This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Brink. Also, there is a drinking game involving Team Fortress 2.
Brink. Brrrrink. That really is one of those words that sounds weirder the more you say it, isn't it? Sounds like the name for a color somewhere between brown and pink, like you got bored and mixed Neapolitan ice cream together. It also sounds like onomatopoeia for the sound you get when you bring a hammer down onto, say, a video game disk. On the whole, it's a name I find increasingly hard to take seriously. Like if you were to tell me that Brink is a stylized class-based multiplayer shooter that sets out to compete with Team Fortress 2 - that would be a statement I would find very hard to take seriously. I have to admit, though, a game has to be pretty fucking confident to put itself into a position where it has to be compared to Team Fortress 2 - there's courageous and then there's seeing if you can fit your entire head through a cattle grid.
So yes, Brink is a stylized class-based multiplayer shooter set on a floating futuristic gated community called "The Ark", but this casual Biblical reference proved foreshadowy as the rest of the planet flooded and The Ark became flooded with refugees with hilarious accents. You get to decide whether you're going to side with the snobby security forces, who aren't racist but think this was a much nicer neighborhood before the immigrants got word of it, or the selfish refugee resistance, who fucked everything up in the first place. Go team!
But if you have trouble remembering all that, the two groups have conveniently color-coded themselves blue and red, respectively, not to be confused with the blue and red teams from Team Fortress 2, because those teams enforced a strict dress code so that both sides would know as soon as possible whether they were offloading bullets into something that could potentially be slinging them dirty looks from across the staff canteen later in the evening. On The Ark it's always casual Friday, which often requires a second look when you're in the thick of things, but as long as Mr. Fucking Important is wearing comfortable pants, than that's all right then!
Incidentally, I'd like to invite fans of Brink to take a shot every time I mention Team Fortress 2. Hopefully by the end of this video you won't feel so poorly disposed towards me.
You know how Team Fortress 2 (take a shot) introduced optional hats and unlockables that did nothing but mess with perfectly good visual design like a bunch of jelly beans sprinkled on a wedding cake? Well, Bethesda saw this and cried "Valve will never outdo us when it comes to making bad decisions! Fully customizable outfits for everyone! You won't even be able to fucking see the wedding cake behind the jelly beans!" You want to know the ironic thing, though? Even with this feature, every character looks exactly the bloody same. That's failing to a new level. That's like standing on a rake and the end of the rake has a grenade taped to it.
You see, Team Fortress 2 (take a shot) taught us that the most immediate visual aspect of a character is their silhouette, and everyone in Brink has the silhouette of a guy with a very baggy sweater and an Easter Island statue for a head. Like Team Fortress 2 (take a shot), the characters are a bit stylized and cartoonish, which seems out of place as there's virtually no wit or character to the dialogue whatsoever, unless you think foreign accents are hilarious. But the realistic skin textures make it look a bit weird, like that one photoshop of Mario with realistic texturing or an upright vacuum cleaner that went insane and is wearing the skin of its owner.
Now, even before I played Brink I was dubious. I didn't see how you have fully customizable outfits in a class-based shooter. Surely one needs to be able to tell the difference between classes, so you know if the enemy bearing down towards you is a soldier to be feared or a medic or engineer to be bullied and given wedgies. But then I actually played the game, and after playing as each of the classes, I realized I still don't fucking know the difference between them. They all have the same weapons, a submachine gun and another submachine gun, and the only real distinction is what exactly you're occasionally asked to stand in front of and mash the Use key at: soldiers put bombs on explodable things, engineers engineer engineerable things, medics medicate dead things - at least until they run out of energy, which will happen very quickly because your teammates die like Enterprise crewmen on the tuberculosis planet. The classes do get more differentiated if you play the game long enough to unlock character upgrades, but having to unlock what should be an essential aspect of the game seems a bit batty nuggets. What's the logical conclusion of this? A game that's just a blank screen until you've stared at it long enough to unlock the Start Game button?
Let's give your livers a rest and compare Brink to something other than Team Fortress 2 for a bit (take a shot), namely Mirror's Edge. Brink aspires to have a parkour-style movement system designed to allow fast and smooth movement through random debris and awkward terrain. Forgive me for being cynical - although if you don't, you're probably not a regular viewer - but perhaps a simpler solution would be to not clutter up the levels with random debris and awkward terrain in the first place!
Brink is a game where you're either pointing your Use key at something, defending someone who's pointing their Use key at something, or lying flat on your back because some asshole shot you while you were busy pointing your Use key at something. And even when you're having to run from the spawn to the objective for the fiftieth time that nanosecond, the maps aren't so huge and expansive that the game would make or break on its movement systems. But if you are going to take inspiration from Mirror's Edge, at least take the most important lesson that game had to teach us, namely that parkour from a first-person perspective just doesn't bloody work because it feels like you're jumping around with a fucking periscope glued to your face.
Speaking as someone who used to play a lot of Team Fortress 2 (hope you haven't put that bottle away just yet, lads!), I don't really get what anyone sees in Brink. I don't get why customizable outfits could possibly be so important to people that it has to sit in the middle of everything like a stubborn and noisy cow in a respectable theater. Nor, indeed, why the completely unintuitive GUI has to look like someone sneezed confetti all over your spectacles. I don't get how they could have the cheek to charge full price for what amounts to a handful of multiplayer maps, with the single-player campaign just being the same ones with bots, which is like being part of a chain gang with two autistic monkeys and a large, immovable steel cube.
In brief, I don't get Brink. Perhaps it's one of those things that's only good if you play it entirely with friends, but if you are able to successfully organize twenty nerds into the same game at the same time, then perhaps your talents would be better spent in the United Nations.
- One of those lefty troublemakers: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- For those of who who were playing along with the drinking game, why not round out your evening with a kebab?
- My pink skink stinks of drink