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Critical Reception: Splash Damage's Brink

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Splash Damage's class-based multiplayer shooter Brink, which "doesn't really live up to expectations," according to reviews.
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Splash Damage's class-based multiplayer shooter Brink, which "doesn't really live up to expectations," according to reviews. Brink currently earns a score of 69 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Tyler Wilde at Games Radar rates Brink at 8 out of 10. "Brink is ambitious," he praises. "The mechanics boldly corral players into team bonding without devolving into pointless 'let’s see who can get the highest score without actually helping the team' pissing matches. There’s not much you can do in Brink, excluding standing around and shooting at your own feet, that doesn’t push your team toward its goal." "Additionally, Brink’s Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain (S.M.A.R.T.) system adds free running to the first-person shooter experience, and its detailed character and weapon customization feels more important than it should (Mohawk or gasmask? Oh, the choices!)." Brink is held back by its limited focus, however. "It’s only disappointing that Brink feels so confined by its own premise," Wilde writes. "Its innovative mechanics far outdo its lifeless, confining story, and, while respectable, its pure focus on multiplayer, team-based objective matches confines it further. Aside from a few 'Challenge' maps which test your skills and unlock new weapons, the bulk of Brink consists of only eight objective-based maps, which can be played as either the Resistance or Ark Security. "The mechanics of Brink's shooting, free running, and objective-oriented classes and skills are fantastic," Wilde assures. "If it weren't so confined by its premise, it might have been a masterpiece. Instead, it feels smaller than it should, and left me begging for its potential to be fully realized. It's a shame that it doesn't quite feel complete, but Brink is still a very good game, and it deserves notation - just below Team Fortress 2 - as an exemplary team-based shooter." GamePro's Tom Price gives Brink 3.5 out of 5 stars. "Brink doesn't really live up to expectations," he notes. "On paper, it's genius, with the variations between classes and customizable character models giving the player a lot of ways to accomplish the myriad objectives within each map. But in execution, it's lacking some fundamental capacity for enjoyment. Something just feels kind of 'off.'" Price elaborates: "It looks and acts like one of the most innovative shooters out there, but it doesn't feel like it. Grenades and explosions are anemic and shooting enemies feels less like pumping bullets into a body and more like sending the other guy a memo about how many hit points he just lost. Great shooters -- like Call of Duty, or the very comparable Team Fortress 2 -- have a great visceral feel to them. Brink does not." Price finds that AI teammates make the single-player mode frustrating. "This game is not meant to be played against anything but human opponents," Price writes. "The A.I. just won't do what a reasonably smart or co-operative human would. A system for giving orders to bots would have been a huge help." "It's really too bad, because in many ways I think Brink is a brilliant game," Price says. "The attackers/defenders model is revolutionized by the way secondary objectives (which often feel as necessary as the primary ones) are fluidly folded into the action. "The amount of unique powers you can unlock, especially the teammate buffs and more personal upgrades like the ability to look behind you as you interact, or speed up certain specialized skills, are obviously the work of a design team that knew what they were doing (...). But somewhere along the way some design choices were made that weaken my admiration for what is at the core of the experience." Griffin McElroy at Joystiq scores Brink at 2 out of 5 stars. "Brink is built on the back of some very unique ideas, the most notable of which being its fluid, parkour-inspired movement and its procedurally generated player objectives," he begins. "They have promise, to be sure, and even manage to realize some of their potential -- but unfortunately, any innovation Brink brings to the table is mired in its habitually imbalanced nature, as well as its sometimes stupefyingly flawed gameplay design." McElroy cites an example: "Should you refuse to switch your class to suit the objective, you're going to feel like your services aren't really required three-quarters of the time. (...) Frequently, the best course of action will be to switch to a role you're not very invested in to further the cause of the primary objective, removing you from the element in which you feel most comfortable." Additionally: "Brink adheres to a 'strength in numbers' philosophy present in titles like MAG and notably absent in twitchier shooters like Call of Duty: Black Ops," McElroy notes. "Headshots and frag grenades don't grant one-hit kills in Brink's universe, so outnumbering another player is usually the best way to take them down." McElroy continues: "Unfortunately, Brink follows that 'strength in numbers' philosophy to its own folly. The absolute best strategy, 100 percent of the time, is to form up your entire team on the objective and hold off the opposing force. Whether its a defending team protecting an objective or the attacking team keeping heat off of whomever is completing the objective, it's extremely difficult to oust an entrenched team." "There's something inherently topsy-turvy with its core game design," McElroy concludes. "Despite its focus on rapidly-changing objectives, it rewards mindless dog-piling on the primary goal. It punishes players who invest in a single class that resonates with them. Its moments of triumph are unsatisfying, and far outnumbered by its moments of crushing frustration. At every turn, it doesn't just settle for mediocrity -- it runs towards it with ramming speed."

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