Brink – Agents of Change Character Guide: Part 1

Roughly three weeks ago, Splash Damage released “Agents of Change”, Brink’s first, free-for-a-limited-time DLC pack, adding several new maps, outfits, weapon attachments, and most importantly, new abilities for every Class. This also raised the level cap to 24, allowing every player to choose an additional 4 abilities. This added choice may leave some players wondering how they should allocate their points to play their favorite Class as efficiently as possible. Given the time to explore this new content inside and out, I’m writing this guide with the aims to help you better define your role on the team, and recommend the abilities that support that role, no matter if you’re a Soldier, Medic, Engineer, or Operative. In this portion, we’ll go over the General and Soldier abilities.

First, let’s begin with the universal abilities. No matter which role you’re taking, there are a few perks I’d consider essential:
Battle Hardened: Gives you an extra, much-needed pip of health. This is where my first point goes every time – you can’t fulfill your role on the team if you’re dead!
Supply Max Increase: Another essential ability. Since you need Supply to perform your Class’s unique talents, an extra pip will allow you to carry out one additional action when you’d otherwise be waiting for your supply meter to recharge. This also has the hidden benefit of letting your supply begin to regenerate sooner, since you can begin regaining supply over your original maximum. My second point always goes here.
Resupply Rate Increase: This ability goes hand-in-hand with Supply Max Increase, allowing you to use grenades and your Class abilities more frequently. Given that you’ll usually have trouble keeping your Supply meter full, anything that lets you increase it is a must. Once you get to Rank 2, take this ability!
Sprinting Reload: One of Brink’s core rules is, “Keep moving!” Without this ability, your character will stop sprinting when you try to reload, which can spell instant death if you can’t get behind cover in time to avoid that last bullet or two. With Sprinting Reload, you can sprint while reloading, giving you the extra time you need to finish off a retreating enemy or to ready your clip to counter enemy fire. A very important ability.
Downed Fire: Normally, when your character loses his entire health bar, he’ll go into an Incapacitated state, where he can do little but watch enemy movements and wait for a medic to revive him. With this ability, you can ambush your enemies before you go out, which is great when you narrowly lose a one-on-one fight, allowing you to finish the enemy off. You can also surprise a group of enemies and soften them up if your allies are close behind. You can’t get this ability until Rank 5, and for good reason – if you can get there, you’ve earned the right to use it. With the Level cap increase to 24, you no longer have to choose between this and your Class’s Rank 5 abilities – feel free to grab ’em all!
Some of the more situational abilities are listed below:
Grenade Shooting: Allows you to detonate your grenades at just the right time, assuming you can make the shot in the heat of battle. This ability is great with practice, but sometimes fights are too hectic to line up the shot to detonate your grenade. Still, with tactical use, this ability can turn the tide.
Combat Intuition: Causes a visual and audible warning when an enemy who is NOT on the radar puts his crosshairs on you. This won’t help if the enemy is on your radar for any reason, or if you can see them. This ability helps counter enemies with Silent Running and Silencers on their guns. It won’t always save you, but it’s handy when it does.
Silent Running: As the name suggests, this ability prevents you from appearing on enemy radar while running, allowing for faster and better ambushes. Combined with a Silenced weapon, you’ll be impossible to spot until an enemy sees you, or if you’re caught by Combat Intuition.
Sprinting Grenade: Works similarly as Sprinting Reload, but allows you to cook and throw a grenade while sprinting. Grenades require more tactical use than other weapons, and as such I like to slow down and line up my throw to make sure I hit as many enemies as possible. Losing the ability to sprint while doing this isn’t a major loss to me, but if you like completely unrestrained movement, this ability might be worth it to you.
Sense of Perspective: While performing a lengthy objective, such as capturing a command post, planting a bomb, or repairing an object, your movement stick will no longer make your character move; instead, the camera will switch to third person and allow you to see what’s going on around you at all times. This is a trade-off; with this ability, you can see enemies coming and react accordingly so you can survive to finish the objective, but you can’t move. Without it, you can sidestep and crouch to try to avoid gunshots while performing an objective, but you have to look at the objective at all times. Most of the time, this ability lets me survive to finish the objective more than without it, but your mileage may vary.
Tactical Scanner: Allows you to see up to four of an enemy’s buffs when you put your crosshairs on them, in addition to their health and Class badge. This can help you prioritize which enemies to kill first, but in most firefights you won’t have the time to pick your targets based on buffs, unless you’re sniping.
Now that we’ve gotten the general abilities out of the way, let’s get a little more specific.
