Brink is a visually and thematically unique shooter. Feeling like an expansion upon other team-based shooters, Brink blurs the lines between single player, cooperative, and multiplayer versus gaming. There are no true single-player levels—in which your character runs down straight corridors to an end—as Brink takes place on the battle field. Sure, the single-player game has goals, but at any given time a player can jump in and join up with real-world players. Even more, taking the game online, players will be impeded by others. Not many other games attempt to squeeze the single player into the multiplayer quite like this. And before you mention Mindjack, just remember that game failed terribly.
So while it is a squad/team-based shooter like Team Fortress 2, don’t think there isn't a story. Brink tells the tale of the Ark, an experimental floating metropolis designed to be a progressive green city in an increasingly messy world. A smashing success, the Ark saw an influx of refugees and an increasing metropolis as the landmasses slowly drowned under rising seawater due to global warming. No longer a scientific novelty, Ark becomes one of the few livable areas on the planet, and like all cities slowly loses its sheen.
Two factions at this point are fighting over the massive city: Security and Resistance. The Security forces are the traditional army, guided by keeping the city unified under the original goals of its founders. The Resistance, a rag-tag army, is trying to ETC. No one is really bad or good, but the two factions view each other as the saviors of Ark. Between rundown slums in Resistance-lead neighborhoods to highly defended facilities led by the Security, there are plenty of regions for these two groups to duke it out.
With that foundation, we see what Brink is really about the classes. Soldiers, engineers, medics, and more, each one brings something unique and special to the equation. Any character can be any class, and it’s easy to change them at any control point.
Objectives in Brink are constantly in flux. While many other games set out a specific goal, such as taking over a control point or defending a VIP, in Brink these general goals are supplemented with sub-goals. Classes can be changed with a quick visit to a control point, and each class will have different sub-objectives. Sure, an engineer or a medic can try to keep up with the soldiers attempting to reach the next control point; however, they would be better suited to changing their goals to something that better fits their abilities. A medic will want to be aware of who has fallen and needs to be revived, and an engineer will want to find nearby tanks and vehicles to hijack or protect. Managing your goals is important, and the context sensitive nature goes far to making the game feel fresh compared to other shooters.
Character customization is deep. If you can’t tell by the screenshots, Brink is an intensely colorful game, where all the characters look like the long-faced demo man from Team Fortress 2. I’m going to be blunt: Every character is butt-ugly, but their unsightly appearances somehow fit into the mood and feel of the game. With hundreds of unlockables to customize the characters, you can make over your ugly brute into a snazzy-dressed soldier. Making a character that visually represents you will be a primary source of enjoyment for many players.
How a character looks does actually impact how the game plays. There are three body types: light, medium and heavy. Small guys should best use the SMART system, executing jumps and wall runs the other two class sizes could only dream of. They are incredibly lithe, and will reach objectives much earlier than the other classes. Heavy guys, while slower, can take more damage. The medium guys fall somewhere in the middle.
This brings us to the SMART system. A context-sensitive button that changes depending on what the player's actions, the system is mostly used for moving players around. Unlike other shooters, where the characters must jump oddly up to different areas, the SMART system allows for characters to just run to and vault up walls, over railings, and more.
Brink is a gorgeous game. Ark looks very much like the city in Mirror’s Edge, with lots of clean white lines broken by electric blues, oranges and greens. The characters have a unique cartoon aesthetic that fits the game, and it’s a visual treat. Expect good things from Brink’s aesthetic.
All in all, Brink is an incredibly promising game. Those looking for an in-depth single-player game might want to look elsewhere, but anyone comfortable with the idea of continually playing with others would be smart to check out Brink on May 17.