Something in the water

Brink

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | 01:46 AM | by

I've been excited for Brink for nearly a year now. Since back when we thought the game would come out last fall, through the delays into spring of this year, I've been looking forward to it, expecting a dynamic class-based shooter with a lot of style and character customization. Everything I read and saw about the game looked promising, looked like a good time.

Well, Brink finally arrived yesterday, and I'm saddened to say that it has been one giant disappointment.

Single player is worthless. There is absolutely no reason to play this game with bots. They're stupid. I could not even find enjoyment in mowing them down in a mindless "yay, bullets" kind of way. The AI teammates are frustrating and obnoxious, and the AI enemies are about as challenging a target as the side of a barn.

So, no big deal though, right? I mean, you don't buy a game like Brink to just play against bots anyway. Unfortunately, I cannot speak much to the multiplayer, because it is nigh unplayable at the moment. I joined over twelve different random, public matches throughout the course of the day, trying to get into some multiplayer mayhem, and in every single one of them I encountered crippling "lag", despite everyone showing a nice green connection icon.

Now, I put "lag" in quotations because it almost doesn't even feel like traditional lag, in the sense that people are having connection problems. It almost feels like the game;s network code is simply having trouble transmitting the information its supposed to. The result is that you are constantly being jerked around, refaced, spun, bounced, and otherwise abused to the point where you just cannot reasonable expect to face off against people.

(Just to be clear, I have the Xbox 360 version of the game. Obviously PS3 owners cannot get online still, and I cannot attest to the state of the PC version, though I hear they have a whole truckload of problems of their own.

Additionally, this "lag" seems to only happen during true multiplayer matches. Simply playing co-op against bots with a couple of friends seems to work alright for most people.)

Were it just network performance issues preventing us from playing what otherwise looked like a stellar game, I would still be frustrated, but I would at least still be excited about the (inevitable) patch that will fix the problems. Unfortunately, in the moments between jittery lag, there are still issues at the core of the game.

The SMART system, the parkour free-running movement that the game touted as a prized feature is... blah. It works well enough, in limited situations. But there seem to be a lot of places and objects that you cannot vault and climb to, and so it's very jarring trying to figure out where exactly you can go. And there aren't many places. For a game that seems like it was designed for open environments with lots of different paths of travel, most of the maps seem restricted to very tight corridors and are annoyingly linear.

I absolutely love the art style of the game.I love the exxagerated, gnarly visages of the characters in the game, and the upgrade/customization system looks neat at first glance. However I've been reading about a lot of people reaching max level/all unlockables in the first day of playing, which begs me to ask "why does this stuff even need to be unlocked?"

I'm fine with progression and unlockables in first-person shooters that encourage long-term play. But the high level unlockables need to be a challenge to get. Sure, lock the cool costume pieces behind the top levels, so that when you see people in game with them, it's a badge of the accomplishment. Something to work for.

But if there isn't going to be a challenge to unlock the stuff, just unlock it all at the start and do away with the whole pretense of "experience" and "unlocking shit".

As far as the classes go... I didn't get to play enough in a true multiplayer environment to really see any class teamwork shine. From what I saw it was just people running around and shooting eachother, with no real concern for having this class or that class.

Overall, Brink is just riddled with a few too many problems, both fundamental and temporary. Perhaps in a week or two, whenever they can push some patches through various certifications, things will get fixed and there will be an enjoyable game here. However, I've seen this happen with multiplayer-centric titles in the past (Castle Crashers, for instance). If you launch a game with a huge multiplayer component, and it doesn't work for a lot of people, and is going to take weeks to get patched, the damage is done. People are going to find something else to play, and likely they will not come back when that patch finally rolls down the pipeline.

I wanted to like Brink. I've been anticipating liking Brink for a long time. I just couldn't make it a reality with the product that shipped.

At this point, I'm considering taking the game down to a GameStop this afternoon and trading it in towards LA Noire. I never trade in games, and I'm opposed to the used game market in general, but I really feel like Brink is just not a title I'm going to play, or get any sort of real entertainment out of. I kind of want to cut my losses here.