Brink has come out to a sigh of disappointment peppered with frothing internet angry man (justifiably) because it just doesn’t work for some. Without getting into the technicalities, Craig and Steven discuss what they think about it.
Craig: Before anything, for the sake transparency I’m going to say that I’ve played Brink for 7 hours, with around 3 hours online and the rest against bots and in challenge mode.
Steven: I’ve got 21 hours logged.
Craig: 21? Bloody hell. It’s only been out a couple of days.
Steven: I’ve had it about two days longer than you European types. That said, I was also present for the US midnight release.
Craig: Well, I got it the review code the same day it released in the US and got around to playing it a day after. But, I mean, how are you finding this much time?
Steven: I’m writing this senior thesis and it’s about all I’m doing right now; Brink has been filling in for breaks.
Craig: Shouldn’t you be reading or something then? Anyway, what do you think? Personally, I can’t bring myself to load it up again.
Steven: I like it quite a bit. I bought Quake Wars about a hundred years ago but never played it much. I always liked what Splash Damage did with games, I could tell that from the moment I loaded up Quake Wars. It’s refreshing and different.
Craig: Quake Wars I get. I liked that a lot. In fact, if you listened to the interview we did with Ed Stern at Eurogamer I told him as much, and we talked about why it didn’t do so well. And to meander to a point, this isn’t Quake Wars or anything like it, really. To me it’s like a new wave CoD.
Steven: Nu-CoD is a term we could coin. But I don’t think Brink is it. I have my own gripes with it, but Brink stands out from CoD.
Craig: I’m not using CoD in a derogatory way, by the way. Modern Warfare 1 had a great multiplayer, and this feels like an evolution of that, is what I’m saying.
Steven: What are the similarities you see between the way the two play, then?
Craig: Well, they feel the same. Like, Brink doesn’t feel like Battlefield or Team Fortress 2. It feels like CoD. The way Assault Rifles feel, how gun fights play out.
Steven: That’s interesting, since most people seem to jump to the TF2 comparison in lieu of the CoD one.
Craig: Well it’s natural because it’s class based with a nice aesthetic. But the combat doesn’t feel anything like TF2 – just the game structure.
Steven: Correct, it doesn’t. But we’re getting at something that I actually like a lot about Brink and is something we clearly differ on – the ‘feel’ of the guns and the firefights. CoD feels mushy to me, maybe because I only ever played it on console. Brink’s gunplay feels like something I can hold in my hand.
Craig: It’s just not working for me. I never feel like I’m in control with it. It’s too…I don’t know. It’s wrong. Like, when I play Battlefield, or Red Orchestra, or even after 10 minutes with Section 8, something clicks and the guns make sense and they do what I want them to do. With Brink though, that’s not happening.
Steven: I get that. Guns don’t do what you want them to in Brink. You have to go find which ones work the way you want them to, which gun is going to deign to be ‘your’ gun. With the lack of any way to compare them beyond using them, the only way to know is to try them all out. And with the overwhelming selection, it’s impenetrable for anyone who is starting out.
Craig: The menus piss me off a tonne. But before I start laying into them, I want to close off this gun stuff. I’ve found 1 that makes sense, and it’s one of the heavy machine guns. but if you use that then you stop Brink being fun because you can’t fucking move. There’s a rant bubbling up in my head.
Steven: My final word on the guns in Brink will always rest with the sound. I’m an enormous sucker for good sound design and it’s a huge contributor to the positive feel of the gunplay for me. The heavy MGs don’t make a spot of sense to me but I use them anyway because they sound so great.
Craig: Ooh yes, the sound design is wonderful. I like it when you go deaf in one ear because of a grenade or something.
Steven: Yes, it’s an advancement in suppression and disorientation effects that I’ve been craving ever since Bad Company 2 and I hope the nuance carries forwards.
Craig: Actually, shall we talk about the movement and level design a bit, because for me this all ties in with what’s making the gunplay a bit crap. Essentially, it tries to shove this “move more than you shoot” ethos down your throat, but then makes that impossible by levels being a series of choke points and corridors. It doesn’t make much sense. Though the free running is excellent when you have chance to use it.
