Giant Bomb Review

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Mirror's Edge Review

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This first-person parkour game stumbles often, but it does it with style.

It's not all rooftops, though there are still plenty of those.
Digital Illusions, the developer behind the Battlefield series, is going way, way outside its comfort zone with Mirror's Edge. While it shares a familiar first-person perspective, the focus in Mirror's Edge is less on gunplay, or really, combat of any kind, and more on navigating your environment using acrobatics, free running, parkour, whatever you want to call it. Even if, on a fundamental level, Mirror's Edge isn't that different from a nimble third-person action game like Prince of Persia, the game's sleek, over-saturated visual style is incredibly striking, and its first-person perspective can prove quite immersive. But the game loses its momentum when it all but forces you into combat situations and when it pits you against precarious jumping puzzles, two common occurrences that turn a viscerally kinetic experience into a tedious pattern of trial and error.

Mirror's Edge takes place in the near-future metropolis of Daily City, a glimmering glass-and-steel corporate dystopia where information control has become so acute that political dissidents use special couriers called runners to relay information. You play as a runner named Faith, and the story revolves around a political assassination that's been pinned on Faith's sister Kate. From there, the game plays out like an aerobic murder mystery, though instead of fingerprints and deerstalker caps, it's lots of rooftop-running and encounters with well-armed private security. There are hints of a greater conspiracy and the high-level corruption that courses through the city, but there's a distinct disconnect between the story and the action, a fault that's exacerbated by the game's awkwardly stylized animated cutscenes. Beyond the facile “I'm just trying to skate here” antiestablishment sentiments and the whistle-clean, hyperrealistic look that comes part-and-parcel with the setting, you don't get a very deep sense for the world of Mirror's Edge.

Mirror's Edge will kick your fear of heights into overdrive.
Still, the setup is enough to justify the game's preference of flight over fight, and as a runner, Faith's mobility is her greatest asset. Basic movement works the way you'd expect from a traditional FPS, though all of her jumping and climbing abilities are streamlined into two context-sensitive buttons--one for moving up, one for moving down. The game gets a lot of mileage out of these two buttons which, in the right circumstances, can allow Faith to scramble up walls, quickly leap over short obstacles, slide down ramps and under barriers, run along walls to cross short gaps, slide down zip lines, swing across horizontal bars, shimmy up vertical pipes, and more. You can also combine some of these abilities to perform more advanced moves like the l-jump, which has you running up a wall, quickly spinning around and kicking off, hopefully landing yourself on a higher surface. It's nothing you haven't seen in a third-person action game, but the first-person perspective can make it feel incredibly exotic.

It's not all leapin' ladies, though, as Faith is regularly met by small groups of highly antagonistic guards. She can perform a few different hand-to-hand combat maneuvers, and she can acquire guns by disarming or knocking out enemies, though once she's out of ammo, she'll discard her weapon. For all her agility, Faith is pretty fragile, and on the game's normal difficulty, it only takes a couple hits to put her down. The game encourages you to avoid conflict when possible, though it's not always practical. Mirror's Edge falters when you're forced to go toe-to-toe with your foes, who are consistently tougher and stronger than you. You don't stand a chance if faced with more than one enemy at a time, and even one-on-one your chances aren't great. Disarming an enemy requires just a single button press, and while the ability to slow down time for short bursts can be helpful, it still demands such particular timing, that if you botch it on your first try, chances are you won't live long enough for a second. The game is effective at making guns seem like a crude solution to your problems--partially because they're just not fun to shoot--though there are situations where they're simply the most pragmatic.

You'd better run.
Few first-person games have made full-body dexterity so paramount to the experience as Mirror's Edge, largely because trying to execute precise movement when you can't see your character's body is exceptionally difficult. It's a problem Mirror's Edge isn't immune to, though it goes to some lengths to put as much of Faith on screen as possible. You'll see little bits of Faith's hands pumping into your line of sight when you get a good sprint going, her legs kicking out during a jump and tucking forward during a slide. If you look straight down, you can see pretty much her whole body, making it easy to get right up on a ledge. The most helpful cue is Faith's runner vision, which highlights objects in the environment that are key to your progression in bright red. For the most part, the levels in Mirror's Edge are extremely narrow, usually offering a few minor shortcuts, though most of the time you can hold a button to snap the camera to your next objective when you get lost.

