May 122011

So hey, the game’s out.

Reviews since the Tuesday launch have been a mixed bag. Joystiq excoriated the game with a 2/5, while other outlets have gone up to 8/10 and 88/100. Ars Technica went so far as to explain why it won’t be reviewing the game until the messy launch is sorted out. What’s a gamer to do?

I’ve dropped an hour or two in the Challenge modes, solo. It took about that long to unlock everything available through the Challenges (which is mostly weapons and attachments; character skills are unlocked by leveling up), and many reviews have criticized the game for this ease of getting new stuff. (Just fyi, I narrowly avoided a “Master of Unlocking” reference there.) Reviews have also opined that you can reach the maximum level with your character in just a handful of additional hours.

On both of these counts, I think reviewers are spectacularly missing the point. Brink doesn’t try to offer a 75-level drip-feed of character progression, unlike the current vogue among the CoD-alikes (plus BC2) which dominate the shooter market. It wants you to unlock (almost) everything quickly, then just play the game. If anything, Brink fails by not clarifying its distinct approach in a crowded market.

Splash Damage spokespeople also encouraged people to get the wrong idea about the game when they talked about the “seamless” integration of the competitive multiplayer, cooperative multiplayer, and single-player modes. Just like TF2, this is a class-based, objective-based multiplayer game – full stop. If you’re looking for a single-player experience, move along. Nothing to see here.

Brink is hurt by an overall lack of polish, too, but you can get that story elsewhere. Some reviews might be missing the point of the game, for better or worse, but they’re accurately tallying many of its technical shortcomings. The good news is, Splash Damage has a consistent history of providing responsive, long-term support for its games and has already issued two quick patches for the PC version – within two days of the game’s North American release, and before it even unlocks in Europe.

I haven’t played the game online yet, and I’ll be out of town for the next few days. Funkmaster will also be installing Brink next week, so we’ll have more in-depth impressions later. At the moment, the most I can say is that the game might become something great – and if it fails, it’ll be an interesting failure. I can’t predict which of those paths it will take.

In the meantime, I’ve started a new wiki page for the game, covering some important details about configuring the PC version for the best Brink experience possible. Check it out.