An initially frustrating but exhilarating experience.
Mirror's Edge is a first person action-adventure game developed by DICE. The game takes place in an unnamed city where a totalitarian regime monitors its citizens through surveillance, tracking all forms of communication in a bid to reduce crime and prevent any growing rebellions. You play as Faith, a parkour-style runner, who uses the rooftops and other methods to deliver messages among revolutionary groups in the city.
The free running, at its best, is an experience that carries with it an immense sense of exhilaration that I have never experience in a game before. The sound of wind rushing past your ears, the first person view and the sense of movement all contribute to the feeling that it is you flying through the air and is a close to any form of parkour that we will come close to.
Mirror's Edge uses a first person viewpoint, which is most commonly used in shooters, yet it works fantastically well. The first person view gives you a real sense of speed as you sprint through corridors, leap between skyscrapers and crash through doors. The use of this view combined with the beautiful visuals gives the player a real rush as you fly through the air and land, rolling onto the building opposite. The parkour elements of the game can be frustrating with elements of trial and error but if done right, the moves can be very satisfying.
There is also an importance in maintaining momentum, which is done through a fluid flow of movement from building to building and in smoothly passing through objects. The inability to roll off after a big jump will result in Faith crashing and injuring herself, meaning the flow of your movement is hindered. There are several obstacles which you will have to pass from fences to climb over, gaps to jump and barriers to slide under. Doing these moves smoothly will allow you to build up your momentum, and it is really satisfying speeding through the level.
The game also has an ability to make you think. You can choose to tackle and disarm your foes, possibly risking your life and slowing you down, or you can blaze past them posing no risk to yourself. While thinking your way through a series of jumps isn't nearly as satisfying after having done it on pure instinct, it is your choice whether to risk it or not. The path you choose to get your objective may also not be entirely obvious to you and may require some thinking and planning on how to get there. While it is not impossible to find your way or rely on a guide, it can be frustrating dying later on, only to repeat the actions due to a poorly placed checkpoint.
The element of combat in the game is also fairly weak. The game encourages you to evade attackers, but it you choose to fight them the process isn't as smooth or sleek as other elements of the gameplay. Fighting with a single button in combination with jumping or ducking (if you choose to use jump kicks or slide kicks), you can beat foes down with your bare hands or more effectively disarm them. Disarming can be accomplished when you are close to an enemy, and their gun turns red, with a press of a button the game will play a scene of Faith performing a disarming move. The likelihood of catching a gun when it's red can be increased by reducing your reaction time which is a slow motion mode in essence, allowing you catch the gun easier.
The ability for the player to hold a weapon adds another element to the game, yet you can tell Mirror's Edge was never designed to be a shooter. It is very much an action adventure game first with very little emphasis on using weapons, in fact the game seems to discourage it. A gun can be obtained by disarming enemies, but when the magazine is empty the gun has to be dropped. Holding a gun also slows Faith down and reduces her jump and agility, which emphasises the choice on whether the player wants to sacrifice agility for firepower.
The game is also relatively short at about 8-10 hours, which is fine if you prefer quality over quantity. To increase the longevity of the game, there are 3 packages hidden in each level for the player to find to unlock extras, as well as a time attack mode where the player tries to complete small portions of a level as fast as they can.
While the game does have some irritations such as the frustrating elements of trial and error and its short single player mode, the game offers a refreshing gaming experience. Some will be able to overlook the flaws and will be able to appreciate its moments of absolute brilliance.