Brink: A Bad Game I Love

Image: Brink’s box art
Written by: Elijah Moon Blackwell

There’s an unbelievable amount of video games. Even before the digital age, there was an endless sea of titles to explore.

I feel like this is a drawback to the industry. The sheer amount of releases means a lot of good titles get covered up. But on the other hand, it gives players a lot of choices.

A lot of the times I make bad choices. I end up trying some of the worst games that ever graced a computer. Of course I’m weird and I ended up loving a few. Brink is one of those loves.

To get it out of the way, Brink is awful.

Just because I like a game doesn’t mean I am delusional. This game is not good. So before I detail why I have dozens of hours in it, let’s explore why Brink sucks.

There must have been issues in development. There was a delay from Spring 2010 to Autumn 2010. Then it was delayed until 2011. The developer Splash Damage and publisher Bethesda Softworks never officially stated what was causing the delay.

I didn’t buy the game when it first released in 2011. I saved my allowance for the other seemingly better titles. Apparently no one bought it. Online forums like this Reddit thread mention how dead Brink was during the first few weeks. There was no active online servers. Just matches filled with AI bots.

When I did finally get Brink a year later, it was selling for $5. Retailers were trying to give this game away and no one was biting. Why get a poorly reviewed shooter when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 came out the same year?

Teenage me popped the game in and immediately fell in love. I had no idea why it received the amount of hate it did, but I did understand why it was poorly reviewed.

Everything is half baked.

Brink has a lot of cool good-on-paper features. During the IGN Live E3 Demo in 2010, a developer mentions Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain (SMART). In other shooters like Call of Duty, your movement is heavily restricted. There’s not a whole lot of obstacles you can traverse. Usually there isn’t a jump button and a kitchen table is enough to stop a hardened soldier from moving forward.

Brink was supposed to have free movement. SMART meant that while sprinting, the player’s character would climb or vault over the obstacle and keep moving. Light body types could wall hop to new locations, medium body types could climb most obstacles and heavy body types were heavily restricted.

It was supposed to add a whole new layer of customization. Pick your body type based on what you prioritize. Fast movement or big guns. The end result is bland.

SMART works when it wants to. Sure, you can slide underneath a railing or table, but only specific ones. It’s hard to know what objects SMART will react to. Even with the light body type and it’s ability to “parkour” wherever, there aren’t many areas where it proves useful.

When SMART does decide to work, your character movement is both slow and awkward. During the animation your aim is bad (assuming you are even allowed to shoot) and you are an easy target. If you catch an enemy climbing up a wall, it’s a free kill. As a light body you die in a few shots due to reduced health. The idea that you could parkour to safety is just a dream. It’s safer to back pedal around a corner and try to outgun the opponent.

Most objectives are located in, what I liked to call, kill boxes. This is a light body nightmare.

Maps are corridors with maybe one or two alternate paths. The light body only routes are just that, one way routes. There is no secret room or overlook. It just gets you somewhere faster than everyone else. Once the enemy team knows that route exists, it’s usefulness is diminished. Then it becomes a death trap.

Most maps look like this. Tight corridors.

SMART sounds amazing, but it just doesn’t work. This is how every feature is.

Brink is a class based shooter which means each class has it’s own purpose. That too is poorly done. The engineer’s turret is useless. Their mines are mild inconveniences. The support class has a Molotov cocktail that just knocks people down temporarily.

The guns are all generic with similar stats. None of them are memorable. They all have terrible names. Mix that with the bland designs and you’ve got one forgettable shooter. My friends may cite a specific weapon from a particular game as their favorite. I don’t think anyone but me will remember Brink’s Tampa, Euston or Lobster. They are not special in any way.

Instead of fantasy weapons, they decided to copy real world weapons. Yawn.

But nothing is as bad as that terrible SMART system. I can almost excuse everything being bland if it wasn’t for SMART.

There are more issues but I just spent the majority of this article destroying this game. I’d like to actually show it some love now!

The atmosphere is fantastic.

Music plays a huge role in video games. The lack of music can make a moment more intense or uneasy. It’s quite fascinating how music influences emotion.

Brink has an interesting plot. In the 2010s a utopian, self sufficient, and Eco-friendly city called the Ark was built. Then the sea levels rose at a rapid rate due to human accelerated climate change. This left the Ark to float on a seemingly endless ocean. As refugees from distant islands sought shelter while their homes flooded, the Ark’s resources are began to deplete. Worse, the original citizens of the Ark are living in wealth while the refugees are forced to live in shipping containers and other wreckage. The refugees get rationed supplies while the citizens get treated like royalty.

No refugees have arrived in awhile. It seems like the Ark is the only city left. A civil war breaks out and thus you choose a side. Security or Resistance.

You can change sides at any time. You have two separate “characters,” but it’s purely cosmetic. The tone is set perfectly depending on the side you have currently selected. In the main menu you can quickly switch sides by clicking a button. Each time you do the music changes to fit the tone. Security has a clean tune that fits the sleek Ark. Resistance has more of a battle tune.

My Resistance character
My Security character

Security wear clean uniforms with luxury accessories. Resistance wear common work clothes and industrial equipment. The leaders are drastically different in their speech. The lore is built on Brink’s visuals and sound.

The stakes are high. Who will control the Ark? Everything about this game’s plot adds to the intense experience.

And hey, there’s bots!

Yes, the AI is pure garbage. But I’m glad they are here. I can’t stand how some of my favorite multiplayer shooters are pretty much dead. I really wish Battlefield 3 had some kind of bot support.

This is crucial considering that Brink is totally dead. I tried to find a server while writing this article and I just kept getting thrown into a server full of bots.

I am content with the bots. I actually never experienced Brink with a full server of players. In fact, it’s somewhat of a fun challenge to protect the bots while they carry out the objectives. If you decide to be a one man army, then prepare for a super easy shooter.

Bots are extremely dumb and are obviously strictly scripted to follow a specific path. However, I see the bots as more of a pro than a con.

I was always be able to play this game without hoping for a random player.

Now it’s free!

If you have a decent PC, Brink is free-to-play on Steam. Go and try it. My advice to you is that if you are going to do further research before diving head first, do NOT watch trailers or even read the Steam store page. You will get hyped about stuff I didn’t talk about. There is a reason why I omitted the trailers.

SMART is in the game, it just sucks and gets in the way. Dual wielding weapons are not in the game, but in one of the trailers. If you watch trailers or old E3 footage, you may hype yourself up for content that’s not there.

Know before going into it that Brink is a slow and bland shooter. Play it for the lore, character customization and the objective based matches. Again, it’s free so why not give it a shot!

Got any game you’d like to see covered? Don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments or at cdromfossil@gmail.com!

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