Fast paced, pretty, immersive.
Mirror’s Edge is a first person action game released on November 11 2008 for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. It was developed by the Swedish company Dice, makers known for the Battlefield series of games. Now, while played from the first person, this game isn’t done justice by being called a shooter. Although you can shoot a variety of weapons, the main focus is a type of movement called “Parkour” where the goal is to go from point A to point B as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Confused? Don’t be. Allow me to elaborate.
In Mirror’s Edge, you play the role of the strong female protagonist*, Faith. Now, in the city where the game takes place (Daily City), all information is monitored by the government. Video Cameras are all over the place. Civilians can’t really call themselves “free” anymore. So, how does one get sensitive information to a party without the government knowing? The fastest way is to hire a runner, who will hand deliver the package to the target. As you may have guessed, Faith is one of these runners.
Now, this game is more than a first person platformer. You are going to need to rely on a large variety of moves to get Faith where she needs to go. You can jump, climb, wall-run, swing from poles, the like. However there are a number of variations to be done in between the context of all of these moves. Want to wall-run then jump off in the opposite direction in order to swing from a pole, then land on a platform just before sliding down a ramp? The way that the game is set up, you can easily do so.
All of the fancy moves you will be doing are essentially controlled by three buttons. One is for upward movements; one is for downwards movements, and one is to quickly spin around in a 180. This makes a simple control scheme that is fairly easy to get a hold of, while ensuring that you can easily learn new maneuvers when necessary. In order to be able to pull off such moves in rapid succession, you will need to learn to recognize when to do certain moves when. This may seem tricky at first, but after a little bit, it will become second nature. There is also an option to hang around and practice in the training ground after the tutorial, so you can always hang around there to get a better feel for the movement if need be.
Now, of course, the government doesn’t really approve of Runners. So you will be fighting a good number of enemies throughout the adventure. The combat is generally pretty good. You can modify your attacks the same way you can modify your other moves. High punch, low punch, slide kicks… plus a button you can use to perform disarms. The encounters can be pretty fun and feel pretty rewarding. You can always pick up a deceased foes’ weapon and use it against others. You can’t hold on to these, as they slow movement speed drastically, plus you are only given fairly limited ammunition, so dropping them once you are finished is a good idea.
These encounters, however, can also be pretty frustrating. The game encourages you to try to isolate enemies. Sometimes this really isn’t possible, and you’ll find yourself trying a million different ways to get past one encounter with multiple baddies. Luck is sometimes required. Fortunately these spots are few and far-between, and shouldn’t cause too many problems. The AI is fairly good and will sometimes deploy tactics such as flanking to attempt to best you.
One of the things that really stand out about this game is the art style. The whole city is filled with over-saturated primary colors. It all looks really sharp, and is a nice reprieve from the dusty brown color pallet we’ve seen in so many recent games. The graphics all look really nice and the team has done a really nice job in giving Daily City atmosphere. All of the textures are also very impressive. It’s all done in a very chic and modern-looking cell-shading, which portrays a certain sense of happiness. That coincides perfectly with the action going down to create something that to date is truly unique.
This game also has a great score. There are primarily two different “themes” that are present in each stage: one for ambience and one for action/fighting. The music sounds really good, and gets you in the right mood for what’s happening. It’s mostly electronica with pumping dance beats. They really fit the setting well; much better than you’d expect. The rest of the audio is spot-on. Weapons firing, Faith sliding or taking a steep fall to her death, or even the wind rushing past you sounds excellent. The voice acting is pretty good as well, although a few lines are delivered kind of flat.
While there is a ton of great gameplay in Mirror’s Edge, you won’t really be able to savor it. It is by no means a lengthy journey. You should be able to complete the main storyline for the first time in less than five hours if you don’t get seriously stuck. Once you realize the potential this game has, the lack of story really feels disappointing. However there are speed runs and time trials to test your Parkour ability. You can use online leaderboards to compare your times to the world’s best. There is a decent amount of replay value to be found in that perspective. There is also a hard difficulty that unlocks upon completion of the game, so you could always try that if you’re up for it. Along the way, you will also have the option to search for hidden bags that are in each level. Completionists will have a long search to find all of them due to the fact they are pretty cleverly hidden.
The fact that it’s a shorter game really hurts the story because there isn’t a lot of room to explain some of the things that happen in-between the main events. That means the story moves pretty fast with a ton of characters being thrown at you at once. You may have to watch the cutscenes over again to really grasp what’s going on. The cutscenes, by the way, are done in a very Japanese-Anime fashion, which works alright with the rest of the graphics, but they do seem a little weird and ill-fitting at certain times.
Overall, Mirror’s Edge is something new that reaches in a whole bunch of exciting directions. It’s a pretty enjoyable game with a lot of memorable moments, albeit a number of frustrating ones. The technical side looks gorgeous, with a very stylized look to the whole thing. The controls are done in a way that is fairly accessible to most players, if they are willing to take on a decent learning curve. What really hurts this game is the lack of campaign. It really has a great story going, but doesn’t leave time to explore it due to the lack of content. This game is easily recommendable to anyone looking for a fresh look on the first person genre, or a fan of platforming who is tired of Mario. It might be best to either rent it, or wait ‘till it hits the bargain bin, though. But it is DEFINITELY worth a rent. This style of gameplay will not appeal to everyone, so trying the demo is probably a good idea.