The Soldier is Brink’s front-line fighter, able to dish out and soak up damage with weapons, a variety of grenades, and permanent Kevlar armor. Their job on the team is to eliminate dangerous enemies, destroy objectives with C4 charges, and supply themselves and their team-mates with ammo packs. Right out of the box, Soldiers can refill ammo, plant explosives on objectives, and throw a Molotov in addition to the standard Frag Grenade, giving them several options on how to approach combat. Their abilities help complement this playstyle, providing additional protection, ammo, and grenade performance.
The most essential Soldier abilities are as follows:
Armor-Piercing Ammo: This passive ability allows you to bypass any Kevlar Armor buffs, making your bullets 100% effective against enemy Soldiers or Engineer-heavy teams. Given the power of the Kevlar Armor buff, this ability is essential for maximizing your damage.
Flashbang Grenades: This provides the Soldier with an additional type of grenade which will blind any enemy who sees it for several seconds. In a game as fast-paced as Brink, this can give you and your team the opportunity to mow down a group of enemies while they struggle to return fire. A central and essential Soldier ability. Take note, however, that any teammates (including yourself) who see the explosion will also be blinded, although for a much more brief time period.
Grenade Mastery: Reduces the cooldown period for your standard Frag grenade. Along with the other grenades the Soldier has access to, this allows you to literally bombard the enemy team with grenades, improving the Soldier’s “shock and awe” style of combat. You’ll want to pick up this ability as soon as you have access to it, as it really improves your offensive power beyond any other class’s.
Kevlar Vest: Sick of waiting for an Engineer to supply you with Kevlar? No worries, this passive ability will give you the same damage-reducing effect at all times. Engineers can still provide you with the Kevlar Plate buff, but it won’t stack with this and won’t show up as a buff on your screens. Still, this is a signature Soldier ability, providing it with the protection to stand toe-to-toe with anybody else in combat. Beware other Soldiers, however, as they’ll likely have the Armor-Piercing Ammo ability, which renders this one useless.
Extra Magazine: Normally, when a Soldier resupplies themselves or allies with ammo, it will give them an extra magazine beyond what they start with. This ability causes anyone supplied with ammo a second additional clip, reducing the need to resupply as often. This translates to more Supplies for grenades, which is definitely a good thing for Soldiers! I made sure to pick this up right after Kevlar Armor; Supplies are the lifeblood of any class, and anything that makes you more Supply-efficient will have a huge impact on your effectiveness.
Frag Blast and Grenade Damage: I mention these two Rank 4 abilities together because they have tremendous synergy with each other, in addition to the Grenade Mastery ability previously mentioned. This will make your standard Frag grenades extremely powerful, above and beyond what any other class can dream of. As the names imply, these abilities will increase the blast radius and damage of your standard Frag grenades, respectively. These are more crucial to the Soldier than any other Rank 4 abilities you can get, so make sure to go for them ASAP!
A few other abilities which can help in some instances are:
Scavenge: This ability allows a Soldier to rifle through a dead enemy’s corpse; after a brief interaction period (about 3 seconds), the Soldier’s supply bar will be filled by 1 pip. This ability sounds great on paper, but bear in mind that while performing a Scavenge, you must look at the corpse and are vulnerable to enemy attack. Still, this ability shines in defensive situations, allowing you to resupply from dead enemies and prepare for the next wave.
Napalm Grenades: This provides your Soldier with yet another special type of grenade, bringing the total up to four. These grenades blanket an area in flames, damaging any enemies who try to cross them. Similar to the Operative’s Caltrop Grenade ability, these allow the Soldier to control the flow of battle, cutting off enemy movements and sealing up choke points for a period of time. Given the Soldier’s penchant for Grenades, there’s little reason not to add this one to your arsenal.
Satchel Charges: If you’re a fan of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, you may recognize this ability. Similar to the C4 charge from that game, this ability allows the Soldier to plant up to 3 charges on any flat surface and detonate them later. Extremely useful for setting up traps and protecting objectives, without exposing yourself to the enemy, these charges help improve the defensive prowess of the Soldier. Note that you can’t use these explosives to detonate objectives; you’ll need to stick it out to plant your C4 charge. You can, however, use these explosives to protect team-mates while they work on an objective.
So, what’s my role? As the Soldier, your job is to damage and disorient the enemy and protect your teammates; like they say, “the best defense is a good offense”. Your Armor-Piercing ammo will help deal maximum damage against any enemy; by the same token, having Kevlar Plate will reduce enemies’ ability to damage you. The plethora of Grenades a Soldier has access to allows him to damage and disorient his enemies, throwing them to the ground to be finished off easily and breaking up mobs. It’s also up to the Soldier to plant C4 on destroy objectives, much in the same way Engineers repair objects and Operatives hack them. But perhaps most importantly, it’s the Soldier’s job to keep his team supplied with ammunition, keeping them in the fight without requiring them to run back to a Command Post to resupply.
In short, the Soldier is at the center of combat in Brink, and can dramatically influence the flow of any battle.
Check in at GamersXtreme.org tomorrow for part 2 of my Brink Character Guide, where we’ll cover the Engineer.