Steven: “Move more than you shoot” is a load of bollocks. I play the Light body type mostly, which I know you dislike. I don’t play it because it’s good, but because I want so badly for it to be good.
Craig: I don’t dislike it at all. I would use it if it made sense with the levels. But because you always get bogged down in a gunfight, it makes no sense to use a class with super low health.
Steven: Exactly; it feels great vaulting through the level for about thirty seconds, then you hit a choke point and get massacred. The level design is meant to funnel conflict through corridors, which is fine, it’s just one possible approach to creating a good firefight environment. But then trying to squeeze this element of parkour freedom into those constraints…something’s going to get compromised.
Craig: Multiplayer maps shouldn’t be contrived environments for good gunfights though. All the best multiplayer shooters have maps that feel dynamic – like a fight could be anywhere and you’re approaching it from a number of angles.
Steven: In Brink you will always wind up fighting in more or less the same place over the same thing. It’s a fact of the game, as it currently stands. Maybe there’s some hope for user-created maps in the future that satisfy the need for openness.
Craig: It’s a possibility I guess, but I can’t say nice things about something that hasn’t been even confirmed as possible yet. What I will say though is that the maps that are already there are extremely pretty if nothing else. In fact, the whole game is pretty – the aesthetics are lovely.
Steven: Positively gorgeous. Is the character customization trite with its “look at how many combinations there are!” number crunching? Who cares, it looks awesome.
Craig: I like playing dress up, got to admit. I’m a sucker for coats. You don’t really notice it much in game, but it does look nice and it’s fun to do.
Steven: I’m always changing how my characters look, I’m not sure if I just like playing or if I’m never quite satisfied with how they turn out. I wish I could get a better look at other players’ fashion other than staring at their dead bodies.
Craig: What do you think to the story stuff? It’s trying to pull off this singleplayer/multiplayer thing but, really, it’s just multiplayer with cutscenes right?
Steven: The story is pretty much entirely comprised of cutscene vignettes placed at the beginning and end of matches (also there are some audio logs that nobody every listens to). I like it for the glimpses that it gives of this brilliantly detailed world. In fact, I would like to play a strictly linear, story-based campaign like we see in most other games, but set in this world.
Craig: Well, you can. To the extent that I’ve not been able to click campaign, and play online once. I can only do multiplayer through the traditional server browser way. But, back to the point, the cutscenes are well put together, nicely written, nicely animated. My big question is, though, that this is a multiplayer game and…well, after 20 something hours of play are they starting to get in the way yet? You get,what, 3, thirty second scenes every match.
Steven: It actually doesn’t matter much; the game often decides to just skip the ones at the beginning. The ones in the middle of the match, for when objectives are completed or failed, give me ample time to cuss out my lousy team.
Craig: Teams. Fucking teams.
Steven: They make you win or lose.
Craig: Earlier today 3 medics ran past me as I lay on the floor dying. You don’t get that sort of crap with Bad Company 2.
Steven: It’s true, in Bad Company 2 medics love to rush out in front of tanks to revive you so that the tank can kill you again.
Craig: Ha. Shut up. I would never do that. (hides)
Steven: The discrepancy in that behaviour is odd, since both actions in both games are rewarded with points that go towards unlocking crap.
Craig: I think it’s because the emphasis with Brink, as much as it tries to hide it, is with the shooting. Battlefield is about positioning and locking down points and support. Brink is about killing the doodz.
Steven: Brink tries to make the teamwork fluid to the point of subconsciousness, with that “F to help out or whatever!” prompt every time you look at someone. So that the shooting may commence, while remaning ostensibly a team game.
Craig: Do you think it could be because it limits the amount of team actions you can do? You aren’t limited to the amount of defibs you can use in battlefield, or ammo boxes or whatever.
Steven: That was my other thought. Medic revives, at 175 points per, are the most valuable one-off team action you can perform though. When I play medic I conserve my supplies so I can revive more, but since the medic can do about 3 other things with his supplies it makes sense they run out fast.
Craig:Maybe it’s because of the interface then. The numbers don’t mean anything to me as they pop up, really. I don’t know what I’m working towards so ultimately I don’t care.
