A game on the edge of pure brilliance and utter frustration.
Mirror’s Edge is 90% exuberant fun and 10% controller-smashing annoyance.
DO: Run through a stylized metropolis, pull off incredible jumps and try to outrun bullets.
TYPE: First Person Parkour
PLATFORM: PS3 & 360 (360 Reviewed)
MEAT: Mirror’s Edge places you in the red sneakers of Faith, a Runner in a sterile city set somewhere in the near future. Due to surveillence of nearly every form of communication, Runners are used to courier sensitive information from point to point in the city. Sadly, this is about as good as the story gets in Mirror’s Edge. There is a murder, someone gets framed and Faith has to save some people, but what passes for storytelling in Mirror’s Edge is basically there to give you context for why you’re running from point to point. The cutscenes are also rather underwhelming. As a traditional 2D animation afficionado, I don’t have a problem with 2D cutscenes in my 3D games. However, the ones in Mirror’s Edge don’t look very good and seem like something done in Flash.
Enough about the story. The real meat of Mirror’s Edge is the first person jumping/running mechanic. This is where the game succeeds brilliantly. The signature Runner Vision effect, which causes an optimal
route through the level to change colour, is a big help in the early
levels but is much reduced by the end of the game. There are times
where the route highlighted by Runner Vision is not the fastest
or safest, which encourages the player to experiment and find safer and
faster routes than the one suggested by the game. Each level will have you trying to get as high as you can and then progressing in a series of jumps, leaps and wallruns to the end of the level. At certain times, you are put in a room where you need to figure out the best way to reach an air vent or catwalk, but most of the game is spent leaping from roof to roof, which never gets old.
What DOES get old is the combat, specifically the guns and the cops shooting at you. This is where the game took a 180 degree turn from brilliance to frustration and landed flat on its back. Faith is not a super soldier who can soak up 300 rounds. 2 shots will usually put her down and a couple swats with the butt of a rifle will result in a quick trip to Runner Heaven. Unfortunately, Faith’s fragility doesn’t help when you’re trying to subdue a gaggle of cops in riot gear. Further aggravating the situation is the fact that while Faith has a solid punch and a few neat disarm moves, you’ll find yourself fighting the game engine itself instead of the enemies. If you punch a cop, you have to wait for him to stand up and then start the ‘swing-the-gun-at-Faith’ animation before you can attempt a disarm. This leads to many instances of either throwing off your timing or having one of his buddies shoot you while you wait for him to stand up.
Thankfully, these instances are not in the game very often but when they do pop up, they’ll often throw up a roadblock to success that will take many, MANY attempts to overcome. This is particularly egregious from Chapter 7-9 when the game starts to focus more on these combat rooms and shifts away from the platforming. In the interests of full disclosure, I did get the “By Faith Alone” achievement which means that I did not fire a shot for the entire game. Looking back, I think that striving for this achievement is probably what made the areas where the game goes into combat mode so annoying. The game is a lot less frustrating and a lot more fun when the guns are used and upon reflection, the 80 points I got for the achievement were not worth the frustration felt while trying to get it.
For those who just want to run, there are a plethora of time trials and speed runs to go through which pit you against the clock (and the times of other players) in a bullet-free obstacle course based on the levels in the game.
PERKS: An exhilarating sense of speed; awesome visual design; some very cool first person cinematics
SCREAMS: For no guns in the sequel; more first person cinematics; a better melee combat engine; more compelling characters and backstory.
VERDICT: Rent. The core gameplay is a great take on first person gaming and the brilliant presentation shows is a welcome change to the greys and browns that pervade the majority of ‘next-gen’ games. Unfortunately, the momentum that Mirror’s Edge builds as you hop from rooftop to rooftop slams into a brick wall due to the pervasive and infuriating gun-toting cops and the broken melee combat engine.
As always, you can check my Gamercard to see that I have finished the game.