Brink Review (PC/PS3/360)

With the first-person shooter market being what it is, innovation is a near-necessity to grab a gamer’s attention. The Halo series raised the bar on multiple levels. Brink (or BRINK, as its name is stylized) has high ambitions when it comes to inventiveness, adding parkour elements to the team-based shooter formula. Splash Damage, the company who also brought us the Enemy Territory series, clearly has the team-play formula down, and is taking a bold new leap with BRINK. The creativity is there, but does it deliver, or fall flat?

Story: 3/5

Perhaps intentionally, BRINK’s story is simple, and not particularly unique, but is enjoyable enough to pull the player through the single-player campaign. In the BRINK universe, the majority of the world has been overtaken by a massive flood, leaving what’s left of humanity to fend for itself. A lucky handful of survivors escaped on The Ark, a massive, self-sufficient city afloat on the sea. The player soon realizes that not everything is peaceful here – the Ark Security force tries to maintain order amid uprisings in the slums, but a growing Resistance force is trying to break free of The Ark’s oppressive grasp and escape to what remains of the outside world. As things begin to reach a boiling point, the player must choose whether to Save The Ark (by joining the Security force) or Escape The Ark (and join with the Resistance). The decision doesn’t carry any significant weight, as the player is allowed to undertake each faction’s campaign missions in any order they choose, even switching sides between missions.

The story doesn’t split the player between “good” and “evil” factions per se, as each campaign is tailored to that faction’s viewpoint as the fight rages on.  The Security missions are primarily geared towards preventing the Resistance from committing dangers to The Ark’s community at large, as well as preventing the spread of news of The Ark to the outside world, with the fear that this will bring raiders and other dangerous elements to the city. The Resistance, on the other hand, will be trying to break free from Security’s oppression and escape The Ark. As the player achieves continual success in their campaign, the enemy faction will become more and more desperate in their actions; you may be surprised what they’ll do by the time the final missions come around.

