I'm gonna start off by saying this, Brink does a lot of things right. The little amount of innovation we see here will hopefully push future games to try and shake things up a bit as the shooter genre has grown a bit stale over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, for every thing it does right, there is a small flaw that somehow makes the experience of playing just a little more frustrating than it should be. For those willing to look past the flaws there is a deep shooter rooted in maneuverability, team-work, and customization waiting to be mastered.
Before diving into the campaign you'll be able to customize a character with the handful of outfits that are available at the beginning of the game(you can have a stable of up to ten unique characters). Your newly created avatar will level up persistently offline and online by gaining experience completing the list of tasks associated with each level, buffing teammates guns or health depending on your class, or damaging and downing enemies. Leveling up will unlock new outfits, abilities, and audio logs(which further explain the canon of the story and sometimes have useful tips for playing a specific class.) There are four classes to choose from(Medic, Soldier, Engineer, and Operative) each with its own set of unlock-able skills and three body types(Light, Medium, and Heavy) which offer different amounts of health, movement style, and weapon selection.
The SMART(Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) System works really well and is something I've wanted to see in a first person shooter since I can remember, especially after Mirror's Edge. Depending on the body type of your current character you'll be able to Utilize SMART differently. Light body types have the ability to vault, climb, slide, and do some Matrix-style wall running. Medium types get that minus the wall runs and Heavy body types can't do any type of parkouring what-so-ever but gain a bit of health and the ability to carry the heaviest guns in the game. Splash Damage did a great job of designing levels with SMART in mind. You'll find several different routes to every objective on the map and dodging enemy fire is more fun here than in any shooter currently on the market.
The campaign plays out through the eyes of two different factions warring on The Ark; A futuristic city adrift in the open ocean that was supposed to be some kind of new utopia but slowly became over populated with slums and shanty towns. Depending on which side you choose you'll either be trying to get your self off The Ark(Resistance) or you'll be trying to save it from the revolutionaries that have slowly populated the floating city(Security) The story is instantly forgettable and the short cut scenes before each mission serve only to give you an idea of what you'll be encountering in the upcoming area.
This is where Splash Damage's claim of seamlessly combining offline and online play starts to unravel. The offline missions are identical to what you'll be doing online, the only difference being that you'll only be accompanied by AI bots in the solo campaign. The frustrating thing is that the AI doesn't seem to do all that much. You'll find your self switching between the four classes in the game several times during one mission to complete every objective. On the rare occasion that a bot does try to complete an objective they usually fail leaving you to have to do it anyway. I will say that the AI does do it's job in some areas, you'll constantly hear them say they've grabbed you a command post which nets your team health and damage bonuses given that you're in proximity to it and more often than not they'll buff your health or gun damage and revive you if you're downed. The other problem is that there's no split-screen co-op. I never understood the downfall of couch co-op and why developers think people don't want to actually hang out with their friends while playing. A MESSAGE TO ALL THE DEVELOPERS WE ALL LOVE COUCH CO-OP! Jokes aside campaign mode is, if anything, a good training device for the online arena. Running around completing all the objectives lets you see the flow of given level and helps you choose which class might fit you best.
Other than the campaign there are four(thats right a whole four) challenges which each have three different difficulties that you can do solo or with a team of friends. Doing any of them solo on the first two difficulties will unlock the weapons and attachments in the game. Completing any on the third difficulty will upload your score to a global leader board. The sad thing here is that all the weapons and attachments can be unlocked in a day. It doesn't really give you a sense of accomplishment when you've seen almost everything the game can throw at you in the first 24 hours. The other downside here is that there really aren't a whole lot of weapons or attachments and a lot of the games guns feel incredibly similar.
Online is where this game really shines. With a solid group, you'd be hard pressed to find a better objective-based team shooter on PS3 or Xbox 360. Having actual teammates at your side really shows you how the game is supposed to work and allows you to better feel out which of the four given classes really works for your play style. There's a few different game types to choose from, the standard being 8 on 8 or competitive 5 on 5. It's unfortunate that online matches(specifically 8 on 8 games) are plagued with lag issues, depending on your host you'll get significant rubber banding and freezing. Splash Damage has already patched the game(and promised free DLC for all your trouble) which has definitely addressed the issue somewhat but there are still some kinks to be worked out.
Brink is a great game if you can get past it's flaws. It presents some deep customization and some fresh gameplay that, when everything is working well, really delivers a solid online experience. While I can't recommend this to people without Xbox Live I can absolutely recommended it for those who do. Hopefully we'll get to see some more of Splash Damages vision with a sequel or future DLC.