Nobody Makes the First Jump, Except DICE that is.
But all that disappeared, literally from the moment I took my first jump, albeit not a very impressive death defying feat, but in my eyes it was an achievement just the same. The game is far more visceral than it lets on in visuals; like me you may be doubtful, but until you have that controller in your hand, you really cannot judge it fairly. This is definitely a try and buy, it'll be converting many a non-believer in weeks to come.
The game sees you returning to the rooftops as Faith, a 'runner'; basically a free-running postman, or a tracuer on speed with some shopping or top-secret resistance files and what not. Either way it's pretty much the parkour game everyone has been waiting for. You have just recovered from a fall that left you in a bit of a state, and so your taken on a little training run with a rather nimble little latex-clad, dancer-bodied, blonde 'friend' of yours. The story then takes a turn for the worst when you discover your sister Kate has been framed for the murder of family friend, mayoral candidate and all round nice guy Robert Pope. You then set about on an extended jogging session through a sparsely populated city trying to find out who's responsible and bring them to justice. To be honest it's pretty standard, and unbelievably predictable stuff but it manages to give you some kind of connection to the protagonist and purpose for your actions.
So the gameplay is fairly simple, its basic fps stuff, the left stick controls movement, the right stick controls your view/camera, L1 makes Faith jump, L2 makes her crouch. These are the most important controls, but there are others like R2 for attack/open doors, R1 for a 180º turn and Triangle to interact/ pick up objects. Jumping and crouching adapt your movements and actions depending on your momentum and what type of obstacle your facing. In lamens terms you go over a pipe, or under it, tis up to you.
You can combine different functions like jumping and 180º-ing to dive backwards allowing you to shoot at your pursuers if it takes your fancy. Wall running, sliding, rolling, and the like, are all intuitive; as in, if you can guess how to do something, it's pretty safe to assume that's the way it's done. There are no invisible walls here, no waist high fence that magically stops faith in her tracks, just an 800 ft drop to make her think twice.
The meat of this first person platforming sandwhich are the Time Trial and Speedrun modes. The main story will only take around 6-7 hours or a few days to complete so after that you'll spend around 20% of your time trying to shave seconds off your times in the time trials and about 80% starting and restarting your Speedruns due to their severely punishing difficulty. A speedrun consists of you playing through one of the games levels, or 'chapters', as quickly as you can. This is only achievable by taking the most efficient route with almost no mistakes and definitely no dying, which is an unreasonable expectation considering that most of the action happens at death defying heights.
The time trials are what you'd expect, you race against the clock from checkpoint to checkpoint, on a series of mini courses plucked from story environments and stripped off all enemies. It's also possible to race against the ghosts of the world's fastest, this is useful for improving your time by giving you something physical to try and catch, and also means that if your too crap or too lazy to figure out the quickest route by yourself then you can just follow someone better.
When it comes down to it though, across all three modes you'll still only find yourself on familiar if not shaky ground, and the achievements actually force you to play through the story at least three times in some shape or form, but the developer's, anticipating this may get a tad old, will be releasing new downloadable time trial courses via XBL and PSN. To be fair this sounds quite negative but i've been playing the game everyday for about 2 weeks and I'm still not even close to bored.
Your adrenalin fuelled activities all take place in a gorgeous, if not unrealistically empty, world; even if they did cheat a little by painting everything white. Most surfaces in the demo are rich with texture, everything gleams and shimmers pleasingly, particularly metal surfaces, i.e pipes, rails, etc. The windows and skyscrapers are bathed in radiant sunshine, throwing shadows across the snowy floor of locations and levels that show off sophisticated and intelligent level design and detail, which always seems to be varied.
Faith herself is well presented too, well what we do get to see of her, ignoring the lack of reflections, the skin on her arms actually does look like skin; take a moment to look at her right arm when hanging on to a ledge. Great motion blur and speed effects create an amazing sense of movement and agility unmatched in any game of this type. Graphically the game holds up suprisingly well under close scrutiny, and is, if not a bit bland at times, surprisingly close to photo realism.
Basically everything makes sense in Mirror's Edge and that is one of the many reasons the game is great, it really does feel like you are an angsty asian teen frolicking about on sun-drenched rooftops. And who'd a thunk it? It actually feels pretty darn good. That said, the limited story mode means that if your not besotted with the gameplay, or a bit of an achievement/trophy whore, the alternative game modes may lose their appeal pretty sharpish, and if that's the case Faith will have to hop into your life as rental rather than a purchase.