If the campaign’s story does one thing particularly well, it’s the way it gives the player a sense of attachment and continuity between missions. Players will begin to notice the same characters in each mission. These characters also have dialogues in brief cut scenes before each mission begins, and will have some very poignant issues on their mind. The voice actors portray their emotions very effectively, and you’ll actually get a sense of the moral dilemma of conducting a raid on a Resistance slum, or on fighting against Security when one of your teammates’ brothers has joined up with them. Aside from these cut scenes, however, little more than fire team banter is heard during a match, and much of the characters’ personalities begin to fade away as you focus on what they’re saying, not how they’re saying it.

Gameplay: 4/5

BRINK attempts to make many gameplay innovations, and for the most part, they’re successful. One of the main features BRINK brings to the table is its S.M.A.R.T. movement system, standing for Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain. In simple terms, as long as the player holds down the sprint button, the game will try to predict where he is trying to move to and will act accordingly. Jumping across gaps, climbing walls, and sliding under low-hanging obstacles are all done with a single button press. More complex moves, such as wall jumping, are still up to the player to perform. However, the S.M.A.R.T. system does a great job of immersing the player in the combat, eliminating the need to worry about running into obstacles. The system isn’t perfect, and the player may still get caught on edges occasionally, but for the most part it’s a success.

BRINK also features an extensive character customization system. Players are allowed to not only choose the clothing and gear their character wears, but can also pick from a variety of weapons and even body types. Some of the appearance options, such as tattoos, are permanent, and must be chosen carefully. When a character is first created, the first step is to choose a character’s face and voice, and these choices are permanent. Players can then choose clothing and facial features to apply to their character. Only a few items are unlocked at first, but as players gain experience (see below for more) and levels, they can unlock more features and articles to customize their character with.

BRINK features many types of weapons as well, from assault rifles and SMGs to shotguns and pistols, and other exotic weapons as well. Many weapons are unlocked at first, but more can be gained by completing challenges in-game. Each weapon can also accept four types of attachments, namely top (sights), front (muzzle attachments), bottom (grips, slings, and under-barrel attachments), and magazine (rapid reload, larger magazines) attachments. Unfortunately, all of these attachments are locked to begin with and must be unlocked by completing challenges. In fact, it’s recommended that a new player complete these before doing anything else, as they’ll not only grant a lot of rewards, but also help introduce the player to many of BRINK’s core gameplay elements. Players are allowed to choose a primary and secondary weapon; the weapons available for these slots depend on the player’s body type (see below). Most weapon categories follow a common theme, but there are some differences between different weapons in each category. While one SMG might be incredibly accurate at short range, another might fire faster and do more damage at the cost of higher recoil. Players can use attachments to custom-tailor any weapon to their specific needs.

Body type also plays a major role in what sorts of roles your character will be best at. Regardless of body type, all players can perform some degree of parkour-style moves, but the light body type is the king of maneuverability. Aside from moving the fastest, light body types can also perform a wall jump, which no other body type can do. This is great for getting to areas other characters can’t. This freedom of movement comes at a price – they can only use the lightest weapons (SMGs, pistols, light rifles, and some shotguns), and they have the least amount of health, meaning they’re very fragile. They make the best snipers, hit-and-run fighters, and infiltrators, but they’re capable of anything in the right hands. On the other end of the spectrum is the heavy body type. What they lack in maneuverability and speed, they make up for in durability and the ability to use any weapon in the game, including the heavy-hitting machine guns and grenade launchers. No one else can take as much damage as the heavy. They make excellent defenders and vanguards, leading the attack force and taking the brunt of the damage. The third and final body type is the medium type, and it’s a good balance of speed, durability, and weapon choice. They don’t have the most health, they can’t do all of the fancy parkour moves that a light can, and they don’t have as wide a weapon selection as the heavy, but they’re good in any situation and are perfect for the player who likes to be flexible. In most cases, if you’re not sure what you want to do, stick with the medium body type.

