Warning: This DLC is set after the conclusion of Brink’s story and therefore the review contains some mild spoilers about the game’s conclusion.
Narrative was never a strong point in Brink, with only a cluster of audio logs and snappy cutscenes to sate one’s curiosity. Players could never really connect with the “lead characters” Chen and Mokoena or what they both fought for. To make matters worse, there was no real outcome when the credits began to roll. Both factions left in a seemingly endless deadlock.[boxout]With an abundance of narrative overlaps, there was no real way of verifying what had actually happened in Brink or what Splash Damage has planned for the future. Though it doesn’t completely untangle the game’s canon, Agents of Change does a good enough job of outlining the next chapter for Brink and clears up a few grey areas.
Two weeks after the climax of the Ark civil war, the battle still continues. Both factions having sustained casualties with no sign of a clear victor. Despite having thwarted Chen’s plans to escape the floating city in the Security campaign, a different version of events takes place leading up to Agents of Change. Resistance officer Nechayev has successfully managed to flee the Ark and outside aid is expected to arrive at any time. Meanwhile, Security have started to repair the partially damaged Founder’s Tower, one of their agents having successfully infiltrated the Resistance.[drop2]As expected, nothing really comes of the two plot arcs, for casual Brink players it will completely go over your heads. Like the main game, the direction of the narrative hinges entirely on the victory or defeat of each match: as previously mentioned, from the Security perspective, Nechayev failed to win the battle at the Ark Terminals, yet from the perspective of the Resistance, he managed to escape. Gamers are fairly tolerant of alternate endings (even if there are 22 of them, Heavy Rain) but not so much overlapping endings. Reading too much into the plot will cause nothing but headaches and it’s very unlikely Splash Damage will resolve this in future content updates.
Even if you’re an avid Brink player it’s likely that the last two paragraphs have made little sense at all, either that or you don’t really give two hoots about the in-game fiction. Where Brink matters most is its unconventional mission structure and rewarding class-based gameplay, two elements which have been slightly enhanced in Agents of Change.
For players currently sitting at level 20, the cap has been raised to 24. Agents of Change also ushers in a handful of new abilities and weapon perks. Engineers can now deploy Pyro Mines which emit deathly columns of flames and are ideal for defending objectives. In a similar fashion Soldiers can now carry Napalm Grenades into battle, capable of dealing damage over time as opposed to the Molotov’s instant explosion effect. Medics have a new defensive support ability called the Field Regen Unit, a deployable zone which gradually heals allied players within range. Finally, we have the Operative’s UAV, a bug-like remote controlled explosive reserved for incredibly sneaky tactical runs. An improved scanner ability is also available, now showing enemy buffs as well as their health and class-type when you hover over them. Each ability brings something new to the game emphasizing the individuality of each class and enhancing their performance.
In terms of Brink’s arsenal of weaponry, Bayonets and Weapon Shields are the two new inclusions. As expected, the Bayonet acts as a melee attachment, though in the right hands it can cause considerable amounts of chaos within tight-knit skirmishes. Weapon Shields are also a unique add-on, able to soak up the occasional stray bullet , essentially acting as a minor armour buff, though its effects aren’t always noticeable. Two new outfits have also been made available, one for each faction. The Limey costume set is based on the standard Metropolitan Police uniform, whilst the Sad Punk attire throws another handful of studded leathers into the existing Resistance stockpile.[drop]Two new maps are also available to play both online and in Brink’s sort-of singleplayer campaign mode. The Labs is a two-tiered scenario, the first half of the mission taking place on the surface with Resistance forces trying to breach the research compound. Depending on whether the Security are successful in fending them off will determine whether the second segment plays out. After sabotaging an elevator shaft the Resistance are then tasked with recovering an “Arkoral” sample, a genetically modified substance which is believed to be the rare material used to construct the Ark. This task will require engineers to repair a gateway before a Resistance player can grab the sample and make a sprint towards the exit.
Founder’s Tower is also divided into two tiers. Resistance forces have infiltrated the structure and planted an explosive device capable of wiping out the kilometer-tall landmark. The race is on as Security forces attempt to re-take their headquarters, having to hack and blast their way to the very top of the tower, an area which unlocks if they are successful in the first cluster of objectives. From therein, it’s as simple as seizing the detonator device and making your getaway before the timer runs dry.
Both maps are great additions to the existing roster and, depending who you’re up against, a heated skirmish in either scenario could last up to twenty minutes. Though we would have liked to have seen more of the run-down ghettos and warrens of The Ark, the blue sky backdrops and pristine living quarters of the privileged Ark residents are diverse enough to retain interest. In terms of actual gameplay, both first tiers areas are exterior locations ideal for mid-range combat and turret deployments, also suitable for the odd spot of sniping too. However, in the latter half of both missions firefights are much more enclosed and rapid, the defending team usually holding the advantage in terms of terrain.
Overall, it’s a healthy addition to what’s already a fantastic FPS experience, though not without flaws. One of biggest issues players have been running into with Brink is the transparency of its multiplayer component; without lobbies or other clear methods of matchmaking, you’re never going to drop into a game with a full team of human players and until that problem is resolved Brink will continue to suffer. Another issue, and one more frequently mentioned, is the lack of content the original game carried. Eight stock maps and around 20 or so costume sets could easily win over casual players, but for the Brink hardcore it didn’t stretch far enough, the Agents of Change DLC pack feeling as if it should have been included in the main game which is probably why Splash Damage and Bethesda are giving it away for the first two weeks.