When everything is working right, Mirror's Edge is a sublimely fluid experience. All the little touches--the way the camera will rattle and Faith's breathing will intensify as she runs up to a sprint, the coolly urgent techno music that swells at the right moments--compliment the effortlessness with which Faith can move. As the game progresses, though, taking you from the rooftops of Daily City to its inner clockworks and then back again, the leaps become more death-defying and the jumping puzzles demand more precision. The margin for error shrinks, and the mechanics and perspective can't keep up. It's easy to get disoriented, particularly in tight quarters, and you simply don't have enough information to make your moves. It's frustrating when there's no discernible difference between a failed attempt and a successful one. A jump puzzle or a bunch of guards are taxing enough on their own, but it's not long before the game is throwing both at you at once, and it hardly seems like you have adequate time to figure out your next move. You end up having to throw yourself against the problem, hoping to either luck out or stumble upon the solution. These bouts of trial-and-error grind the game to a halt, though Mirror's Edge also interrupts its own flow with conspicuously long elevator rides, as well as the occasional in-level load.

Consisting of just nine chapters, most of them running well under an hour your first time through, Mirror's Edge is a fleeting experience, though you can play through time trials or speed runs separate from the story. The highs in Mirror's Edge are undeniable, and Digital Illusions deserves credit for some of the bold choices it makes here, but the first-person perspective that helps make it so singular is also its biggest liability. Momentum is the biggest strength of Mirror's Edge, and it's unfortunate that it trips over itself so often.
102 Comments
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Posted by Vinchenzo

Unfortunate it's only 3 stars. Oh well, still might rent.

Posted by Alpha1

Excellent review Ryan, I might rent it

Posted by chililili

I guess I'll give it a rent, but its at the bottom of my list as of this review.

Posted by Thordain

A nice job Ryan, no errors this time.

Posted by BiggerBomb

Huh...

Well, yeah. Ok. Thanks, Ryan.

Posted by Jixashauser

I still wanna get this though :)

Posted by RHCPfan24

Ahh, I thought this game could be 5 stars.  Oh well, I don't think I will buy it; maybe a rental.  

Also, why has every review sum-up mentioned "stumbled"? I see that it is an easy word to use, but enough is enough. 
Posted by TwoOneFive

cool, its a rental for sure!

Posted by Alphazero

Run runner!

I'll play it if only to look at new colors after Fallout 3 and Gears 2. The demo was way fun. I predict I'll like it more than Ryan. I've a high tolerance for repetition. Also, I don't mind when things repeat.

Posted by Steve_C

Nice review. This game seems to be getting quite mixed reviews, but it seems unique enough to warrant checking out. It sounds like there are concepts that could be fleshed out and improved upon to make a great sequel. I enjoyed the demo too, so that helps.

Posted by Disease

Is this a review on your first playthrough, because people say it's way better on the second playthrough when you're more experienced with the controls.

Posted by TheWorstPlayerEver

I figured this would scrape the 3 star territory. Hopefully they can improve on what was bad about this game in future sequels and make an amazing FPP

Posted by Disease

...also i've noticed that the reviewers that review the PS3 version are more positive. Coincidence?

Posted by whackmypinata

You are good at writing.

Posted by Gameboi

I gave the demo a shot, but it just didn't wow me or draw me in as much as I would have hoped for. I'll rent the final game, and make my decision to buy or pass soon after.  With so many great games out right now, I'm in no big hurry.

Posted by Destroyeron

Honestly I never expect anything 5 star worthy from DICE.

Posted by 0kAmui0

Good review and it really justifies the score you gave it. I was hoping it would get higher reviews but I'm still getting this one. Tomorrow actually :)

Posted by McBain

Good review, Ryan. Seems like a decent rental.

Posted by Sweep

An excellently written review Ryan, great stuff mate. I think the style of the game has been prioritised over the actual gameplay itself, which is why you end up with such limited progression in terms of actual mechanics. It seems like it all comes down to aesthetic preference...

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Posted by KillerToaster

Thnx this will be a rental then, Keep on truckin Giantbomb.com

Posted by slint

I disagree with most of this review.  But to each his own I guess.

I'd recommend checking out Game Trailers and Eurogamer reviews.  They seem to 'get it' a little bit more.

Posted by AndrewB

I feel a little worried that I actually bought Mirror's Edge outright (probably should have waited and rented it, considering how short it is). I suppose I'll enjoy it well enough, though. I like the premise of trying to *avoid* fights.

Posted by Media_Master

Trail and error game ...whooopeeee!

Posted by AndrewGaspar

I'm still buying it. I loved the demo.

Posted by ReTarDedFisHy

Thanks for the honest review, Ryan.
This looks to be a rental then :)

Edited by Death_Burnout

what a surprise...

