- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 19, 2011

In the near future, in a floating city called the Ark, a war rages between a ferocious Security detail and an equally aggressive band of Resistance fighters.

Thus goes the plot to Brink (Bethesda Softworks and Splash Damage, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated T for teen, $59.99), a stylized first-person shooter that gives players the chance to work as a member of both factions and four classes of warrior (soldier, medic, operative and engineer), while understanding the fine strategies of teamwork.

Sharing a campaign on 16 levels (split among factions), players cut their teeth on action requiring that specific members perform tasks to complete objectives (hacking a gate control, assassinating a prisoner, defending a door, etc.) while unlocking dozens of upgrades to characters and weapons.

Sounds good, unfortunately, the result is a too-ambitious, muddled effort not supported by enough varied action. It also mixes idiotic computer-controlled teammates and timed missions that will aggravate those looking to appreciate its frenetic action.

My displeasure with the game was nearly immediate, although it wasn’t due to the generous supply of tutorials, background information on the story or weapon upgrade minutia.

Maybe it was the lack of closure when trying to kill an enemy. Keep shooting and they bounce on the ground, taking the impact, but quickly get up after a teammate revives them. Or, perhaps it was frustration over setting a timed explosive and watching it count down for an excruciating amount of time (think waiting for water to boil) while trying not to die, allowing an enemy to easily disarm the device.

Three highlights, however, kept me fighting on the Ark.

First, the character design melds the richness of Batman: Arkham Asylum with the finesse of comic book painter Simon Bisley. The customization (with options to purchase facial scars, tattoos, head gear, body types and voice) turns a character into a virtual action figure that G.I. Joe fans will relish.

Also, movement is fluid through any location’s obstacle courses, thanks to a system called SMART (Smooth Movement Access Random Terrain). A player need only click a button to slide under gunfire and duck, jump a wall or climb over barriers while still on the attack.

Finally, this is a game most appreciated with online human companions. The story won’t keep players riveted, so the chance to work cooperatively with three others and chatter about strategy, accomplishments and defeats is the best Brink has to offer.

Still, it’s a tough sell within a gaming market already loaded with an awesome selection of first-person shooters.

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