akumax's Mirror's Edge (Xbox 360) review

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  • akumax has written a total of 3 reviews. The last one was for Killzone 2


Fundamentally, Mirror's Edge is a game about balance. During those tentative first steps, it's literally about not falling from the ledges, poles and bars that seem oh so daunting to cross. Once the controls have been acclimatised to, it's a case of keeping encounters in check and learning how to deal with disarms and hand-to-hand combat. Finally, as Faith's movements become muscle memory and the Speed Runs tower ahead, it's about balancing the insatiable lust for speedy shortcuts and risky jumps with the safer, more assured routes: go too fast and you'll inevitably fall to your doom and force a restart, but go too slow and you'll simply take too long.

Ignore the dissenting voices. When you're sprinting desperately down a corridor, pulse racing, palms sweaty, ignoring the wailing sirens and the bullets shattering the scenery around you, gaze fixated on that one point fifty yards ahead, it hits you like a brick wall. This is nirvana, the pure gameplay moment that so many seek yet fail to achieve. MMOs deliver something comparable, but it's drip-fed, for the patient and the patient alone. Perhaps Mirror's Edge's most astounding trait is that it can, depending on skill of course, provide that thrill within a matter of hours.

There's so much to praise in Faith's world. The arresting visual design, the pitch perfect score, the superbly realised level layouts, the tightest controls this side of a spaceship... but let's get some things out of the way. Mirror's Edge has been pretty heavily criticised by some quarters of the gaming press. They feel frustrated, cheated, and short changed. They are flat out wrong. Almost every single time something goes awry, it's the player's fault. Ineptitude is not a flaw. Secondly, the game's length is not an issue given the tremendous replay value. If anything it's as much Radiant Silvergun as it is Prince of Persia, the quest to repeat certain sections until they are hard-wired to the fingers; hours and hours can be sunk into this game if approached with the correct mindset. Last, and most importantly, it seems many have missed the point. The whole angle was to create a first person platforming game, not a Lara Croft reskin. It does what Portal did for the puzzle genre last year. The immersion is paramount to the experience, the player is meant to feel at one with Faith. If escapism is the reason we play videogames, Mirror's Edge hits the mark absolutely dead on.

Of course there comes a time in every single high scoring game review when the reader is informed that "___ is not perfect". This remains a truth for Mirror's Edge, obviously, but it comes within frightening distance of that Holy Grail. There are problems with Faith's characterisation. It's not a case of Masterchief syndrome whereby the player is meant to envisage themselves in the suit, because we already have a talkative, established character in place. This works for third person games, when we appear to be merely influencing what this preconceived avatar is doing, but one can't help but feel strangely detached from the character one is meant to be. This surfaces only during the jarring hand-drawn cutscenes, which in themselves add nothing meaningful to the storyline. They look out of place and infact serve to the detriment of the experience overall. Why could they not just be rendered in-engine, from the same viewpoint as the rest of the game? The plot is also a relatively throwaway affair, nothing that hasn't been done a thousand times previously, and the thinly veiled loading times so prevalent in modern gaming are by no means dispelled. However, dwelling upon these hangups becomes mind-numbingly irrelevant about thirty seconds into a level as the already slight feelings of ill will are washed away.

It's difficult to say whether DICE are aware exactly what they have created. Mirror's Edge is an incredible piece of software. The studio has nailed each and every crucial element with such considerable equanimity and poise that it truly sticks out like a sore thumb among the reams of first person action games that rely so heavily on catering to the atavistic urges of young men and little else. There are those who are afraid of change, but Mirror's Edge dares to be different, and incase you hadn't guessed, it succeeds in nigh on every feasible aspect. That is why it has earned the very highest accolade. That is why you need to play this game.
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