If it's crap ... We'll tell you
I started off the day reading a lot of horror stories about the condition of Brink at launch, and I was kind of alarmed. My copy was already on its way from Amazon and I was worried that maybe I had just thrown away $60 of my hard earned money. The game certainly seemed cool in theory, a combination of Team Fortress and Mirror's Edge looked like just what the doctor ordered, but there I was reading reports that the game had some major issues with graphics loading, frame rate being cut in half when played online, and a multitude of other glitches that seemed like they would've been caught during QA before the game was launched. Then I remembered that Bethesda was the publisher and I wasn't so surprised. You'd think they would've learned from the blow back they got from the game killing glitches in Fallout: New Vegas not to release a game until it's ready.
I also read that there would be a patch available that would fix most of these problems as soon as I popped the disc in the tray, and I'm happy to say that it seems like it did just what it said it would. Now this could lead to a long post about the state of console gaming today and studios' reliance on being able to patch games in order to rush development, but I'm really writing this to give my first impressions of Brink based on the two hours I've played so far, so let's get to that.
The first thing you should do when you put in the game is install it to the hard drive. I'm not sure if this will be required for Playstation 3 users, but since a lot of the game is deeply entrenched in multiplayer, and it looks like PSN will be down until the end of May, I'd recommend holding off on that version until you can be sure you can get in with some friends. Anyway, if you play off the disc there are some major texture pop in problems which are alleviated with and install, so it's really worth your wait to get that done first.
Once you get in and get started you're prompted to customize your character. You're pretty wide open options wise for the shape of face and body, but a lot of the other customization options are unlocked through play and gaining experience. Still, there are quite a few ways to make your character look unique from the start.
Once you've gotten your character built, the game gives you the option to watch the basics video for 1000 experience to start you off. You should really watch this. The first complaint I have about this game is that there is no learning curve. Not to say that it's easy either, but there is no tutorial level to allow you to get familiar with the controls and the basics of play. I spent a large part of the first round of the game just figuring out what the controls did, and even then I had to reference the instruction manual and ask some friends who had gotten a little more time under their belts how to do certain things.
Gameplay is entirely objective based, with one team attacking and one team defending. You can choose between four classes, and each one is crucial for completing certain objectives within each mission. If you're playing offline all other characters on each team are bots, and while somewhat competent it's best to get your friends on your team in order to be able to coordinate.
Each class has a special ability. The soldier can resupply his and other players' ammo, the medic heals and can buff vitality regeneration, the engineer can plant mines and build turrets, as well as buff weapon effectivness, and the spy can disguise himself as enemy team members and hack locations.
On top of choosing a class, you also choose a body type, which effects your amount of mobility while using S.M.A.R.T. and the power of the weapons you can pick from.
The controls are competent, but aiming, in my opinion feels a little jerky, which can be a real problem because you die fast.
The most interesting feature is the S.M.A.R.T. system, which is relatively intuitive. This is the parkour system that allows you to vault over ledges, wall run, and slide. It's triggered by simply holding the sprint button and looking at where you want to go. The game handles the rest. Once I got the hang of it, it was kind of nice, but you have to force yourself to look at the environment differently from other FPS titles since none of the areas you can climb or vault over are clearly marked like they were in Mirror's Edge.
Once you complete a mission, you are awarded the experience that you gained while playing and can use that to purchase new abilities and weapons. Some are blocked until you reach a higher rank, and others are available right away. There are universal abilities, like reloading while sprinting, and throwing grenades while firing, and then other ones that benefit you while you are playing a certain class.
My overall impression of this game is that it's worth a rental to see if you like it, and then a purchase from there. It's much more fun when playing with other people, though, since coordination is key and it's hard to coordinate with AI teammates. It's not the best shooter I've played, but it's far from the worst. These are my initial thoughts, but I'll get back with more once I get a little deeper into the game.