Mirrors Edge is one of those love it or hate it games. There are many aspects that are simply awesome, but it is also an experience bogged down by extreme frustrations. There will be those that can overcome the frustration to get to the chewy goodness inside, but there will be just as many who will be unwilling to put these frustrations aside. I can understand both positions. But when all is said and done, Mirrors Edge offers an experience that no other game does. That may not be true in years to come however, as many are sure to borrow from it.
The game is set in a dystopian world of glossy businesses. You play as a girl called Faith. In this world the flow of information is heavily monitored and controlled, and there are people in need of your services. Faith is an outlaw courier. Using parkour she traverses the rooftops of the squeaky clean city ferrying packages. Sounds tedious, but you are quickly thrusted into a whole mess of conspiracy and intrigue.
The chief point of difference for Mirrors Edge is that it is a first person action platformer. If you imagine playing a modern Prince of Persia game from the first person perspective, you will not be too far off the mark. But you are not merely awkwardly stuck into a first person perspective, you are given a body. When you think of first person games, you probably think of a camera with two hands holding a gun in front of it. From the first time you jump over a fence and see your character’s arms reach out to grab it and pull you over, you will be sold on the idea. If you look down, you see you legs and feet. If you do a wall run, the camera will tilt. The camera follows along to show you what you would think your eyes would see. While this perspective does slightly limit what you can do as far as platforming goes, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Platforming is where Mirrors Edge is at its finest, and most of this is done on rooftops. With platforming games, the tendency seems to be that the game is only as interesting as the world it is set in. Mirror’s Edge has a world that you will not easily mistake for another game’s. That is largely due to its visuals. Vast blue skies stretching over a whitewashed concrete metropolis with just enough saturated colours thrown in there. The colour red will be your friend.
While you often have several routes open to you, most of the time it is a point to point affair. Choosing the wrong way is generally fatal. By default, key objects in the game are painted red. This might be ramps, pipes, fences, or other geometry use to make your way around the world. You do have the option of turning it off, but I suspect you will have a long and frustrating journey. Having a rough idea of where you are heading helps you to keep moving forward and keep up your momentum. Jumping over, and sliding under objects at speed helps you clear them more easily.
Momentum is also important in combat. The majority of combat in Mirrors Edge is unarmed. If you use momentum correctly and use the environment to your advantage, you can regularly disarm and take out single enemies. In group situations things can become a lot more frustrating. When disarming an enemy, the elaborate cinematic ends with the gun in your hands. The shooting mechanic is competent, but the game discourages the use of weapons. If you do decide to use it, you only have whatever ammo the gun came with. You cant pick up ammo, or weapons for that matter. When carrying a weapon your movement is also heavily restricted. So generally an encounter will look like this: You run up to an enemy and do a slide/flying kick, slow down time and correctly time the disarm move as they try and smack you one. You use the gun to shoot a fellow nearby, throw down the gun and move to the next part. Generally I didn’t mind the combat too much, but it does severely hamper the flow of the game. The most annoying the game gets is when it throws combat into situations that require very specific timing. For example there is one section where you run into a room with a walkway above you with two machine gun wielding assholes on it. You have to run in, jump up to the platform, very rapidly pull yourself up, disarm the closest guy and shoot the other one. If you stuff up your approach to the jump and don’t land perfectly on the platform, the first guy will kill you before you can even pull yourself up. I have to note however that the chase scenes are pretty cool.
Graphically, the game is stunning. It has a look that’s totally unique. So unique that I would never have guessed it was a UE3 game just by looking at it. While most of the rooftops look similar, these segments are broken up by some very unique levels and settings. There is actually a lot more detail to the world than is initially apparent. If you look closely at some windows they have dusty finger prints. Also the world is created in a manner that communicate sub tones of the story. On the surface the world is this squeaky clean white washed world. But if you look closely the concrete is cracked and there are rats running around.
The story is a bit… meh. Its not the worst I have seen by a long way, but at no points did I actually give a rats ass. The story is told partly in game and partly through some neatly drawn animated cut scenes. They look pretty cool, but the story being told through them was vanilla.
Once you are done with the game you can do time trials. I actually did some of these in between the story missions. They are set in the locations you finished, but minus any enemies. You may follow different routes than you did previously, and all those precious red markings are gone. These are great fun and will add many hours of play time. You can also race against the “ghost” of your best run (much like some racing games). You can also race against the ghosts of other players.
The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are nearly identical. I like the look of the PS3 version better, in addition to the PS3 controller setup. I do however urge you to turn the six-axis control options off. Trying to balance on beams will cause you to harm those around you.
When Mirror’s Edge is at its best, you will have an unforgettable time. When its at its worse, physics will cause your controller to fly rapidly towards a wall. Part of me wishes that DICE didn’t include the combat elements at all, or at least made them more optional. They break up the otherwise rapid pace of the game significantly. I think everyone should try and check this out. You have not played a game like it. It has a lot of issues, but it was an enjoyable experience.