Have you ever been playing a game that made you scream so much, your roommates came in your room wondering what you issue was? Well, that was my experience with Mirror’s Edge. Or at least it would’ve been, had after the first rage-inducing moments not wizened me up & I made sure to only play the game when no one else was at home. So what was it about this game that made me continually yell & curse at a pixelated character?
Mirror’s Edge takes place in one of the classic futuristic scenarios: a utopian-shell of a society that’s actually a totalitarian dictatorship. In this Big Brother future, you play as Faith, a Runner. Runners act as illegal couriers, smuggling messages & packages along the rooftops. Faith quickly becomes embroiled in a conspiracy to cover up a mayoral candidate’s assassination. When her sister, a cop, is framed for the murder, Faith sets out to use her skills & contacts to track down why the candidate was killed & who was responsible. But the cops aren’t going to make that easy, given that Faith herself is a suspect for removing evidence from the crime scene.
Mirror’s Edge is a parkour-platformer set entirely in first-person. The game alternates between platforming “puzzles,” where you must navigate various city obstacles to reach your goal, & combat. Faith can use a variety of abilities to reach her destination, from wall running to zip lines. Although Faith doesn’t carry any weapons, she is skilled in unarmed combat, using her speed to take out enemies. She can also disarm enemies, & use their guns if she feels so inclined. To help in disarming, players can activate Reaction Time, which slows things down momentarily, making it easy to read the cues when you can safely disarm someone.
Narrative: I can’t help feeling there’s a lot of things the game just fell flat at conveying. The overall plot makes sense, in that I get what’s going on, but there are a lot of nuances that just don’t stick. The big one to me was why is this new government so bad? I get the sense they’re going for this Big Brother vibe, but I just don’t see it. The game just doesn’t show why the government is bad & why the Runners are good. It only mentions protests twenty years prior to the start of the game, where Faith’s mom was killed when they devolved into riots when the police tried to stop them, but they never just come out & say, “This is why they’re bad.” It’s like we’re just expected to take for granted that the government’s bad. It can’t be all bad if the only crime that exists is illegal communiques. I was also a bit lost about the whole Project Icarus thing. So the government wanted to train soldiers to hunt the Runners to bring the Runners under government control to work as terrorists? The ending was also crap. It just ends with Faith & Kate standing on the top of a skyscraper. Great, I saved my sister. But what about all those soldiers who were trying to shoot me three seconds ago? Did they just give up because I blew up their helicopter? Aside from those complaints, most of the characters had distinctive personalities, & I felt they did a good job of establishing the relationship between Faith & Merc. But (again) I saw that double-cross coming a mile away. So overall, the plot is serviceable, but expected the player to believe more than what the game provides for. Score: 3
Mechanics: I really could’ve gotten into this game… if it hadn’t worked so hard against itself. The first-person view really lends itself to getting you immersed in what you’re doing. Scenery blurs as you run, the camera wobbles, & you can see your arms & legs. But every time I started getting in the flow the game, becoming one with the parkour path, the game would knock me out of it like getting hit by a semi. The two biggest problems in terms of gameplay are the combat & controls. The game relies too much in later levels on making you take on large groups of enemies, & you can’t progress until you do. But the combat system isn’t geared for fighting large groups. It’s more designed for taking on a few enemies scattered out. Faith can regen health, but she can’t take many hits. A problem that becomes very noticeable in the last two chapters when enemies get machine guns. The game would’ve felt so much better if they either stuck to smaller groups of enemies or letting me run away from them all together. I really enjoyed the scenes were I had to duck & dive from a sniper or run away from Runner-trained soldiers. Those parts were exhilarating. The second problem is that the controls aren’t precise enough for the platforming, especially later. I found Faith moving at times I didn’t tell her to, usually resulting in her falling off a narrow ledge. I also found myself glitching through some of the obstacles, somehow climbing up places I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to be able to climb. I think a lot of these issues could’ve been avoided if they’d used different buttons for jumping & climbing. As I said, it’s a shame these problems draw you out of the experience so much, because there are nice sequences that really make you feel them. Score: 3
Aesthetics: Mirror’s Edge has two distinct styles. In-game, the visuals are nice & crisp, with plenty of bloom & contrasting colors. I really like the aesthetics of the city. It looks slightly futuristic; like everything has this metallic sheen to it. I think it lends well to the feel of being on a rooftop. The colors also make it easy to see the bright red items that mark your path. During the cutscenes, however, the style is simpler. They use cell-shaded animation. It’s a matter of personal taste whether you like this stye, but I think the sharp contrasts in color and shading fit in well with the regular look of the game. It kinda looks… harsh. Edgy, I guess. The sound design is also pretty good. I liked the music in this game, although I noticed it tends to fade in & out at random. It’s electronica, so some people might not like it, but again I think it fits with the game’s themes. The voiceacting is also pretty good. Score: 5
Replay Value: Limited. I think the replay value for most gamers will come from the time trials & race options. These are smaller snippets from the levels where you compete for a faster time. You can also download other gamers’ “ghosts” to race against. I think for players who liked the parkour aspect, they’ll get the most enjoyment out of these levels. Score: 3
Overall Score: 3
Final Word: Mirror’s Edge is an interesting attempt at something new that doesn’t quite meet expectations. Hopefully, if there is to be a Mirror’s Edge 2, the developers will learn from others’ critiques & focus more on parkour & less on fighting. But as it stands, I think it’s at least a good rent for someone with a weekend to spare.
Title: Mirror’s Edge
Console: PC, PS3, 360, iOS
Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 11, 2008