A walk on the Mirror’s Edge

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Monday, June 29th, 2009 in Reviews
Mirror's Edge

Mirror’s Edge is…a unique game. The demo available on Xbox Live sat on my hard drive for months before I actually played it. When I finally boot it up, it was a breath of fresh air to be greeted with the vibrant primaries against clean whites that make up a majority of ME‘s color palette. Quite the contrast from the plethora of grit & grime, post-apocalyptic mess that has been the video game industry as of late.

Not that this is much better, really. The game is set in a strict government regulated future where large amounts of cash are invested in keeping buildings clean and deploying armies of mindless gunslingers to take out rooftop ninjas carrying bright-yellow shoulder bags. Mirror’s Edge is first-person platformer that consists of scaling sky-scrapers and clearing gaps in between all while watching your girlie figure and maintaining your calluses. You play as Faith (or maybe Faythe; that would be cooler 🙂 ), a faithful employee of service “X” consisting of couriers, or “runners”, delivering “Y” to “Z” by hand to avoid conventional means of communication by keeping under the radar of a government that apparently closely resembles a Fourth Reich.

Mirror’s Edge definitely has a lot going for it. This is most apparent when you’re sprinting along ledges of rooftops hundreds of feet in the air jumping from one building to the next. The next platform lights up red, and you know you’re next jump is gonna be a doozy. Pick yourself up and zip line across the jagged skyline, fall a couple storeys & land into a roll, sprint to the door where you shoulder your way inside to a narrow corridor where you wall-jump up to the air-duct vent that leads outside & you do it all over again.

Mirror's Edge screenshot

Sounds awesome, right?! Well, it is! Some of it anyway…

The problem with Mirror’s Edge is that it just doesn’t know what it wants to be. Besides the fact that you never come to figure out just what the hell aforementioned “X”, “Y”, or “Z” actually are (though they must be damned important to have an entire military on your ass for 7 out of 9 stages of the game), there seems to be a lot of confusion with the gameplay elements. Every facet of the game only further declares Dice‘s indecisiveness and slowly chisels away at what could’ve been an outstanding title. What comes out of that is sadly just another tick-mark on EA’s “experimental” belt.

The occasional cutscenes are reminiscent of a bad Esurance commercial that didn’t make the cut. But then there are in-game clips as well. Come to think of it, the 2-D animations were actually distracting and made them somewhat difficult to watch. They usually took place between stages, leaving the real-time shots for the occasional mid-level briefing. One in-between merely consisted of Faythe sprinting being played in a loop. Talk about a rushed-release. It just makes you wonder why the developers didn’t use the superior real-time cinematics all around when trying to convey what little story was actually there as opposed to the clearly unpolished flash cartoons.

“Hey, pass me the package, it’s got a shirt that fits better than this one…”

There’s a large amount of emphasis on steering clear of enforcement personnel employed to shoot you down and stare at your dead body. The only problem with that is that about 70% of the time you’re not able to progress through the level without enacting some form of violence against your heavily armed foes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the pro-pacifist gameplay, but if you’re going to force me to act against the will you clearly stamped into my conscience, don’t leave me with some helpless mailman with less firearm skill than a ‘Nam-Baby.

Case-in-point: the combat system is severely flawed. Throw punches on foot, fling kicks in the air or during a slide, and even pull off a combo ending with some sort of quasi-Dragonball-Z-double-punch. Just don’t forget that the enemy has better timing than you and can block most of your attempts to flail your skinny limbs in their general direction.

You are given the chance to steal weapons from those silly enough to swing one at you, and anyone is quite capable of pulling this off so long as they have the reflexes of a time-traveler. The gun will highlight red when you have the opportunity to snatch it, however those owned by ‘help’ more skilled than the not-so-common rent-a-cop offer you about 0.02 seconds of reaction time. Even with the in-game slow-motion I found that the disarm button only seemed to conjure injury rather than swap my imaginary cannon with the real one he carried. Needless to say, a majority of deaths were by gunfire and not from what one might think from a game like this; be it falling off the edge of highrises due to misplaced footing that I can’t see, the inconsistent running speeds and inability to judge distance without actually being in the game, or the desire to end my in-game life with the abundance of ledges to leap from.

Mirror's Edge screenshot
Green Lantern’s utility closet.

Frustratingly questionable gameplay elements, bad story & character development aside, Mirror’s Edge does offer plenty of what it taunted in the previews. The sense of speed, though slightly drowned by it’s bad execution of perception, alongside the thrills of hurling yourself from rooftop to rooftop really make this game stand out from others in the genre it quietly sits in by itself. The sense of “being” is actually quite strong. It’s easy to put yourself in Faythe’s shoes when you really pick up speed and tunnel vision starts to ensue. Something else that’s very cool is that the center reticle actually acts like a focal point; as it should in all first-person view games(!). Looking around will pull things in and out of focus based on their distance from you. Running out into the sunlight from darker areas temporarily blinds you. Even looking through the scope of a sniper rifle limits what’s viewed to what you’re actually targeting.

I think what could really help this game, though, is some sort of fish-eye lens effect around the edges of the screen. When was the last time you looked out of your own eyes and had a limited viewing range of a 16:9 box? This is where video games are starting to frustrate me. As the fine line of realism is slowly crossed, no developer on earth can decide whether to jump the damn thing or not. Sigh…another time, kids.

The Bottom Line: 2.5 (out of 5)
Mirror's Edge screenshotMirror's Edge screenshot
Mirror's Edge screenshotMirror's Edge screenshot