Patience Pays Off
My emotions conflicted greatly during my playing of Mirror’s Edge on account of its frustrating dichotomy. On one hand, you have an excellent climbing and running action game played entirely in the first person, and it does a fantastic job of putting you into the shoes of lead character Faith, who is a “runner” tasked with delivering illegal packages by parkouring all over an oppressively white-washed city. On the other hand is a lot of combat, which is fairly poorly executed and oftentimes needlessly tacked on. These two different gameplay approaches clash constantly and lead to a game that, while good and definitely unique overall, can be extremely frustrating as well.
The main reason for this frustration is that there is no motivation for the combat. Faith gets caught up in a murder mystery with her sister, but up until the game’s last plot twist, she has no real reason to want to fight. She’s probably five and change feet tall, and no more than a hundred pounds. Why not adjust the story a bit, or allow the player to sneak past enemies? Sneaking is offered as an option at certain points but is nearly impossible, since enemies seem to be able to simply feel your presence. Sometimes the existence of enemies add to the intensity of the game; you’ve got to survey the environment quickly, finding things to vault off of, slide under, and run on to duck your pursuers and come closer to solving the murder of an important politician. Other times, though, the game forces you to break the flow of your parkour running and jumping and fight.
Fighting is pretty limited in Mirror’s Edge. You can punch and kick, as well as disarm enemies by tapping “Y” when their guns flash red. You can use the guns until they run out of their limited ammo, but then it’s back to fists and feet. The problems here begin when the developers actually decide to stick to Faith’s character; she can’t take more than a few bullets or a few butt ends of a gun before she dies, prompting a reload from the last checkpoint. This will happen a lot. You can build up a little burst of slow-motion by running to help you time the disarms, but it’s still annoying to be thrust into the rather unfairly difficult combat sequences again and again.
The parkour, however, is firmly in the limelight here, which is certainly where the good fun in Mirror’s Edge comes in. You’ve got a “high” and “low” button that will dictate Faith’s movements as she runs. Holding “low” will tuck in your legs for a high landing, slide you under pipes, and so forth. “High” will hurdle low obstacles, climb onto things, and jump for wall runs. This is a great scheme that lets you do a lot of neat, fluid tricks. For example, you might wall run, turn to look at a pole, jump off, swing and leap off the pole, tuck in your legs over a barbed wire fence, and slide to safety, all without really thinking about it. You’ll meet your fair share of deaths during the platforming sections too, but generally the checkpoints are spread out quite well, and if you’ve endured other trial and error based games, you’ll probably enjoy this one.
Mirror’s Edge is a game that you will need to adjust to in order to enjoy. It has a lot of problems certainly, namely that a game based almost purely on repetition, restarts, and a bit of luck feels a little out of place in today’s streamlined gaming climate. If you’re up for some trial and error, though, and you don’t mind some frustrating combat sequences, consider checking this one out, especially once you reach the end and unlock all the Time Trials, races, and Speed Runs that will put your parkour skills to the test.