adrenaline's Mirror's Edge (PC) review

Mirror's Edge

 Mirror's Edge is certainly not a game without faults, and I can easily see how some of its problems could lead to indifference or even genuine dislike towards the game. But I found its presentation and unique take on platforming from a first person perspective to be an interesting and at times perfectly thrilling experience. I think what I really wanted was a lot of its ideas in a better considered game, but I had a lot of fun playing through it despite the very high number of times I messed up and sent its protagonist Faith to an early death.

Faith is a runner, one of several acrobatic outlaws that illegally hand deliver packages in a dystopian future where all electronic communication is constantly monitored. The plot has some twists and turns as you get embroiled in a conspiracy involving political assassinations and betrayals, although you never really get a sense of why anything is important. There's no true villain the game with clear intentions, and while you can guess why whoever's in charge of this eerily empty city wouldn't want you to be passing messages that they can't get at, you don't know what's so bad about these messages either. It's just a backdrop for the gameplay, and you feel like they're just trying to establish the setting for possible sequels, which have been hinted at but not yet confirmed. Most of the story is conveyed in game, never leaving Faith's perspective, except in the animated scenes between chapters that have been compared jokingly to the Esurance commercials, but I think they're better animated in most places and compliment the game's aesthetic well.

That aesthetic is pretty appealing, looking not much like any other first person games from this generation. The colors are all very stark, whites and yellows and blues that stand out and subtly lead you where you're supposed to be going. Enemies mostly wear all black, and anything red is something that you should be paying attention to, whether it's a ramp you can use to jump to the next building or a cop's weapon you can grab in mid-strike. The clean look both conveys the sterile futility of trying to resist the city's control and helps keep you running towards your objective instead of getting lost trying to figure out what you can jump on. Voice acting's not bad and the music is suitably new agey and pulse pounding where required. The theme song "Still Alive" isn't very new or interesting, but I can't say it isn't pleasant. Now where have I heard that title in connection to a first person game without much combat before?

The main gameplay is the parkour, running along rooftops, slipping past obstacles, making impossible jumps and slickly disposing of people in your way. The controls are nice and simple. You run faster the longer you go without being stopped, and there's a button that moves you upward like jumping or running along a wall and one that moves you downward like sliding under a barrier or dropping from a ledge. This is pretty much all you need to do any number of crazy things, and before too long you'll find yourself leaping from building to building with ease. Sometimes there's problems, as it's common to jump before you should and miss the next ledge or have more issues that you think you should pulling off a complicated maneuver. I have no idea how many times I fell to my death in the seven hours I played.

And the combat... I like the game, but this whole part of it is just bad. A significant component of my difficulties was that my computer could barely keep the frame rate playable when there were enemies in the room, making the finicky disarming mechanic even more problematic. The ability to temporarily slow time helps, but the whole thing just seems unnecessarily obtuse. The game wants you to avoid shooting people, and just take them down with your hands. It's not that Faith is incapable of defending herself, it's just that there's no good gameplay or story reason why she can't carry a gun with her. The fact that you physically can take an opponent's weapon and shoot his partners with it suggests that there's no moral issue preventing her from doing it, and having to procure a firearm every time you run into trouble is needlessly difficult. There's also no physical reason why having a gun should encumber her, because at times she has to carry a bag for the story and it doesn't affect anything. On top of all that, the shooting itself is bad and the game does introduce enemies that can pursue you on your own level instead of just shooting at you, making you wonder why you encounter the basic goons with guns so often. It really doesn't add anything to the experience, and the one real fight you have with someone like you is a lot more fun than any of the game's other combat. Despite repeated deaths, the bad, unnecessary fighting didn't hurt my enjoyment too much, but it just seems like a poorly thought out, poorly implemented component of an otherwise much more interesting game.

So yeah, the game has issues, but some of the hiccups stemmed from my own system's limitations and the game's unique strengths definitely outweighed them to me. It's not great, but if they ever do get to make a sequel and iron out some kinks, there's no reason it couldn't be.

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