The first-person shooter market may be over-saturated, with a slew of me-too titles nipping at Modern Warfare's heels. But when it comes to team-based shooters, the pool is much drier. While Team Fortress 2 and Splash Damage's own sublime Enemy Territory: Quake Wars have some of the most dedicated communities, there room for evolution and improvement in this niche genre.
Into this market leaps Splash Damage's newest title, Brink, a squad-based shooter in which a team of 8 players attempt to complete staggered objectives while an opposing team works to stop them. For players that have only enjoyed Call of Duty or Battlefield online, it's an entirely different sort of co-operative experience - a kind of Capture-The-Flag mode evolved into a full game.
There no neat split between online and offline here. The entire campaign can be played with AI bots taking the roles of your teammates, while real life players can drop in at any point to take their place (although it's possible to take your game solo if you'd rather play purely with the AI).
A class above
At the start of each mission you must choose one of the four classes available in the game: the Soldier, a grunt class who rigs up explosives to blast through doors; the Engineer, who can deploy turrets, defuse explosives and repair heavy units; the Medic, who boosts the team's maximum health and revives fallen soldiers and, lastly, the Operative, a shadier character who can disguise himself as the enemy in order to hack terminals.
Your team will be immediately presented with a primary objective, such as blowing open a particular door with a charge, or escorting a wounded soldier from one part of the map to another. Manage to complete this objective before the timer runs out and a new primary objective will be delivered to you, with more time added to the clock in which to carry it out.
Many of these objectives can only be completed by one of the four classes. So, if you are asked to hack a computer terminal, you'll need to switch classes inside your base to become an Operative. Alternatively, you may need to give cover to someone else who is going to try and complete the objective for your team.
It a smart, engaging system and the classes have been finely balanced to make playing each one of them a joy. Beneath the team dynamics this is a straightforward FPS, with a slew of different primary and secondary guns to choose between. The guns you select remain consistent across all classes, so you can pick you favorites, kit them out with unlockable upgrades such as red dot sights, silencers and extra clips, and be sure theyl always be there - regardless of whether youe playing as a Medic or a Solider.
Free running also plays a central part of the game. Holding down the L-bumper allows you to leap over obstacles, climb up the sides of rooms and generally take any path you can perceive towards the objective. It fluid and well implemented, ensuring that there are few choke points in the levels and providing an unusual sense of freedom and agency while playing.
The unique, interesting art style is a boon to the game, with highly customizable characters that allow you to imprint your own style onto the world. Likewise, the environments set on the futuristic floating city of The Ark (a final refuge for mankind following an environmental disaster) are good-looking and expertly designed. The rather minimal story is little more than an excuse to pit two factions against each other (and there are 8 core levels for you to play as each), but in any team-based shooter, narrative is the last thing on your mind as you race to overwhelm the enemy.
Everything you do in the game is rewarded with Experience Points, which can be spent on upgrading abilities for each of the classes. Most of these are small, specialised upgrades such as allowing you to shoot grenades while in the air, or lay two mines when playing as the Engineer. A few upgrades are crucial, such as the option to deploy auto-aiming turrets anywhere in the environment. On the whole these don upset the balance of the game, ensuring that beginners can play alongside experts on a relatively level playing field.
The result is a slick, engaging team game. It best played alongside other humans, but the campaign is engaging even when played offline. The true value of the game will emerge in the weeks and months that follow its release, as the community engages and grows. But at launch, Brink is set to be a shining success, with all the strength of the developer previous title, Enemy Territory, and a clutch of design tweaks to improve upon it.
- Well balanced squad-based shooter.
- Free running works exceptionally well.
- Exciting, idionsyncratic art style.
- Can be tough to navigate menues.
- Maps feel a little samey.
- AI of bots is a mixed bag.