If you believe all the huffing and puffing from this oft-delayed game, Brink has managed to blend the single and multiplayer FPS into one glorious whole. It hasn't, but the end result is a shooter with the potential to be a whole lot more interesting. British studio Splash Damage, which grew to maturity off the back of the nineties modding scene, has managed to create a multiplayer-focused game that's ambitious, rewarding and - most importantly, perhaps - unique.
To put it simply, Brink might go to great lengths in a bid to facilitate solo and co-op play, but it's the nail-biting tactics and tension which comes from the eight-on-eight adversarial play which causes the game to shine. Go for a spin in its inferior solo mode and you'll end up frustrated, bored, and likely on the cusp of severely regretting the time investment.
Brink's sixteen objective-based campaign levels, spread across eight different overall maps, simply don't tie themselves together in the manner most single-player adventurers would like. While Brink's framing of a post-apocalyptic society clinging to their existence onboard a super-structure at sea certainly fits the bill for the narrative frame, providing enough contextual oomph to justify hectic multiplayer squabbles, the game's personality comes from its distinct visual identity, caricaturised avatars, and extensive customisation options rather than plot twists and the odd boss battle.
I believe the Ark is a world you must experience with other people, and its stories are ones you create through repeated encounters and vainglorious moments of collective triumph. The tales of one player vaulting over a ledge, sliding around a corner at the last second to defuse a bomb perilously close to exploding, are the ones that will be remembered over the coming months. In the background of this world is the enigmatic Founders' Tower, an Apple-chic spire jutting out of the horizon, but the foreground of the experience is you and your repeated personal squabbles placed within the setting of two factions engaged in civil war - the steely Security and the ragtag Resistance.
In a roundabout way, that's another reason why Brink just doesn't work on your tod. I don't think anybody expects the AI cohorts to replace the deep intricacies of human players, but what's on offer here just isn't up to scratch. The CPU is adequate at defending a location, where it can usually lock down an area with military precision, but if the situation requires the AI drones to go on the offensive then the whole illusion crumbles into a painful facade.
Co-operative play, with your faction's octet likely rounded out with the assistance of a few allied bots, is significantly less painful, but even then it feels more like a training mode for versus play rather than a defined experience in its own right. Brink might attempt to blur the lines between single, multi and co-op play, but there's definitely a clear winner.
It helps there's enough opportunity to gently segue into versus play, however, because Brink is complicated; that's proved effortlessly by the fact it won't let you access basic weapon modifications until completing a quartet of tutorial-meets-challenge rooms, or that it recommends you watch a half-hour movie to explain its many intricacies when you first load the game. While Splash Damage has tried to make the game's rhythms accessible to the average player, there's something about a non-interactive tutorial of that length which will surely distance a few people from the word go.