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

Not So Edgey

A competent first-person platformer with some promising ideas, Mirror's Edge eventually nose-dives off of a building and crashes into the pavement... if it's not gunned down by SWAT members, first.


     I appreciate it when a game takes a gamble. I always enjoy a new intelligent property, or a complete overhaul to an old property. Mirror's Edge was another of EA's attempts at throwing something new into the mix, bringing you a first-person platformer with a great art style. And if you've played the demo, you'll think "Man, DICE sure had a great idea, here." You'd be right, too. It was a great idea. But once you start to get passed where the demo leaves off, you'll realize that good ideas aren't always great in long term.

I personally would prefer our cities to look this good.
   Mirror's Edge finds Faith, an athletic lass with a penchant for parkour, as she deals in her day to day life being a rebel against a totalitarian future. She's trying to live free in a world where you're expected to play by the rules and obey the laws. You know, a happy place. But ol' Faith can't play nice, and her rag-tag gang of Runners and herself are making a living delivering whatever random stuff the more seedy folk need delivered. For all you know, she's delivering meth, or a dirty bomb to some wacko. But never mind all of that because there's a murder-mystery afoot, instead! A politician who was all about change for this corporate world has been shot and Faith's sister is the accused, but we know she didn't do it! (I'm sorry, but I cannot exactly see what is so bad about a world that still has democracy... Political assassination aside, of course.) The rest of the game is spent hunting down random clues to the mystery, all of which are entirely disjointed, and seem to only serve as a means for Faith to hop more roofs and trek through more random buildings. The whole thing is terribly disjointed, and if that weren't bad enough, chapters are "connected' by poorly produced animation sequences. I appreciate what they were trying to do here, but the in-engine "cut-scenes" were far more effective. These cartoons just seem cheap.

   So the story is disjointed, maybe the gameplay will be solid? Maybe... Basic movement is your standard First Person affair, but throwing a wrench into even that simple idea (for the sake of progress, I assume) is the mapping of the buttons. Left bumper is the jump and left trigger is the duck, and these are your primary controls. That takes some time to get used to, and honestly, it will likely never feel comfortable. X and B too "normal," DICE? Had to go for something wacky, didn't you? In a game about twitch accuracy and precision, this button layout really is not the ideal way to go, and there's no way to remap them.

   Combat is handled with the right trigger, where Faith clumsily flails a fist forward in an attempt to disorient her foes. She can also use the attack trigger to do flying kicks or ground-kicks, but in the end it's all pretty useless since a skinny girl does not stand much of a chance against heavily armed SWAT members. They try and throw in a counter/disarm mechanic on top of a slow-down, but none of it really helps you any. Trying to disarm people can only be done, effectively, in slow-down, and even then I had several instances where it just didn't work. Admittedly, that time I took someone from behind, chopped them in the throat, and hit them with their own taser was pretty awesome... but compared to the number of times I died of lead poisoning (or maybe it was intense bullet trauma, I'm not sure) it's just not worth the effort.

   Even if the combat were solid, I don't think that would fix Mirror's Edge. The situations they pit you against are just unfair. One room saw me, unarmed, trying to run through a warehouse with 4 SMG armed men on catwalks. Even with decent combat, I don't know if it would have been much easier, considering I was often dead before I even reached them. The one thing I will give Mirror's Edge is that I it's reload times are fairly quick, so you can get back to not-beating a level because it's too hard almost instantly!

Red means... go?
   The game tries to direct you with the color red, which as is mentioned in game, is the runners' favorite color (for no apparent reason.) Often when you're running, the color red will signify that you can jump or climb there in order to continue on. Unfortunately, there are more times where red never shows up than I would have liked. Especially on the interior, there are just too many moments where I am so reliant on the color red and there's none to be found. I just get lost. Training a person to look for certain cues and then forgetting, or ignoring, them at all is just sloppy.

   It's not just the combat that kills the pace either. More often than not, Faith finds herself inside (albeit gorgeous) buildings. You usually end up trekking down one corridor or another, bashing through doors until HALT! A puzzle! of the jumping variety, no less! These interior reactionary puzzles are often painful. They include having to dash up a wall, kick off of it, quick-turn, and do a wall-run and finally jump to a catwalk. These are painful because it's based solely on precise button timing and trial-and-error gameplay. Often times, you'll find that you miraculously made it without being aware that you did anything different.

Not half as awesome as it looks.
   All of this nagging on Mirror's Edge, I suppose I should find something good to say, and there are certainly good things to be said. The art design (in engine, not those frilly little cut-scenes) is amazing. Whether it's the blinding aura of the sunlight bouncing off the sterile white rooftops or the cool, solid-color interiors of buildings, the game is a treat to look at. Surely if you could find somebody who played enough that they could breeze through the jump puzzles and armed combat, this game would be amazing to watch. It's that attractiveness that lures you in; but it's the clunkiness that makes you tell it that you just want to be friends.

   The soundtrack for Mirror's Edge is solid, as well. From the intense chase-scene techno-pop to the ambient "this is Faith and she is brooding" tunes, the music is well composed. I'm still kind of on the edge (*cough*) about the main theme/credit piece "Still Alive," (really? You know what you're doing at that point...) It's pretty nice, but the vocals kind of are "meh," at best. The voice acting isn't half bad either, at least considering the freshman-written lines they were given.

   Where the game really shines is on the rooftops when you're just running for the sake of running. You're dashing under pipes and over alleyways, and at times you really just feel free. The time trials were a great idea, especially the ones that are just chunks of stages with the fat (by which I mean combat) taken out. At this point, given all the things that bring the game down, I would have honestly preferred that the whole game be a series of random VR missions or just non-contextual runs, a la n+. Unfortunately, there's plenty to bring this game down, and down it has gone, face-first into the pavement. (Note: I notice the forthcoming downloadable content is in this way, and it makes me think I should maybe rent this game sometime down the road to check out. Then of course I'd have to pay for the content, and I really don't want to.)

Overall


   Given it's length vs. cost, as well as overall content, I would put Mirror's Edge at an overall rental at best. The demo may have impressed you, but I suggest that you give it a rent before you consider a full purchase. Odds are you'll complete it in the rental period, or you'll just get fed up and move on. Either way, I think you're on the right track.

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