It's 2045, and the Ark is humanity's last refuge after years of global warming have flooded most of the planet. Two factions, Security and Resistance, are battling for control of the Ark, and you can play through the eight-episode campaign on either side.
You can also select one of four character classes: soldier, medic, engineer or operative. The "Brink" website boasts of "near-limitless" character customization, mostly involving cosmetic factors like hair, tattoos and wardrobe - although you cannot play as a woman. And once you earn some experience points you can upgrade your weaponry or boost your combat skills.
"Brink" is built around multiplayer action. In each mission, you're teamed up with seven other guys to complete a variety of objectives while eight men from the other faction try to stop you. Your team needs a solid mix, because some objectives can only be accomplished by certain characters. (For example, only operatives can hack computers, while engineers can build turrets.)
The objectives are constantly changing, but there's not much variety: destroy this, build that, capture a command post, deliver some data. Most tedious are the dreaded escort missions in which you have to clear a path to freedom for some hapless high-value target. It's easy to lose sight of the overarching goals - why am I cracking this safe? - other than the need to keep rolling up experience points.
The most ballyhooed feature of "Brink" is its insertion of parkour into team combat. Players who enjoyed the high-flying acrobatics of "Assassin's Creed" or "InFamous" are likely to feel hamstrung here, though. The maps are too restrictive to allow any sense of vertical freedom, and once the shooting starts, your running and jumping skills won't stop you from getting plugged.
More problematic are performance issues during online matches. I played on Xbox Live after downloading a release-day patch, but still got hit by slowdowns that made the animation look more like a slideshow.
If you'd rather play offline - well, "Brink" is not the game for you. The solo campaign consists of the same missions used in multiplayer, with artificial intelligence controlling the other 15 combatants. But the A.I. is awful; I died too many times because a computer-controlled medic just a few meters away ignored my calls for help.
"Brink" will probably find an audience among devotees of multiplayer action games like "Team Fortress" and "Left 4 Dead." They may be willing to overlook its flaws and be patient while Splash Damage repairs its performance. But most gamers will find more frustration than joy aboard the Ark. One star out of four.
Lou Kesten can be reached at http://twitter.com/lkesten