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Brink on Xbox 360 This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Splash Damage, a developer located in England, is easily one of my favorite game developers out there. Specializing in multiplayer games, those who know me might find my love of their games a surprise, as I am not a multiplayer fan. However, it's the strategy and huge focus on teamplay, the opposite of popular online shooters like Call of Duty, that makes me attracted to their games. Between the WWII focus of the hit free game Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and the Strogg-vs-humans of Quake Wars: Enemy Territory, I have never found one Splash Damage game I hated. With the exception of Doom 3's multiplayer. But, then again, Doom 3 was primarily an id Software game.

This same opinion, that I've never hated a Splash Damage game, continues with Brink, a 2011 shooter for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Going away from the Enemy Territory series and any existing id Software properties, Brink has an interesting premise and familiar, but tweaked, gameplay from their earlier titles. It continues to have that special emphasis on team-based, strategic multiplayer, but includes bots and single-player capabilities. Aside from problems with these bots, which I will get into soon, Brink is another great game from Splash Damage, and one of the most underrated games I've ever played.

Graphically, Brink uses a modified version of the id Tech 4 engine, also known as the Doom 3 engine. It was also the last game to use the engine before the use of id Tech 5 with 2011's RAGE. On the Xbox 360, the game looked really good for a 2011 game using a game engine from 2004. The game had good level design, lighting (this is the Doom 3 engine), models, and effects. There was some bad anti-aliasing and frame rate slow-down when the action got intense, but nothing that I couldn't forgive.

Seeing as Brink is a multiplayer-focused game, it's not a huge surprise that the story that exists in the game takes a backseat. But, surprisingly, what's there is interesting. Brink is set in 2045 on a Earth flooded due to global warming. However, many survived by taking refuge on an experimental self-sustaining city called the Ark. The city, once safe, became overcrowded with the refugees. With resources dwindling, two factions emerge. The Resistance, led by Joseph Chen, is convinced that there is still a world outside the Ark and will use the remaining resources to escape. The Security, led by Clinton Mokoena, will stop them and do whatever it takes to do so. Like I said, the story isn't groundbreaking or original, and it takes a backseat to the gameplay. But what's there successfully moves you and your faction from mission to mission and, as a bonus, is interesting.

Where Brink truly shines is in its gameplay. Mixing together heaps of customization and parkour with familiar Enemy Territory gameplay proves to be successful. The basic gameplay, with the exception of SMART movement, will be instantly familiar to any Enemy Territory fans. Two teams, multiple classes, objectives. For those unfamiliar, this means that there are two teams (Resistance and Security). Once you select a team, you choose a class (Soldier, Engineer, Operative, Medic) and jump into the game. Each map has a main objective. One team must complete the main objective (which team depends on the map) and the other team must stop them (again, depends on map). The main objectives range from ones anyone can complete to ones that require a certain class. Hacking requires an Operative, repairs require an Engineer, HE Charges require a Soldier, and healing escorts require a Medic. Class abilites can also stop these objectives. For example, a Soldier can remove Hackboxes and HE Charges. There are also side objectives, like capturing command posts and building/destroying barricades.

Brink also uses Mirror's Edge-esque parkour in the form of the SMART system. Standing for Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain, SMART is activated by holding down the sprint button (left bumper on Xbox 360). The player will then hurdle, slide, or otherwise run over most terrain. This encourages the use of various paths to the objective and thinking about using the environment.

Also in the game is a huge level of weapon and character customization. And I mean huge. In fact, Brink actually won a Guinness World Record for most character options. The exact number is big. At least in the millions. The back of the box says "Near-endless Customization: Create a character that is truly unique." This is easily one of the most true statements on the back of any video game box ever. The weapons don't have as many combinations, but there are still a lot.

Along with the campaign, there are two other modes: Freeplay and Challenges. Freeplay allows you to make an online game on a map from the campaign with your rules. Freeplay is the only mode that is online-only. The challenges allow you to hone your skills with the weapons, classes, and SMART system on five challenges that have three levels of difficulty. These also unlock weapons and attachments with each level of difficulty completed.

My only problem with Brink's gameplay lies in the form of the bots. They are just way too inconsistent with their behavior in-game. Sometimes, they do what they are supposed to do. Kill enemies, complete objectives, heal and help the other players. Other times the friendly A.I. is absolutely atrocious and the enemy A.I. vicious. One mission in the Security campaign, when played solo, is near impossible because of this problem. If this is the result of poor programming or the id Tech 4 A.I. not being advanced enough for the gameplay is something we may never know. But what I know is that it's annoying.

However, when you actually play with human opponents (or humans and bots at the same time), the game is amazing. Typically, if there are bots in online matches, they are ignored if the behavior is turned to the atrocious side of things. What's strange is that this usually isn't the case. The A.I. works well in online matches with other human players. So why is it partially broken in solo mode?

Aside from the A.I. problems, Brink is a great game. It's team-based, strategic multiplayer from Splash Damage at its finest. It's surprisingly polished (minus the A.I.) and is addictive with gameplay and deep with customization. Brink is a good game solo, at best. But bring some friends to the Ark and you will find the true charm in Brink's civil war-ridden world.



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