Steven: New face paint! Look like a monkey! But briefly, on the interface and numbers and HUD. It needs a power scrubbing. With this corridor shooting, sometimes I can’t see what I’m trying to hit.
Craig: And while we’re talking about unlocks, this is my big gripe: everything in Brink is crap. Well, not crap, but you’re balancing negatives. Games split in two: games where you’re balancing levels of awesome, and games where you’re balancing de-buffs. Brink is the latter – I don’t get a new thing and think “awesome, a new thing!”, I think “do I really want to do even less damage per shot?”
Steven: You’re talking about the ability unlocks yeah?
Craig: Weapon unlocks mostly, which I know you don’t get through XP. I’m just saying. The ability unlocks are all fine, but none are particularly exciting – just things that most games let you do by default.
Steven: Ability unlocks strike me first as ways to get more points and second as ways to better help your team. Weapon unlocks though; silencers also strike me as useless. There’s a lot of possible combinations but not very many that make sense.
Craig: Very true. It’s frustrating. I’m all into gun porn. I fucking love silencers and pistols, but they’re so useless. It’s all assault rifles, like that other game. What’s it called…..?
Craig: No, CoD you clown.
Steven: Don’t know why I chose DeathSpank. Must’ve been the name. What is that game anyway. Anyway, Brink. That thought process was almost as difficult to follow as Brink’s menus.
Craig: haha. You should be in a podcast with segues like that.
Steven: I am a wordsmith.
Craig: The menus are functional at times, fucking useless at others.
Steven: For a game that is focused on channelling its conflict very specifically, it doesn’t channel you through the menus and interface very well. There are annoying glitches like how pressing “Done” when fiddling with your face will take you all the way out of the character designer. I think it’s a bigger problem that the game doesn’t take new players immediately to the challenges though, where they can actually learn the game instead of bumbling around in Campaign with bots like they’re likely going to do upon first playing.
Craig: It’s trying to be too minimalist and easy to navigate, and it’s come at the huge cost of it not giving enough detail about anything. But, yeah, the challenges have probably been my favourite thing to play. Have you seen the parkour speed runs? Some guy did it in 18 seconds. Here:
Steven: Robots, I tell you. But that’s really how I want to play Brink.
Craig: Mirrors Edge with good combat. Sigh.
Steven: The glimmers of this Brink that we saw when it was first being ponied about, this amazing, kinetic game… that game doesn’t exist.
Craig: Alright, I feel properly vented. Actually, for saying that before we started this you said that you liked it, you’ve not really argued much with me knocking it.
Steven: Whoops, better go uninstall it. But really, maybe this is me being the traditional videogames consuming bitch, but I accept that the Brink that I bought was not really the Brink that I was sold. We agree on a lot of the same things that we dislike about the game, though maybe it is to a lesser degree of intensity for me.
Craig: There’s a chance I’m being hard on it because it’s disappointing. It’s so very nearly right. It just needs better maps and something tweaking with the guns and less of an air of negativity about everything.
Steven: A lot of what is being slagged in the general videogaming press is stuff that is entirely fixable. The unfixable stuff, a good deal of which we’ve touched on here, can’t really be argued with beyond looking forwards to its improvement in whatever Splash Damage makes next. To give a bottom line, I want the scope of Quake Wars with the fierceness of Brink. Releasing Brink, flawed as it is, is a step in that direction.
Craig: A lot is fixable, sure. Will it get fixed though? No, because it would mean re-writing huge chunks of code. The netcode will get sorted because it has to be, but the menus and maps wont. Ultimately, would you recommend people buy it? Assuming the netcode does get properly fixed. Because, like, Section 8 is new, costs £10, and I’m having much more fun with that.
Steven: Brink itself is easily relegated to the “disappointment” bin because it showed us a much brighter world that it delivered. That said, the direction that it indicates is one of progress and for that reason I’d suggest that people pick it up once it goes on sale. From what I’ve heard about Section 8, it is also party to this brave new world of shooters, and based on your recommendation I’m actually going to go pick it up after this chat. I think both games are important to follow and play.