On The “Brink” Of Evolutionary Design

written by Michael Simpson on May 20, 2011 in Game Reviews and Special Feature

I, like many other FPS veterans, have been long awaiting the release of Brink.  Following many of the trailers for Brink, I felt as if it was going to be an FPS that finally had conquered the idea of free movement in an environment.  This concept would add significantly more depth to the FPS genre and would really be the first game of its kind.  After several hours of playing the game, I’m happy to report that, for the most part, the game works really well.

Though I’d rather start off by mentioning what doesn’t work at all:  single player, and multiplayer games with bots.  Brink’s AI is pretty depressing and doesn’t do well to represent what playing against real people is like.  I could feasibly see someone playing the game in single player mode, and basically quitting/giving up on the game before attempting much more, as it is that bad.  Honestly, though, Brink is a team oriented game and meant to be played online, with people.  That’s the way it was created to function correctly and that is the reality of where the best gaming experience is.  In short, if you’re not into online gaming, it’s really not going to be a game for you.  Otherwise, I believe it to be a rewarding experience.  I also think the only proper place to play this game is on the PC, as I would imagine the game to be incredibly cumbersome with a console controller (like most other FPS games tend to be).

Highly Team Based

Gripes with single player aside, the multiplayer is quite well designed.  As I mentioned, Brink is a team oriented game, and stands apart a bit from typical FPS games.  In many first person shooters, one player can be a great threat to an entire team and can potentially take them down.  Yet, in Brink, I feel that there is less of an emphasis on individual “gun skill” (aiming, picking up kills, etc) and a greater emphasis on fulfilling the role of your position.  This is further evidenced in the way players are granted experience (significantly more for using their classes buffing abilities than killing people).  The leveling system is quite quick and painless in my experiences so far, and as players level up they unlock various items and skill points to put into either general attributes or class specific attributes.

Several reviews have complained that the classes in Brink are very similar since they are all able to use the same weapons, depending on what kind of body type is equipped on characters.  I debunk this by saying that the roles of the four classes in Brink are substantially different, given their abilities:

Soldiers are the primary killing force in Brink, as they get many special grenade abilities, armor, armor piercing rounds, and so forth.  They can typically absorb a significant amount of damage and dish out a lot of damage.  They also have the ability to restore teammates’ ammo.

Medics are able to give a number of buffs that can affect the attributes of a teammate, but they are primarily on a team to heal and revive.  The medic position is arguably the most important member of the team, since it’s their responsibility to resurrect downed teammates and attempt to keep them healed in the heat of battle.

Operatives are the spy and infiltration class in Brink.  They have the ability to disguise themselves as an enemy team member and hack numerous objectives/turrets/so forth.  Their primary role is to flank and outmaneuver the enemy using stealth and create a distraction so the primary force of the team can make successful pushes to objectives.

Finally, Engineers are arguably the most defensive based class with their ability to setup turrets at various areas of a map to help stop a push from the enemy team.  A well placed turret and team placement can easily result in the other team becoming quickly overwhelmed.  They are also able to buff weapon damage and teammates’ defenses, as well as lay down landmines.

Just from this brief description, I think it can be easy to see how different classes should probably play, as well as what body type would most likely be needed for them to fulfill their roles accordingly (for instance, a soldier might want to use the heavy body type to absorb the most damage and be able to use the heaviest weapons.  An operative would probably benefit most from the light body type so they are able to move around the map at a high rate of speed to help in sneaking behind an enemy team).

Evolutionary Movement

A basic diagram of how the movement system works.

While the idea of different classes in an FPS is hardly new or evolutionary, combining a solid class-based FPS with Brink’s movement system certainly is.  If one were to choose a single area to praise in brink, it would have to be the SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) movement system.  Basically, the run button in brink also allows for a plethora of context sensitive movement within the design of a given level.  The ability for a character to move and interact with the environment is based on their body type.  While the heavy body type may allow for additional hit points and weapon access, it’s also incredibly limiting as to what the body type can do in the environment.  The light body type while being quite fragile allows for expanded movement across the terrain.  Jumping off of walls to increase movement speed as well as reach higher previously unreachable spots is all possible with this body.

The idea behind the system is to give the player a wide variety of ways to approach a situation.  Generally in an FPS when a player encounters a staircase of some sort, the only approach to it is to start at the bottom and work their way up.  With the run/SMART button held down, there are a number of ways to approach this.  Instead of simply walking up the stairs, a player could jump on the side of the staircase and loft themselves up.  Or they could wall jump up the stairs to come at someone at an unanticipated angle.  Alternatively, they could wall jump off a section of the wall to grab onto the side of the stairs or in some circumstances, the top of the stairs immediately.  Brink allows for movement that “makes realistic sense.”  I’ve always struggled with sections in games where a ledge about half the height of the player can’t be jumped on or climbed on.   It just never makes sense.  It’s nice to see a first person shooter where finally movement is fluid and realistic.

The Verdict

If you’re a fan of team based games like Team Fortress 2 and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Brink is going to be right up your alley and it’s certainly worthy of picking up.  However, if you simply enjoy playing games single player, the experience is going to be lackluster and it’s not really worth buying.  This is another great example of a game where it’s significantly more fun to play with a group of friends or previously established team, for sure.

What are your thoughts on Brink?  What do you like or dislike about the game?  How do you feel it compares to other first person shooter games?


You can pick up Brink for a pretty decent discount right now over at Amazon.