Conceptually neat, but hurt by a few severe issues
In most first person games out there, you carry a gun, and with that gun, you shoot dudes up and complete objectives. Swedish developer EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) decided to take that formula and throw it right out the window. Mirror's Edge is a first person game, but the main focus isn't combat. It's running. The game drops you into the shoes of a woman named Faith, and throughout the game, you will run from point A to point B. It sounds simple, and it really is. Mirror's Edge is a conceptually neat game, but it is severally hurt by many flagrant problems that make it difficult to love.
Mirror's Edge takes place in a future world where communication is so heavily monitored that special, aerobic citizens simply called Runners are put into action. While the actual story in Mirror's Edge won't be winning any Oscars anytime soon, it does set a main objective pretty quickly and it manages to keep you going throughout the game. You play as Faith, and the recent assassination of the mayor has been blamed on Faith's sister. The rest of the game basically plays out like an investigation, where you search for clues and interrogate suspects to find out what's really going on. You get a feeling that something big, secret, and corrupt is going down in the city, but nothing really astounding happens in the plot to fulfill that want.
Visually, Mirror's Edge is amazing. The city in which the game is set in is mostly white with the occasional bright green, blue, and yellow. The overall presentation looks so nice that you will often find yourself stopping in the middle of a mission to look down the side of the skyscraper you are on, or to gaze out over the city and witness the beauty of everything. As you leap across impossible distances and land hard on a pipe you must climb, it's very hard to not notice the nice textures and detail that have been put into the world. Faith can utilize an ability called Runner's Vision, which paints objects that she can use to proceed toward her objective in bright red. All in all, Mirror's Edge really pushes the limit of current-gen consoles. The only gripe I have about the look of the game is the cutscenes. You know those annoying Esurance commercials? They are literally identical to those, and just plain ugly to look at. Voice work in the game is definitely not as good as other games, as the dialogue seems pretty fake and bland. Merc, the guy that talks to you through an earpiece during a mission, does have great dialogue, and it helps to get you motivated to go faster.
Mirror's Edge is a game all about running, jumping, and climbing, and thankfully DICE managed to nail every aspect of those. Every action you can do is assigned to a single button, and the controls are easy to learn. The left bumper causes your character to jump, and it's probably the button you will use most in the game. Using the other buttons on the controller, you can perform wall runs, spins, slides, and rolls. You can also combine these buttons to perform trickier moves, such as running up a wall, spinning, kicking off, spinning and kicking off once more, and then grabbing onto a ledge and shimmying over to a higher surface. Everything is streamlined beautifully in the game, and there is rarely a hiccup or an unresponsive button.
Because Runners are considered criminals, you will face opposition in the game. Your opponents come in the form of armed guards, with the easiest ones carrying handguns while the tougher guards can carry light machine guns. What really annoys me is the fact that DICE is constantly encouraging you to avoid these guards, but in many sections of the game, you are actually forced to fight your way past someone. There are many occasions where a guard will literally stand in the middle of a doorway you must go through and will shoot at you until you take them out. The combat itself is hard to get used to.
Faith has a variety of moves she can use you eliminate guards or disarm them, from straight up punching them to drop kicking someone in the balls. The guards are mostly overpowered in this game, because even on the Easy difficulty, Faith can only take a few bullets before she collapses. You can also pick up their weapons, but shooting them isn't anywhere near satisfying, and they also limit your movement. Disarming can be more of a chore then anything. It relies simply on pressing the button at the right time, and if you fail to do so, you will usually get killed.
There is no multiplayer in the game, but Mirror's Edge does offer Time Trials and Speedruns. Time Trials are simply checkpoint races on variations of the levels, and Speedruns are all about completing a mission as fast as you possible can. You can view the leaderboards and race against the highest time in the world if you want (I wouldn't recommend it though, because the fastest time in the world is less than 30 seconds in some cases).
Despite Mirror's Edge originality, the game suffers from many issues regarding the actual gameplay. Throughout the experience, you will have to rely on trial and error to get through a section. Before the game released, DICE stressed the fact that it shouldn't take you more than 15 seconds to find out where you need to go and what you need to do to get there. Unforunately, it took me upwards to 5 minutes to figure out what I needed to do. This is not me being stupid, either. I had several friends and my brother play the game, and all of them took forever to figure out many of the sections in the game. You can hold B to automatically point you in the right direction, but it's actually getting there that's the problem. The game doesn't make ANYTHING obvious. When outside, it's easy to find the right path because of Runner's Vision, but inside is a whole new story. You will often come across rooms that are completely red, or completely orange. These areas make Runner's Vision completely useless. Another gripe I have is about Faith's refusal to grab onto many of the ledges in the game. You will always come across parts where Faith can easily grab onto a ledge and climb up, but she won't. You will come across areas where you will miss a pipe or some other grabbable part of the environment by mere centimeters, and you will fall to your death. The game is quick to reload back to the last checkpoint, which is nice, but the fact that you will continuely fall and fall to your doom over and over again is incrediably frustrating, and it hurts the experience a lot.
With all of that being said, Mirror's Edge definitely gets an "A" for originality. It's the first game to really capture what it means to be running for your life, leaping across skyscrapers, and sliding down zip lines. It's nothing that you haven't seen in a third person game, but in first person, everything just feels much more special and immersive. If it wasn't for the extreme trial and error needed to complete the game, the sections where you are forced to fight a guard, and the fact that it can take forever to figure out where to go, Mirror's Edge would have been just about perfect.