FINALLY! The Playstation Network has come back online. What should a reviewer try first? How about a little bit of Brink?
It's been just a week since I wrote my first Brink review, which has given me ample time to digest what I spouted out about the Xbox 360 version. If you didn't read that one then let me please catch you up on the game's story.
Set in a futuristic city called the Ark, Brink traps players on this suffering island and forces them to choose between two factions. Each faction carries their own intention regarding the Ark’s well-being. The Security faction wishes to protect the Ark and preserve law and order. The Resistance wishes to cause trouble for the Security folk anyway they can. The story, while shallow on the surface, is incredibly deep underneath. Today we received the guide for the game and the entire backstory is at the front. The good folks at Splash Damage did a phenomenal job of creating a solid backstory to explain the events of the game and what brought the two factions to this point in their lives. As I’ve said with movies, it’s important to have a solid story; something that graphics or CG can’t make up for when it comes down to it. While I won’t go into the story too much, spend some time learning the game’s backdrop, as it does make the game deeper.
With that out of the way, let's talk about the game a bit more in-depth.
One thing that people will have to get use to is that Brink is a tough game to get started with. For the past week I've been reading forums around the interwebs and getting together what people firmly believe to be Brink's issue. Most of the time people are talking about how they played the game for two hours and returned it due to frustration. Like I stated in the previous review of the game, this isn't Call of Duty where you can plop down on a couch and jump right in. Regretfully, this generation of gamers demands satisfaction out of their games quickly. Brink is not that game that will give you what you want so you can jump right in with the veterans. Brink is the game that makes you work for your XP, guns, armor and abilities. Giving a game like Brink two hours is like giving a car a test drive for 15 seconds and expecting a solid opinion; that is not going to happen. Gamers must give Brink a day or two to settle in. Once you get your character to level three in the game everything starts to settle down a bit. When you hit level six in the game you're going to be hooked, and if you're not then you're just fighting it. Anyway, frustration is a big portion of this game and the reward is far greater.
Speaking of rewards, I still contend that this first-person shooter has some very embedded role-playing game roots to it. The leveling system through earning XP is pretty simple, but productive. With each level that you earn in the game you unlock abilities, character customization options, weapons and/or audio logs. I know that most people have seen this sort of leveling before with games like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, but Bethesda and Splash Damage take this to an entirely new level. You can make your character completely unique in terms of costumes. From head gear to facial tattoos to jackets, there's enough here to keep a fan happy. The game also has over 50 different weapons to choose from including turrets, guns and what not. Added to this, where the real RPG value falls into line, is the gaining of abilities. The abilities option allows for you to add things like being able to shoot a grenade from an enemy, extra armor to hand out, the ability scavenge from dead enemies and things like building multiple size turrets. The abilities option is the one option I believe separates Brink from other FPS games. This option is big, fun and unique.
Sticking with the RPG theme, there are different classes to choose from when you play the game. Here's a breakdown:
- The Soldier: This is your basic grunt. Armed with grenades, bombs and ammo packs this is certainly the type of character you want to be if you want to shoot the hell out of someone. Nothing special, but definitely the glue that keeps the team together and safe.
- Medic: If you’re looking for a nice comparison then you could compare the medic to a mage out of any typical MMORPG. This character is for the people who want to keep their team alive. Armed with supplies, health syringes (so vital during battle) and a grenade, there’s not much to hate about the medic. People who give a damn about their team will adopt this character class.
- Engineer: Much like real engineers in the world, this one keeps machines going and lays down some nasty hardware to dispose of enemies. Packing mines and turrets (one of the best surprises during a game), the engineer is my favorite class. It’s rewarding when it comes to winning missions and rewarding in terms of XP. It depresses me when the game occasionally asks me to change from an engineer, as they’re a blast to play.
- Operative: NERDS UNITE! If you ever dreamed of hacking, breaking into things or just generally taking stolen items from the ‘other’ side then look no further than the operatives. Armed with a grenade and a PDA, this character has some real potential to be dangerous during missions. Did you notice the PDA thing? You can use the PDA to steal the other side’s identity during a firefight. It’s incredibly cool, despite it wearing off when you pull a gun (which needs to be corrected). Still, it’s neat to sneak onto the enemy’s grounds in disguise.
Again, these characters are in a different situation as opposed to the characters you would choose in a game like Call of Duty. Unlike CoD, where you can choose a character out of preference rather than use, Brink asks players to choose their character wisely. By choosing the right character you help out your team in a different way. For example, if you have to keep a robot tank repaired throughout a mission then want to be an engineer. It leaves you open to attacks, but you can continually repair (if needed) the robot tank to get the mission done; the more you repair the more XP you earn. You'll want to check the mission and decide what the best route to take is going to be when it comes to choosing your class. One of the best parts about Brink is the ability to change your class almost instantly. To change your class all you need to do is find a command post and choose what you want to be and BAM! You're that.
