Mirror's Edge Review
Written Wednesday, November 19, 2008 By Dan Webb (GT: Webb x360a)
Mirror’s Edge, EA and Dice’s latest outing, is part of an EA initiative to create some hugely unique and original concepts that can lead EA in to a new era. First out of the gates was Dead Space which hit the press at 1,000 miles an hour, picking up rave reviews along the way and was nothing but a success. Now it’s the turn of Mirror’s Edge; another hugely unique concept and something that on paper sounds like an absolute disaster but in actual fact, in reality, it’s a game that can only be likened to video game crack.
I think you're going the wrong way love.
Mirror’s Edge takes place in a totalitarian society where freedom is just a buzz word that the government use to cover up their sinister ways. A city where crime is a distant memory, information is always under close scrutiny and freedom is a mere illusion; an expensive thing to give up. This isn’t the life for everyone and it’s this Big Brother society that forces Faith and her other associates, the Runners on to the rooftops delivering sensitive information for their clients. The city is thrown in to turmoil when a local politician is murdered and Faith’s sister is framed. You’ll find yourself racing through subways, office blocks and of course rooftops in a bid to rescue Faith’s sister from the iron fist of the local government.
Mirror’s Edge is the first of its kind and can only be described as a first person action-adventure; sure there are guns but this game is far from a shooter. The parkour style game is ridiculously easy to control, relying on only a few buttons; mainly the left trigger for down movements (rolling, sliding and lifting your legs) and the left bumper for up movements (mainly jumping and climbing). While they may seem very simplistic, the game allows you to grow as a runner as you slowly perfect combos and get your timing right. That’s the beauty about Mirror’s Edge, there is always room for improvement, and the liberating scaling of the rooftops and interiors pushes you to find that perfection, or as close to it as you can get.
The combat in the game is on two different levels; hand to hand and gun, with the majority of focus being on the hand to hand. The physical combat can be combined with the movement buttons to produce some pretty devastating moves; so either a flying kick or a sliding kick to open them up for a barrage of punches. Some of the better moves though are when Faith can use the scenery around her to improve the effectiveness of them; say a wall run into a kick which is a highly satisfying move. In addition Faith is equipped with a weapon disarm button, namely the Y button, that when pressed close to an enemy when his weapon turns red will mean Faith will disarm them and take them down. You can even make this easier on yourself by activating Faith’s “reaction time” which briefly slows down time to give you an advantage; this can be used to help you time jumps and turn corners at a more acute angle as well.
The takedowns never get old.
It’s clear that the focus in Mirror’s Edge is never on gun combat, in fact, the game sometimes deters you from picking up guns because you lose that athletic edge you need to advance, especially with the big rifles that slow you down and take up both of your hands. The ammo is very scarce throughout the city as well and you don’t even get an ammo counter; so my advice and I presume, the advice of DICE, is only to use guns when you really have to.
I think it’s safe to say that Mirror’s Edge is possibly one of the brightest and artistically impressive games that I’ve seen for some time. The city has that fresh feeling that surrounds it and the colour is incredible. It also has its fair share of dark dingy places meaning that you’ll never be sick of the bright, in your face colours; the lighting in the darker areas is simply fantastic. However, sometimes the bright white rooftops combined with the bright, glaring sun can be too much, causing moments of utter disarray as you struggle to work out any surroundings because of a white blur. Having said that, these moments are few and far between and the rest of the time, chances are you’ll be marvelling at the impressive draw distance more than anything else to even let that get to you.
To accompany the impressive visuals, Mirror’s Edge has a soundtrack and score to suit with the title song, Still Alive, being the game’s pinnacle. DICE seem to have the intense but subtle techno beats to compliment the chase scenes and the ambient beats to otherwise play in the free running moments down to a tee. With competent voice acting and some impressive sound effects on offer too, Mirror’s Edge is simply delightful on old ears.
