First thoughts: Brink

There was a lot of hype over Brink in the build-up to it’s release- expectations seemed really high and the marketing campaign was in full force; I’d seen the game myself a few years back and even then it looked great. It takes something special to get me interested in what is essentially a multiplayer-only game*, and I even came very close to buying it. So the reviews were somewhat surprising when they came out.

For obvious reasons, I’m put off by games with very mixed scores, but I still like to give them a go. So I did. I’ve played the PC version briefly in offline mode and had a good few hours on the Xbox version online, so I can make a few basic comparisons. I’m mainly referring to the Xbox version though, unless I say otherwise. Like now:

Brink is a beautiful game on PC, and it was actually the system requirements that initially put me off buying it, despite my computer being quite capable of running Crysis 2 at a decent framerate. Having tried it, I’m glad I didn’t buy it on PC: on medium settings (something I hate doing) I’ll get a nice, playable framerate in some areas – mostly areas where no actual gameplay will take place.

I’m quite easily impressed with the visuals on games, mainly due to the amount of progression I’ve seen since playing on them (I still have fond memories of Treasure Island Dizzy!), but I was hugely disappointed by the visuals on the Xbox version; They’re perfectly fine on occasion, but terrible far too often. Texture pop-in happens fairly regularly on Xbox games these days, but it’s usually hidden well: not here. There were a worrying amount of artifacts appearing too; it was like watching a low-quality online video at times. But it’s not all about graphics though, is it?

After a few hours on the Xbox version today, Brink feels like a game with some fantastic ideas trying desperately to break out of a badly built game. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad game – it was quite enjoyable, for the most part – but like seeing the reviews after all the hype, it’s something of a let-down.

Graphics asise, another issue mentioned in reviews (mostly in the Xbox version) was the lag present in online games – I’ve not heard any mention of these issues with the PC version, but I haven’t tried the game online in order to test it anyway. In my experience, as with the visuals, it ranged between acceptable and horrendous. I can’t even be sure how many actual humans I played against either, since the game seemed to have a hard time finding them.

When the lag appeared it broke the game, though; A few seconds of freezing following by gunfire noises, and before you know it you’re in the next room being attacked. And this happened at fairly regular intervals when connected to a bad server, so that’s not good. Still, it was ok for the most part and often no worse than my experiences in other online games.

Despite it’s problems I’m still enjoying it, though. The game mechanics are great, it’s just frustrating that they are so horribly obscured by odd bugs and poor performance. I imagine if you’re willing to overlook them, you can still get a good deal of fun out of it, and that’s the main thing, isn’t it?

* Yes, you can play it on offline and on your own, but you would be playing it wrong.

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