'More Frustrating then Exhilarating'
DICE is mainly known for the popular multiplayer 1st person shooters, the Battlefield series. So it comes as a surprise that they had decided to make Mirror’s Edge; a free-running/parkour game all within 1st person camera intent on creating a fresh new innovative experience for gamers. Fortunately Mirror’s Edge manages to pull this off while looking, stylistically and graphically top notch, with an awesome theme song but on the bad side does everything in its power to keep you from enjoying what it does right.
Mirror’s Edge is set in a city similar to George Orwell’s novel 1984. The Government has complete control over people’s lives by spying on them and even arresting people for speaking out of turn. The protagonist, Faith, is a runner, a collection of parkour information couriers, helping the people who are against the current government agenda. She becomes embroiled in a conspiracy when a politician is murdered. With her sister, Kate, being the only one at the scene and thus making here a prime suspect and so Faith goes out of her way to try and clear Kate’s name. The story is told primarily through animated cutscenes and your boss, Merc, feeding you information during gameplay. It’s an above average affair. There are a couple of twists here and there but they aren’t particularly exciting, one in particular being flat out predictable but the way the game paces what information it gives you is nicely clarified and Faith is a strong female character. It’s just a shame that you aren’t rewarded by the endgame and a couple of the twists are thrown aside, with the ‘Unknown Masterminds behind everything’ being alluded to, to set up a potential sequel. Suffice to say that by the time you reach the end of the 8 hour campaign you won’t care because of the relentless torment the game subjects you to I personally was glad to finish it.
Mirror’s Edge gameplay is innovative. Faith can run through the environment by going over or under most obstacles, the main objective is to get from A to B utilising parkour, Faith is always on the linear path but you do get to deviate by choosing to jump a fence as opposed to spring-boarding a box, with the free-running broken up by movement puzzles and combat sequences, both of which bring the game to a near stand still which is the main problem with Mirror’s Edge in general. The strongest part of Mirror’s Edge is when you’re flowing and never stopping by building up your momentum, the sad thing is that you don’t get to do this for very long because of the 2 other aspects of the game. The jumping puzzles can be tricky (which I’m not arguing they shouldn’t be) bringing the game to a standstill, what’s the worse thing about these parts is that your handler, Merc, pretty much tells you to hurry up because your pursuers are right behind you and since most can take around 2-5 minutes or more to complete them, it just breaks the game’s narrative and had me imagine that your pursuers waited behind the door, until you found your way around the puzzle before continuing the search. The second part the gameplay is the (cool looking but atrocious in action) combat sections. Faith can punch, slide kick, dropkick, wall kick and disarm guns from the enemies you have to fight. Now, Faith has realistic health much like Batman in Batman: Arkham Asylum and Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell: Conviction, so whenever you have to fight 3 armoured guards one at a time, you can see the problems starting to arise, most of the time I tried to avoid the combat by running passed the guards only to get put down pretty quickly. The same goes for disarming; you miss you chance and prepare for the biggest pistol-whipping of your life. I even resorted to using guns (throwing any chance of that achievement out of the window) but the guns don’t have much ammo and surprisingly aren’t effective given DICE’s pedigree, don’t get me wrong, the game isn’t a shooter but the fact that I used the guns as a desperate attempt to get past a section in the game for them to be ineffective is kind of lame. This is exacerbated in the later stages of game when it throws 8-15 enemies at a time and you have to single them out one by one. In short, prepare to throw your controller, swear at your TV and kick your dog (that last one was a joke). Another small fault with the game is the set pieces. Now a couple of them are cool but with a game like this you should expect them to be astounding, that’s not the case here. I never felt satisfied with most of them, not once did I feel the ‘Nathan Drake sigh of relief’ and it’s a real shame but it’s made worse by the fact that they appear at the high points of the game where you’re sprinting and on high alert, thinking on your toes only for Merc to tell you the right way the second you die from a jump you made on instinct and when this happens on a regular basis it is another strike to the juggler for Mirror’s edge.
One of Mirror’s Edge’s redeeming features is the presentation. Due to the government having locked down pretty much everything from litter to graffiti, the city has a white backdrop with splashes of colour about the place, it looks fantastic. It’s nice that every chapter has a certain colour scheme to delight your retinas with and the fact that the camera is 1st person throughout the game, makes it that much more vibrant. Sound design is decent, as I said before the theme song is awe-inspiring but the fact there is so much detail to Faith’s shoes rubbing on tarmac or stomping on wood it brings a sense of immersion even when the game pulls you put regularly.
I really wanted to like Mirror’s Edge. I really did and, hey, if there is a sequel I’m up for improvement. It’s just a shame that a lot of design issues got in the way but in saying that, you should experience the parkour system, it’s like nothing you’ve ever played. Just keep in mind that you will be trudging through a lot of frustration, terrible combat and a mediocre story to find those fleeting moments of exhilaration before it eventually runs out steam.