Despite its issues, Mirror's Edge pulls through in originality.
Mirror’s Edge is amongst the most original games of this generation, and it’s refreshing to finally see a game with a unique theme that avoids Digital Illusion’s typical library of Battlefield titles. The concept of free-running may be loosely compared to the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia, but Mirror’s Edge compliments it as an art by driving it as the main focus of the game; consequently, the story takes a back seat and is hard to truly care about. Despite the effort, Mirror’s Edge has a few flaws to remain entirely enjoyable, and the result is often inconsistent and frustrating, but there’s still a small handful of entertaining moments to experience.
In Mirror’s Edge, you play as the female parkour aficionado, Faith – a free-runner who utilizes the environment around her to gracefully travel across rooftops. She’s one of the primary hires for a private organization of runners led by Merc, who uses their kinesthetic attributes around the government-isolated city to transport important messages or items. The setting appears to be in the near future, and the country is under extreme government surveillance that prevents any form of seditious libel, community uprising, and general freedom. A new candidate for mayor, Robert Pope, is highly believed to turn the city around for democracy’s sake, and it’s something that the runners are hopeful for. Unfortunately for Faith, everything gets turned upside down and it drags her sister, Kate, into the story – the game then turns into a big rescue mission. The tale throws a few twists and turns, but it’s difficult to actually care about, as the characters aren’t built up in any defining manner. Faith seems stuck in the past, often delivering “the past was never like this” dialogue, and the game never shows Kate’s personality enough. The entire story is simply an underwhelming excuse to run around and enjoy Faith’s rooftop traversing capabilities, which is the real heart of Mirror’s Edge.
If there’s one fascinating aspect of Mirror’s Edge, it’s the gameplay. As Faith, the player can leap across large gaps, run on the walls, swing off of poles, slide under construction, and perform other necessary moves to fluently make her way. The game generally leads the player in a general direction by using linear level design and runner’s vision; a feature that highlights the best path. It’s how you manipulate the level to reach your destination that’s so interesting – it’s innovative, and generally original. Not to say that the game is perfect in this area, though, as a few spots throughout each level will certainly slow your momentum – something the game truly relies on to create that adrenaline rush for the player. Also, there’s an unhealthy dose of trial and error spread throughout the game, and you’ll often try the same jump three times – all the same way – until you’re magically successful; it really takes the “trial” out of trial and error, and also the fun out of the game’s concept of free-running. It doesn’t happen often enough to severely hurt the game, but only to slow it down in its tracks. Running is the heart and soul of Mirror’s Edge, and despite its spots of clumsiness, the game makes the simple concept of running enjoyable.
Combat is when not only Faith runs straight into a brick wall, but also the player’s patience for the game. In theory, the combination of free-running and combat sounds stylish, and there’s even an addition of slow motion at your use, but it often demonstrates to be clunky, a pain, and an idea that the game is not ready to explore; especially when a simple two hits can mean Faith’s end. With the highly debated first person camera angle, it feels as if you have to get a little too close to an enemy to make contact. The easiest way to down an enemy is to disarm him, and use his gun on other government soldiers – it works well, but it’s something that the game is simply not about. Luckily, if the player tires or has completed the story mode, which averages around eight hours, there are two other modes available: time trial and speed run. It sounds like the same, but these two features cut back on the embarrassing storyline and focus more on the appreciated free-running aspect. The combat-less time trial mode allows the player to compete with others around the world for the best time on specific levels. Sounds basic, but these levels are extremely tough, and obtaining the highest star rating will test your mind, reflexes, and patience. The speed run mode allows the player to make haste through the story’s levels, all the while competing against a set time. Both of these modes are rather enjoyable, and include the ever addicting achievements/trophies to strive for.
Another perk of Mirror’s Edge is its fascinating graphical and musical boundaries. Right from the start the well-contrasted objects and overall clean look of textures enlighten the eye. The game’s dystopian look compliments the same vibe that the story goes for, and possibly even surpasses it. The story's cut scenes includes unique, 2D animation which is very well done -- it's just fun to look at. As with many of the game’s benefits, the graphics do have their issues as well. In the visual’s case, it’s the lack of small details and features in the city. When running around outside you can’t help but get the feeling of being in a skybox at times – the four sides of the sky each have individual cloud textures stuck to them, and it comes off really flat. Also, the buildings – although they look very nice – lack a certain flare to them, and that’s due to the complete absence of open windowsills, different inside lighting, or other visual features that would make the buildings feel a little less bland. The game’s musical score, while limited, fits right in with the tone of the game. Its ambient techno beats are pleasing, yet mysterious – they replace that deep, gut feeling you should have experienced from the story.
Mirror’s Edge is a tricky game to weigh. On the good side of the scale, there’s innovation, some fun to be had, great presentation, and an original value to the game; however, you’ll find a bad storyline, sloppy combat, and some frustration with the free-running mechanics on the bad side. The scale doesn’t tilt either way, leaving a very middle-ground game. Mirror’s Edge takes an extraordinarily simple concept and runs with it; although, how far it runs is a matter of how the consumer would like to spend his or her time. Regardless, you can’t go wrong with Digital Illusion’s attempt at a new, vastly different IP, which is something that is becoming harder to find amongst today’s sequel-filled market.
Mirror's Edge Video Review from William Boso on Vimeo.