This is the sequel to the sleuthing for the truth article about Brink. First, I should say that it’s a little unfair to compare Brink to Left 4 Dead 2. Brink is essentially a competitive game, whereas Left 4 Dead 2 is co-operative – even in Versus mode. Co-op games offer more time and space for in-game storytelling than competitive ones, because competitive shooters like Team Fortress 2, Counterstrike, or Brink tend to lead to manic, twitch gaming. The best you can hope for with such limited time and attention is some well-placed one-liners. In a co-op game, the experience is more managed, with lows, highs, and potential story moments – similar to single-player.
I’m a pretty story-aware gamer, for obvious reasons. I have a pathological need to complete every dialogue tree, a determination to hear every variation on a bark, and I even take a perverse delight in spamming all the voice commands in TF2 and Left 4 Dead to any teammate who will listen – “Who’s gonna help me capture this bloody POINT?” – imagine hearing that again and again in the loud Scottish Demoman voice (and please don’t hate me).
You might note that both TF2 and Left 4 Dead (1 & 2) are multiplayer games. You would be correct. TF2 doesn’t have much story, beyond the Class videos, the emerging Announcer / Saxton Hale comics canon, and the fact that each level is effectively a mini-scenario where two groups are fighting for control – a scenario communicated through the level design and art itself. OK, when you write it all down, that does sound like quite a lot of story.
But what I’m thinking of is the more traditional, plot-based story where things happen to characters, who evolve, resulting in new things happening – all within the game. And for this, I want to look at Brink and Left 4 Dead 2.