Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Equip yourself with a fully automatic, red dot-sighted, grenade-launching squirt gun.
There are games that you pick up and play and instantly know where it lands in the spectrum of quality. More often than not that feeling comes from the real stinkers, the bottom of the barrel, and the masses of terrible games that swarm the launch window of new consoles. You might also get that instantaneous response to a game when it's just tops! The cream of the crop! Excellence on a disc!
Unfortunately, Brink won't elicit either end of that spectrum from any sane gamer, and so, with a heavy heart, I'm actually challenged as a reviewer by a game that I enjoy but have to warn you about.
Four classes engage in combat across several different maps. Engineers can buff weapon damage, construct sentry guns, and lay mines. Operatives can disguise as their fallen enemies, hack enemy sentry guns, and highlight mines on their team's collective HUD. Soldiers carry spare ammunition for their teammates and Molotov cocktails in addition to their grenades. Medics can buff their teammates' health and revive them from the brink of death.
These classes also have specific objectives only they can complete in the heat of battle. Soldiers can demolish enemy barricades, doors, and structures. Operatives can hack open safes and encrypted computers. Engineers can build barricades or repair key machinery. Medics can revive and buff the health of hostages the team is trying to escort out of battle.
All of that differentiation will exhaust players, but Brink keeps the chaos between all those clashes under control with extremely sophisticated objective direction. Say your team's operatives need to hack an enemy computer. Soldiers, engineers, and medics will be directed into supporting roles: Medics can choose an "escort" objective where they're rewarded for buffing the operative's health; engineers can be instructed to build a shortcut for operatives to sneak their way behind enemy lines; and soldiers might be rewarded for completing support objectives.
Brink's ties to Team Fortress 2 are undeniable. Streamlining nine classes down to four will allow gamers to better grasp the madness as well. What's more, Splash Damage have placed a heavy focus on assault rifles, SMGs, and other direct fire ordinance. The emphasis on fast kills and rapid fire will make for welcoming gameplay to those accustomed to Call of Duty's frantic action.
Remember, Brink also has a touch of Mirror's Edge in the way players can traverse the environment. Splash Damage calls it the SMART system: Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain. The most varied and fleet-footed among you all will need to equip the smallest body type. With less bulk, players can wall-run and vault higher than any other player but will also be limited to small weapons like SMGs and pistols only in a secondary position. The medium body type can carry a variety of weapons but won't be able to wall-run. The heavy body type can carry miniguns and grenade launchers but move a lot slower and will have to find ramps and walkways to higher altitudes.
All of this variety works well in mutliplayer. Brink's matchmaking also runs smoothly and games aren't hard to find. A dependable multiplayer mode is invaluable to the title because the single-player mode essentially consists of each map and each objective. That'll leave a lot of gamers cold depending on how they value their hard-earned cash.
Brink's art style will also turn some gamers on and others off. The skinny faces and decidedly British accents are entertaining at first but might wear on you in the long run. I'm not one for character customization, but Splash Damage's shooter offers a suite of outfits and weapons to tweak your player character as you see fit.
Wait, story? You probably noticed I haven't mentioned it once. There's a reason Team Fortress 2 features two teams locked in battle for God-knows-what reason. Brink's story bookends the beginning and end of matches but is utterly stupid and a waste of time for me, you, and the developers. If you can tell me the point behind all of it, you've probably got some strange autistic genetic defect in you and belong at the Pentagon cracking codes.
When I reviewed Homefront, I rated the game high despite its lackluster single-player mode. Critics, business types, and your mom and dad don't understand that multiplayer is much more important to you than single-player these days. Head-to-head content gets the wealth of gaming time and Brink comes well equipped for hours and hours of gunplay.