The classes are really nice stuff. With that bring said let's discuss modes.
The game is divided up into different modes. There is a campaign mode, freeplay mode and challenges. The campaign mode will be the first you want to dive into, and in traditional recently released FPS fashion, it’s not as fun as online. That’s not a knock against the campaign mode; rather that’s just the sign of the FPS times. Broken up into various missions, you can choose which sides to play in the campaign. The campaign mode follows a strict storyline that relates directly to the first thing I mentioned in the review; the story of the Ark. Each level in the campaign mode is broken into certain missions for either faction to participate in. You can choose your faction and play the same campaign mode from the other side of the tracks. For example, if you play the security team and your goal is to retrieve a datakey from a safe and copy it before it erases itself then you can play the resistance in that same mission and try to prevent the security team from doing that. The campaign mode is broken up into a good amount of days for each side and is tough as nails to get through. One of the bigger problems that I had with the 360 version, which is still very much alive in the PS3 version is the lack of NPC help. I've read in a few places that NPC help wasn't an issue with Brink, but I have to beg to differ. I've seen bother versions of the game and I've seen the same thing; the NPC needs to be led, as it cannot follow. If I hadn't played this game pretty hard lately I would have found it a bit more frustrating when I had to go through the missions again. Thankfully, I knew what needed to be done and knew not to depend on shoddy NPC intelligence. You have been warned.
Now, let’s talk about the fun that is freeplay. The missions in freeplay reflect those found in the campaign. Depending on your team, you’ll find that freeplay is an absolute amazing experience. Win or lose, you’ll bond with your teammates to complete tasks. Having played a lot of the 360 online mode, I found the PS3 freeplay mode to be less laggy and it loaded a little quicker. Again, this might be my warped imagination, but I had less problems playing a 5-versus-5 game online with the Playstation than I did with the Xbox 360. To be fair, the 360 experience was before the update (which took care of the issues), but the PS3 freeplay still feels a bit smoother. It's hard to explain, but I'm very pleased with what the PS3 version of the online play brings.
Another aspect of freeplay that you cant imagine, rather you’ll have to experience is the need for a good team. If there was a game that made you choosy with who you wanted to have your back it would be Brink. Your teammates are vital to survival, as they’ll need to be quick-witted and supportive to help your team accomplish its goal. NPCs and 10-year old idiots need not apply for this game. Freeplay is as serious as a heart attack and your team will need to reflect that as well. Call of Duty and Medal of Honor Rambos need not apply. Brink is about completing tasks and whooping ass as a team; I cannot stress this enough.
As for the challenge mode, this is a great mode to hone your skills and gain some XP. I haven’t tried much of it, only the first challenge, but what I did see impressed me. You have a series of task you must perform in a small amount of time in a small confined space. During these tasks you’ll be forced to go back and forth between classes. The amount of XP depends on how well you complete the tasks and how quickly you complete them. Each challenge also keeps track of how you’re doing overall in comparison to other folks who have completed the challenges. The great thing about the challenge mode is that it's good for leveling up your character. It's probably third on my list in terms of mode entertainment value.
Shifting gears, let's talk about how the PS3 version is different than the Xbox 360 version. While I'm positive it's just my eyes, and I haven't asked Bethesda Softworks about this yet (not going to), I firmly believe that the PS3 version of Brink looks a lot sharper. As I'm typing this I'm staring at an HD screen that has my giant character on it with a proper amount of detail and definition in the face. I can clearly see this man's eyes blinking and I can see the veins in his muscles. When I reviewed the Xbox 360 version of the game the textures looked plain and undefined. I was running both on a 1080p screen with HDMI connections, so I know it's probably not my eyes.
As for actual in-game animation and footage, it all looks less pixelated to me. Is it a huge improvement over the 360 version? Probably not, but it's improved enough to make it look better for this reviewer.
Other aspects of the Playstation 3 version of Brink...
- While most 360 fans will certainly disagree with me, I found the Playstation 3 controls to be a lot more user friendly. The L2 button controls run, the square is a building button and the firing is controlled by the R2 button. To be fair I've never gotten use to the 360 controller, as it's too bulky for my small hands.
- Despite what many might expect, there is no installation with Brink for the Playstation 3. It's as smooth as the 360 and in some instances a bit faster when it comes to loading. I don't have an exact count of seconds, but it felt a lot faster (yes, I'm a bit lazy in that department).
So is the game fun? Yes, it's fun. If you can work past the so-so campaign mode and level up properly (without getting overly frustrated in the process) then what you'll find is a very deep game waiting for you. The online experience is where this game's bread and butter lies, and it doesn't disappoint. The game is fun and it's depth of customization makes the experience even better. I would pay $60 for this game, if I didn't already get it for free. Playstation 3 fans will be just as happy as their 360 rivals.
Onto the summary!