Mirror’s Edge

2008 has been a big year for games. Big is probably not the right word: huge is more what I’m looking for.

2008 has been a big year for games. Big is probably not the right word: huge is more what I’m looking for. We’ve seen massive titles such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Metal Gear Solid IV, Gears of War 2, Fable 2, and a cacophony of others that just makes the head spin.

All of these games use the same formulas which made their predecessors so good in the first place with improvements placed upon them that gamers are sure to love. This is an important thing to note because Electronic Arts’ new title developed by EA’s Digital Illusions CE (or DICE) is unlike any of these games because it tackles a new way of playing games: true first-person gaming.

Mirror’s Edge uses parkour, a style of urban movement that involves running atop buildings & walls in order to get somewhere. Set inside a Orwellian society in a not-so-distant future, you’ll play as Faith and really experience what it’s like to be a runner in this highly stylised dystopia.

While Mirror’s Edge is the first game to use parkour as a means of traveling and attaining a sense of speed, it’s not the first game to let you play in a proper first-person mode. Dreamworks’ Trespasser employed a similar “inside the head” mechanic and like Mirror’s Edge even had you playing as a girl. While some could argue that Trespasser’s sandbox first-person adventure was way ahead of its time, DICE have revived the style and made it just that much better in this new game.

Unlike Trespasser though, Mirror’s Edge has been developed to be something truly unique. Wholly original and spectacular in its concept, the team at DICE have worked long and hard to make Mirror’s Edge a thing of beauty. It’s not just a brilliant game: it’s a piece of art. From the stylised humans to the city where routes form with colours, Mirror’s Edge is beautiful. You don’t often say that about a first-person action game and you’re unlikely to sit there looking at Doom and go “wow, this is beautiful” but that’s something that Mirror’s Edge most definitely is.

Loading screens are set out with stylised animation sequences explaining the story & back-story, a decision which does a long way to explaining everything and to keep you tuned into the fact that Mirror’s Edge is one of those games that stands apart from everything else.

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Even the sound is just that much more special than other games. Attention to details like birds flapping their wings as they fly from a building are heard as are all the dings, dents, and pings that your footsteps will make as they run from pipes to windows to walls to steel. The music is a mix of ambient sounds & electronica and does a great job to keep you in the game.

My only complaint with the music is sometimes there’s just not enough when you need it. It’s always there at the right times: when you’re running away from angry cops firing bullets in your direction and the high speed techno kicks in, when you’re approaching suspicious situations and the curiously dark ambient starts setting in. Sometimes though, you might be sitting atop a building or running on the rooftops and want some other form of music other than the wind and environment pegging through your ear drums.

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This issue is not nearly as bad as the game’s ability to patronise you. It’s a weird feeling knowing that you’re being patronised by a game and while I wouldn’t take it to heart, it’s just such a weird design flaw for an otherwise brilliant game to have.

This whole feeling that the game means to insult your intelligence stems from a strange checkpoint design system. Checkpoints are in many of the right places all over the map making it so that when you’ve just gone past a really big section, your field of view flashes to a pale blue-white temporarily signaling that a checkpoint has been saved.

But there are so many times when checkpoints are needed that aren’t given. Maybe you’ve just put the beat down on a gauntlet of guys with guns and then got stuck at a puzzle you couldn’t solve: if there’s no checkpoint there, you’ll have to do the entire thing all over again. What if you’ve keep having to run a section of a map but getting to that section is a pain: there’s likely to not be a checkpoint there either.

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It’s in these instances that it will feel as if DICE have done this intentionally to piss you off. You’ll find in these moments that both Sony & Microsoft did tremendous jobs in designing controllers that are very, very hard to rip apart with your hands.

This sort of feeling gets repeated quite frequently as does much of the level design. Without giving any spoilers away, most of Mirror’s Edge level design seems to involve Faith being chased by police after doing a little bit of reconnaissance. Here is this tremendously

But what’s interesting about these few setbacks is that all they do is stop Mirror’s Edge from being perfect.

It’s really strange: it’s one of those games you won’t expect to fall in love with. You might look at the gameplay demos and think “yeah, good use of the Unreal Engine” or “this looks to be an interesting FPS” but none of that really comes close to how much pleasure you’ll get out of playing Mirror’s Edge.

It really is one of those games where your jaw will drop and you will sigh “wow”.

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Developer: EA DICE
Publisher: EA Games
Classification: M
Formats: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
URL: Mirror’s Edge

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark

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