Another key element of the gameplay which fits in with the body type system is BRINK’s class system. Players can choose to be a Soldier, Medic, Engineer, or Operative, and they play a key role in a player’s…well, role, in the game. Since BRINK is a team-oriented game, each class has different ways to support teammates. The Soldier can give ammo packs to himself or his teammates and plant explosives. Engineers can deploy mines, turrets, and buff teammates’ weapon damage and armor, as well as disarm a soldier’s explosives. Medics can buff teammates’ health and revive downed allies. Finally, the Operative can spot for enemy mines and acquire crucial intel to give their team an advantage. They can even disguise as a dead enemy to infiltrate enemy lines and hack computers to complete objectives. A nice feature is that the class system is independent of the weapon and body type systems described earlier; you can play a light soldier or even a heavy operative, if you wanted, and done properly, any body, weapon, and class combo can work well. In order to support team effort, players aren’t awarded simply for damaging and killing enemies; they’re also awarded for attacking or defending mission objectives and using their class abilities to help their team. Thus, a good player won’t just try to kill the enemy team, but will also try to support their team, and will be rewarded for their teamwork. Gaining experience grants higher levels and additional customization unlocks. And as if there weren’t enough customization options already, players can also invest in new abilities using points earned for leveling up, allowing them to customize the specific role of their character, either in a general sense or on a class-by-class basis.

BRINK’s missions grant players objectives they need to complete. There are always multiple objectives available at a time, and some are even tailored specifically to each class. Teamwork is also made simple by use of BRINK’s objective wheel. Players can access the objective wheel to pick objectives to tackle and alert their team to their choice. This automatically places the player on a fire team for that objective to facilitate local communication. These objectives are always diametrically opposed; one team attacks an objective while the other tries to defend it. While the formula is simple, enough variety is provided to keep things fresh. While one team might have to attack a gate by having a soldier blow it open with explosives at one time, they may need an operative to hack a computer at another. Secondary objectives help players take missions they prefer to take, while still helping the team overall. For example, an engineer can construct a side ramp that helps the team reach the main objective faster. Every class is essential in each mission, which gives each player a sense of fulfillment no matter what role they choose.

Matches can be played online with human players (the way it’s meant to be played), with computer-controlled bots, or with any combination of the two. However, the AI tends to be a bit lacking, and humans will provide the best challenge. Sometimes they’ll do as you’d expect, sometimes they don’t. It’s much easier to plant that bomb if the enemy is watching you do it, rather than shooting at you.

Graphics: 2/5

To be blunt, BRINK isn’t a bad looking game. In fact, the art style and quality is quite good, and the environments are appropriate. City centers are clean and vibrant, while slums are dilapidated, run-down and rusty-looking. It isn’t the design where the graphics fail, however – it’s the execution. BRINK was released with a flawed graphics system, and even on high-quality PCs, players may notice low frame rates and graphical artifacts. Competitive first-person shooters require a smooth experience to be played well, and to have the game stutter while you’re aiming down the sights is just plain frustrating. Splash Damage has been hard at work releasing patches to fix the game, but BRINK is still in an incomplete state. It’s a great concept that still requires polish.

Sound: 2/5

Sound is another mixed bag with BRINK – weapon effects, explosions, and voices all sound great and are very convincing, but they’re bogged down with technical problems. Choppy sound goes hand in hand with the frame rate drops. This is noticeable at just about any time during a match, from running down a hall to entering even a skirmish with an enemy. Choppy audio just takes away from the immersion of any game, and until fixed, will mar BRINK’s unique gameplay.

Overall: 11/20 = 5.5

BRINK’s unique and fulfilling gameplay has a lot of potential, but unfortunately it’s overshadowed by its technical issues. Splash Damage is releasing patches to try to fix them, but BRINK’s release will be marked by its incomplete state on its release. Once these issues are resolved, however, BRINK will likely prove to be one of the most unique and enjoyable FPS experiences this year.  Until then, BRINK proves to be another game rushed out the door before its time.

PROs:

+ Extensive customization system lets players play the character they want

+ Class, weapon, and body type system allows for thousands of unique combinations

+ Fulfilling mission objectives for every possible combat role

CONs:

– Extensive technical problems, not all of them solved yet

-Story had potential, but is ultimately uninspired and takes a backseat to gameplay