There are many that say that first impressions are the most important, and they’re totally correct in thinking that. No one, for example, that is hoping to get hired for just about any job shows up ten minutes late reeking of whiskey wearing tattered jeans and flip flops along with the lipstick-stained collared shirt they wore to the bar the night before.
However, there are the rare occasions that we should perhaps offer the interviewee some mouthwash, send them to the bathroom for a few minutes to clean off that lipstick and refrain from tossing their resume in the trash before giving it a look. This is the essence of Try-It-Again-Tuesdays, proposing that gamers maybe take a look at so-so to terrible games again and hope they get a sequel to let their strengths shine.
In an age where every shooter is trying to be Call of Duty with its persistent online multiplayer and Michael Bay-esque campaign, it is always refreshing to see a new entry in the genre that turns its head to these conventions and attempts to blaze its own path. Brink appeared to be that game at first glance. The competitive multiplayer and the campaign were brought together, the Ark, the dystopian, artificial island the game took place on, had an appealingly clean look to it and to top it all of the developers were touting a new parkour style movement that seemed reminiscent of the underappreciated Mirror’s Edge. Unfortunately, it was not often that the final product made these appealing elements click.
The quickest way to destroy the appeal of a game designed with parkour movement in mind is to design maps without parkour movement in mind. The system worked, but it was very rare where the fluidity of Mirror’s Edge was reached because the design of the maps simply did not present many opportunities to move in such a way.
To add insult to injury, the very environments that already neutered parkour movement were pretty bland and boring as well. Where, in the midst of a civil war, were all of the civilians? There had to be those that were trapped between the opposing sides of the conflict, unwilling or unable to fight. The battles were made up of (all male) soldiers fighting over vacant plots of land. It was all very bleh…despite the appealing art style. That in itself is a dubious achievement in level design.
Another problem was that the game was not designed around the game types it offered very well. To make myself more clear, vying for control of certain points on the map or trying to defend or destroy an objective was not all that fun because of the rubbish re-spawn system. Since it ran on a 20 second cycle, recently deceased players all came back into the fight at about the same time. This essentially turned what should have been a tug-of-war feel into waves of enemies just smashing into each other over and over again until either one side got lucky or the clock ran out. It proved to be a very frustrating experience.
These were all very glaring flaws that Brink could never really make up for, but there were moments where everything would just fall into place, and these were times that the game’s potential was made clear. The objectives were always coming in and they all encouraged players to try out different classes, something that is rare in a class based game. There were also times where it was clear that certain parts of the maps were designed just right for a parkour runner, giving a great sense of momentum to a match. When all of the classes came together and formed a sublime mixture of tactics and speed, the matches became an exhilarating, pulse pounding experience. Again, these moments did not happen often.
These moments of clarity along with the many flaws that made them “moments” instead of “constants” does make it easy to suggest some changes that would make a sequel a game worth playing. For one, if the game is going to mesh multiplayer and single player, there needs to be more story. This could come in the form of having the maps tell the story, much like Valve’s Left 4 Dead games. Have civilians running around, hell, maybe even offer certain sides the option to save them. There needs to be more going on in these matches that suggest there is a civil war going on.
Another obvious fix would be to expand the maps. Remove the choke points that littered the first game and give them space to breathe. This would also make it easier to let the already functional parkour movement shine. If you are going to have a gimmick like that in your game, give players a meaningful use for it.
A few more fixes would come in the form of improved A.I. to make the co-op worth playing, more stable servers so that players can, y’know, play your multiplayer-focused game online, and balance out the classes (defensive-minded players could set up turrets and design nigh-impassable defenses). With more focus on the game’s big ideas, a sequel to Brink could offer a fresh perspective to the increasingly military-minded First Person Shooter.
What do you think? Is Brink broken beyond repair? Or could some refinement make it the next big thing in First Person Shooters? Let us know in the comments below!