I have learned much in my years as a gamer.
The first and most important lesson is to always temper your expectations. It's okay to be excited, but don't let your ideas of what you think a game will be overpower the reality of what game designers are able to accomplish.
To that end, I approached Brink with an open mindset. The previews I've read were relatively favorable and it looked like a decent game. Team-based combat with character customization and shiny graphics. Seemed at the very least it'd be a good game to play for a bit.
Now let me preface this, as always, by saying that I'm playing this on my PC and the results may be different from those of console players.
The reason I'm calling this a preliminary report because I've found that I cannot continue with a full review in the game's current state. In fact, I'd rather not because I'm not sure if it's technical or the fault of the game, but my initial opinion of Brink is not a good one.
From the start you're told to choose a side. Being one of the people that bought into All Points Bulletin (A Cops and Robbers MMO that lasted almost exactly two months from launch), I thought this would have far more impact on gameplay than it actually does. In fact, you can switch between both factions at will.
The Security faction in the game are the "Cops" of the Ark, a massive floating city. Their rivals are the Resistance "Robbers". The Security wants to save the city, the Resistance wants to abandon it. It's a generic story and from what I've seen, doesn't become anymore complex.
As far as the character customization goes, it's more limited than I expected. You can't directly edit your character, only select from preset faces and skin tones. And, sorry ladies, no females at all, at least that I've seen.
The apparent "story" is told through short cutscenes between NPC squadmembers between Campaign missions. The voice acting is cheesy, but it more or less fits in with the stylization of the overall game. However, don't go into this game expecting to play solo. The AI of Team Fortress 2 could run circles around the idiocy of the game's AI.
The meat of the game is in its objective-based multiplayer and that part of the game is decent. As I stated at the outset, technical difficulties have prevented me from really exploring this area of the game, however from the articles I've read it seems that multiplayer lag actually is an ongoing issue.
The gameplay itself is extremely familiar if you've played any team-based game, well, ever, especially TF2. You have four roles, soldier, medic, engineer and operative. The soldier handles ammo, the medic heals and revives, the engineer buffs weapons and the operative can disguise himself like the enemy faction.
The shooting handles like a blend between TF2 and Modern Warfare, there's only one downside to the gunplay that, frankly, kills any modern shooter's gameplay: absolutely no location-based damage. If I shoot a person in the face, they need to die.
Although this plays into the gameplay by allowing medics to revive fallen soldiers, it creates the un-needed annoyance of having to go through rooms full of enemy team members you already dropped and shoot them while they writhe in pain on the ground. Something I think unintentially adds a dark turn to what seems to be billing itself as a bit of a more lightsided shooter.
I mean, you're going through and executing wounded and dying enemy soldiers...kinda off-putting in a way. But your alternative to doing that is leaving a bunch of wounded enemies behind you on your way to an objective so they can be revived by an enemy medic and flank you.
Putting that aside, there's a large variety of guns but they don't seem to have the variety one would expect. The SMGs handle similarly to the ARs and the shotguns aren't all that effective, but perhaps that'll change with upgrades.
As to the feel of multiplayer itself, that's the primary area that's affecting my ability to confidently review the game and it ties directly in with technical issues.
I'm playing Brink on a new Asus laptop with a great graphics card, an ATI. There has yet to be a game released this year that I cannot play at near max settings. However, even when I lower Brink to it's barebones settings, I have framerate and lag issues.
Looking into the forums, it seems like Brink is not playing well with my graphics card, although other reviews I've read say there's technical issues in the game itself.
So what I'm going to essentially do, is give Brink a few days to see if they release an update that'll hopefully address this issue. If they don't, then by the end of the week I'll pass my official verdict on the game based on the information I'm actually able to gather.
As for right now, I'm going to recommend to everyone reading this that you avoid Brink for the time being. While it tries really hard to be a cutting edge, team objective-based shooter, it seems that it isn't able to follow through on anything.
Stay tuned here for an update and verdict later in the week.
Until then, game on and take care.