Jumping for the stars...and falling a bit short.
No doubt about it: Mirror's Edge tries for something different. Where the typical first-person game is lambasted for including jumping puzzles and platforming elements, Mirror's Edge makes this kind of motion-based gameplay the primary selling point. Where many game dystopia paint their worlds in broad strokes of gray and brown rubble, Mirror's Edge opts for shimmering white struck through with primary colors, The End of the World as envisioned by Apple. Where hulking space marines march and fire, agile Runners clamber and scuttle.
The key to understanding this game's divisive appeal is to view it outside the constraints seemingly established by its first-person viewpoint. The key concept to the game is all about motion and flow, as presaged by Faith herself in the introductory animation. Finding the perfect line and keeping to the path, doing everything perfectly, therein lie the shards of greatness.
Shortly put, Mirror's Edge casts a net similar to that thrown by a Stuntman or Forza game: the satisfaction of making a perfect run.
Unfortunately, as with those games, perfect runs require practice. A lot of practice, which often involves stopping dead against a wall, trying to see the telltale red object you're supposed to be scrabbling for, or missing a jump and dying horribly.
The satisfaction evident in how easily the control system takes to mobility only makes the game's other failings easier to see. The game feels best when you know where you're going and how to get there, but the red-stripe guides prove woefully inadequate when you're forced into restrictive indoor environments. The game liberates when you run like hell from your pursuers, but it repeatedly forces you into open confrontation with groups of enemies, only to prove Faith's inability to fight effectively (or at least, with style).
These poor choices show where developer DICE chickened out, afraid to bet on the game's strongest points, attempting to crowbar in some "traditional" FPS elements to keep conservatives happy, only to the detriment of the game in general and to disappoint those same conservatives who realize the half-heartedness of the attempt.
Mirror's Edge may ultimately have failed to make the leap to greatness, but it took a lot of great steps, hops and skips along the way.