If there are couple of hiccups the game suffers from, it’s mainly down to the level design. There will be many “what the f*@k” moments where you’ll either find yourself making a leap of faith (pun intended) or just relying on pure guess work. Even the runner’s vision that points the way most of the time, and the hint button combined aren’t enough to work past these issues. This is partly the reason why I actually enjoyed it more on my second playthrough and while I’ll probably enjoy it even more on my third and fourth. The game’s world is certainly not free roaming in any sense of the word, but never does it claim to be and in fact, it’s fairly linear, meaning that if you do head down the wrong way, you’ll be backtracking again to get back on course.
The game also suffers from a few loading time issues and you would have thought with a title that relies on maintaining speed and fluency that the odd mid-level loading point would be nowhere in sight, however that’s not the case. The same sort of scenario crops up when DICE force players to ride lifts to the tops of buildings; whilst we know Faith isn’t some super woman, but the constant waiting around totally detracts from the intense chase action that precedes and follows it. Seems like an off choice from the developers ... That, or a sneaky way to hide some load points.
An example of the darker areas.
The whole campaign spans anywhere between 6 and 8 hours on the first playthrough, but is perhaps possible in an hour when you perfect routes and what not; but trust me, to get to that stage you’ll have needed to play it for a good 20 plus hours. While the game in essence may be short, I mean, that’s the whole point, to get through it as fast as possible; its replay value lies in the game’s short and sharp time trials and its level speedruns; these are the modes that will keep you coming back for more. It goes back to the whole perfection thing I mentioned previously; it’s one of those titles that I can see myself sat there playing over and over again trying to shave a second off my time to get the 3 star award on a time trial. I say I can see myself doing that, but the fact is, it’s already happened on numerous occasions ... even on the demo; it’s where the whole video game crack description comes in to play. Being able to import your friend’s ghosts and the leading player’s ghosts in the time trials is just the cherry on the cake.
The achievements are pretty well balanced with the average player picking up a good 500+ for playing the story the first time through; then the next 300-400 points for those who put the time in, and the final 100 or so for those who are truly dedicated to the game. The game is by no means an easy 1000, in fact, it is a list that requires a supreme amount of skill and practice if you want to take home the full one thousand. The list in itself is pretty generic; complete this level, complete that speedrun, collect these collectibles (which in actual fact isn’t too bad and is fairly simple), but the balance just seems so spot on that you truly have to give DICE some credit for that.
Whilst the game may be short in essence, Mirror’s Edge boasts plenty of replay value in its speedrun and time trial modes. It’s an experience that I encourage everyone go through and one that I don’t think I could liken to any other game created to date. The innovation and gamble of DICE has simply paid off and the result is a fast paced, liberating adventure that has a great soundtrack and story to boot. The game does have its niggles but for a debut game in a franchise to be so goddamn impressive is a fantastic testament to the guys at DICE. It’s a gamble that truly paid off and I take my hat off to them.
Competent voice acting and a fantastic score and choice of tracks means that Mirror's Edge is a delight to the ears.
A clean and bright city that perfectly captures the totalitarian society that the game is set in. Great choice of effects; from the blood splatter when Faith takes a hit to the blurred edges as Faith picks up full speed. The odd issue with the glaring sun on the prominently white rooftops, but the interiors and lighting are particularly impressive. Even the 2D style cutscenes are a pleasure and compliments the artistic style of the game.
Easy to control, liberating and fantastically delivered. Nailing those combos and maintaing high speeds is an intense adrenaline rush that you just don't want to end. Gun combat is something that you're better off using in only desperate situations.
A fairly short campaign, but one that definitely doesn't detract from the game because the replay value is on the hard mode and in the time trial and speedrun modes. Trust me, you'll strive for perfection. Lets down slightly on some very guess work like level design and some dodgy lift rides and awkward placed load points.
A perfect balance as far as achievement lists go but the whole list is generic in nature. A case of two steps forward, but one step back. Nevertheless, a decent list that will have you trying to squeeze the last bit of life out of Mirror's Edge.
Not many games can deliver the high octane, adrenaline fuelled chases that Mirror's Edge can. Unique, original, beautiful and innovative ... What else can you ask for?
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