments of its creative and artistic merits, entertainment level and quality, and the all-important question: would we recommend this game to our mates?

Is the story properly constructed? Does it contain the right amount of plot and subplot, twist and dynamic relationships? Is the game combat system well balanced and does it offer enough variety to prevent the player from falling into a repetition of tactics that will quickly diminish the challenge of play? Does the mechanism for the game work properly, and does everything when fully combined retain our interest?

When you are spending a minimum of $60 on a title, the answers to those questions must be favorable ones -- but before we get to the process of answering -- and examining those answers -- we should take a hard look at the game itself.

The Main Story

As mentioned, Brink is a post-apocalyptic adventure that takes place in a world in which the world's water levels have increased to the point that much of what was the world at sea level is now underneath the ocean surface.

Humanity has been forced to live on artificially-created dry spaces ranging from re-purposed oil drilling rigs and purpose-constructed floating cities that are similar in philosophy to the renewable maintainable constructions that are the basis of the Seasteading movement.

"The Ark" is just such a settlement -- a purpose-built floating city designed to be self-supporting with a zero-pollution footprint and an aggressive recycling and re-use policy that allows the initial target population of 5,000 well-educated citizens help each other by filling necessary job-slots and contributing to the common welfare.

The burdens of such an existence require absolute discipline in establishing basic policy on recycling and reuse of materials, material and organic conservation, and population control, with an emphasis upon the willing cooperation of the individual citizen.

Government control must embrace elements of socialism and public welfare that are guaranteed to generate conflict within any society unprepared for them, but when that society is forced to endure the unplanned and nearly uncontrolled influx of 45,000 refugees, the lofty goals and previously workable social structure is naturally thrown to the wind as a result.

The common philosophy of society upon The Ark cannot maintain the Utopian goals under the burden of ten-times the target population, and the failure of the new residents to become cooperative and productive members of the society in which they now live results in open warfare between the original colonists and factions within the body of the newcomers.

As a result of wave after wave of refugees, the population of The Ark has swollen to over 50,000 and very few of these new mouths present useful or needed skills, creating the underlying source of resentment on the side of the original residents.

Each side naturally resents the other, and the issues that are the source of that resentment are both easy to understand and, if left unaddressed, certain to tear apart what is left of the infrastructure that is the life blood of the community.

Further blurring the lines within the double-sided conflict are individual leaders with their own agendas -- Alpha characters who gather followers in order to promote their own agendas that may or may not be based upon a reasonable notion or goals. Power for the sake of power is perhaps the easiest to understand of the motivation behind elements of the rebellion, but in the end the reasons and justification do not matter.

This mechanism promises tremendous variety and opportunity for expansion content down the road, but for now merely explains the factors that motivate what quickly devolves into armed rebellion, as one side seeks to dominate the other.

Faction Play

Choosing sides in the game comes down to playing as either a member of the "Resistance" or as part of "Security" -- or both as will be explained in a bit.

The class system in the game is not the typical job-based system with clearly defined kit and load-outs, but is influenced more by body-type than title. A big and beefy man is obviously going to be much more effective firing a SAW from the hip than a thin and less muscular man or woman, and a lithe and lean player is more likely to be successful at parkour-like moves than that big and beefy warrior.

Basing the class system more on the physical build of the character than on the artificial technical and skills-based schemes that are the usual method employed in shooters makes sense within the environment of The Ark, which the player quickly comes to understand and appreciate once the learning curve has been mastered and they have the opportunity to objectively evaluate the different roles.

The introduction of color into the game, and the clearly defined differences in environment between the core faction areas presents a dynamic level of environmental identity for the game that is difficult to describe but very important in distilling your emotional identity as you play. It is more than just the lived-in look of the refugee area that is clearly modeled after third-world inner-city slums, or the clean environment of the main city with its crisp lines and clear measure of luxury, but a combination of both that succeeds in contributing to the quick and easy immersive quality of the game.

The Important Differences that Make Brink Special

It could be argued that there is always room for yet another post-apocalyptic shooter in the world of video games, but with a game like Brink there are some important differences that set it apart from the normal offerings in the genre.

The first stand-out difference is the decision on the part of the developers to adopt a play system that erases the distinction between the single player (story mode) and multi-player (group PvP mode) -- a choice that they acknowledge represented significant risk to the games sustainability if it failed.

The system used in Brink allows players to drop in and out at will, and for the story mode to be played both in the traditional manner -- as a dedicated single-player game, or as a cooperative (and opposing) group effort. In fact when the host shares their game, friends can drop in via the 'net on either side, playing whichever faction that they like -- or both factions by dropping out and back in!

Another element to Brink that sets it apart from the typical game of the genre is the intentional de-emphasis of the shooter side of the game. In most games like Brink XP and points are weighted heavily on the shooter side, and non-combat roles (if there even are any) generally fall within the sub-job structure of playing as a shooter.

In Brink that dynamic is reversed -- playing in a supporting role without firing a shot can often lead to better score and more points than if you played in a shooter-only role! Why is that important?

It makes Brink one of the few mainstream FPS games in which gamers who may not necessarily be good at running-and-gunning can still find an enjoyable role to play in the group, and provide their mates with not simply a useful resource in team play, but provide a more valuable potential in taking up that team slot than if it were occupied by a gamer who is a hot shooter.

This emphasis on balancing the non-combat elements with the combat elements in group play is no accident -- it was part of the concept from day one, and it was planned out so that the game would have a wider appeal, especially among gamers who are either new to the FPS scene or less likely to participate beyond the single-player story mode of games like this.

Regardless of your skill level, Brink may be the perfect game to introduce your mates to the FPS Action genre, or the perfect game for you to discover the genre if you are new to it...

Brink releases on May 17th in North America, and on May 20th in the rest of the world, and will appear on console on the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3, and in Windows PC.

Official Title: Brink
Developing Studio: Splash Damage
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: May 17th NA / May 20th Worldwide
Platforms: XBox 360 / PS3 / Windows PC
Genre: FPS/Dynamic Group Action Adventure
Ratings: PEGI = 16+ / ESRB = T for Teen