Still, this is what i like in games, first person immersion and im a sucker in believing it.

Edited by DukeTogo

1. You don't review a game based on multiple play throughs unless it's endemic to the story. (i.e. Mass Effect, KOTOR, Fable)

2. The controls aren't remotely difficult to get a handle on, they're actually a bit too simple.  It takes all of 5 minutes or a latent muscle reflex from an old FROM Software game to get the up/down on the same side idea.

3. Gametrailers "got it" by giving it an 8, yet the parting shot of their review was rent it since it's a love it or hate it experience.  Trial and error gameplay has been done before, and it is regarded as an old/cheap method to give a game artificial length.  In 2008 it has no place in a game outside of a retro release like Mega Man 9 where old methods are expected.

This game gets credit and some bonus points by quite a few reviewers for it's originality and stark contrast to the "brown shooters" of late.  A 3rd person perspective with melee combat against other melee enemies would've been the way to go here.  Think Prince of Persia meets Assassins' Creed in the same setting.  With in game cinemas and a far better script.

Go watch "District B13" and see what this game could have done with those ideas.

Edit: Here's a youtube link to part of that movie.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GpOroM0g80

Posted by get2sammyb

Day one purchase for me here in the UK on Friday.

Posted by Nick8708

So it sounds like the demo isn't very representative of the later portions of the game.  I may buy this anyways because the negatives mentioned aren't things that bother me too much in a game.  The length of the game, however, might dissuade me. 

Posted by Afroman269

Don't worry they may fix it up more in the next two games lol.

Posted by mordecaix7

Still buying it....when it's $20 or $30 bucks

Posted by dtran1212

don't really care much for this game anyways, the only way i'll reconsider is if this game got a 5/5 star, but thats not the case...so FUCK this game

Posted by BawaTheGamer

Wow. the game has been getting underwhelming reviews nearly everywhere. I think most people thought it was AAA quality

Edited by Kohe321

Well written review. A shame, I was hoping this could be awesome. Oh well, I might get it anyways.

Posted by Wright

nice review, didn't expect this one to do that well from the beginning. though it certainly is unique.(which is good and bad in this case)

Posted by BawlZINmotion

I rented and completed it in one day. There isn't much there to be honest, though Mirror's Edge was a lot of fun while it lasted. I think what hurts ME the most is the cost of admission versus what you get for that cost. At $20 Portal (a short and refreshing game with a variety of ways to replay it) offers a lot more. I'm sorry, but $60 just ain't worth it what is there. Though I highly recommend those who enjoyed the demo to rent this ASAP because it is definitely worth playing.

Posted by Lies

I think you want DICE, not digital Illusions good sir.

Posted by Pibo47

Cannot wait for this game! Great review!

Posted by StaticFalconar

I can't believe EA had a hand in this. Almost makes me want to stop hating them now.

Posted by RagingLion

Hmm.  I know my opinions of games often differ to that of Ryan and Jeff so I'm hoping I'll get mesmerised by the world a little more than Ryan did.  Still really looking forward to getting since it has such uniqueness and I reckon I'll really enjoy it (pity that'll be a while as I'll be getting it on PC).

Posted by TheGTAvaccine

Great review. I cant wait to get this game.

Edited by MrKlorox

I wonder how much negativity in these Mirror's Edge reviews comes from the slow and unresponsive camera. I'm willing to bet playing this game with a mouse instead of a thumbstick will make it a bit less frustrating.

EDIT @ Lies : and DICE stands for Digital Illusions Computer Entertainment... so Digital Illusions would still be accurate enough. However if he said Digital Illusions Inc, that would have been incorrect.

Posted by mrfluke
very good 3 star review
Posted by Ironphist

After playing the demo, feel like this is a game I would enjoy. Good review, but for its lack of depth and replay, I'll probably give it a rental

Posted by Kenzo287

I bought it and I really like it but it really is frustrating sometimes especially in closed spaces.

Posted by Ingwe

Definitely want to check out the game.  I've been looking forward to it, but after all the mixed reviews I think I'll take this one with a grain of salt.  I like the lack of gunplay so am upset to hear it forces you to in some places.

Posted by momentarylogic

Great review!

Posted by Bulby33

You didn't finish the game dude.

Posted by PureRok

@Alphazero: " I predict I'll like it more than Ryan. I've a high tolerance for repetition. Also, I don't mind when things repeat."

I see what you did there.

Posted by expensivelove

Bought this today and it's very enjoyable. It's nice to add something new and original to my gaming collection.

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