Mirror's Edge

by Logan

November 12, 2008

When it was first unveiled, Mirror's Edge instantly caught my attention. Especially since coming off a unique first-person experience with Portal, my expectation for DICE's inventive platformer were high. While the game certainly impresses in some aspects, I find a few key fundamentals incredibly flawed.

For the unfamiliar, Mirror's Edge is a first person platformer. It's all about the sport of free-running or "parkour" as it's known. This means a lot of leaps of faith, crazy acrobatics, and all sorts of other nimbly-bimbly moves. The story is nothingĀ  special. You're a freedom fighter living in a totalitarian world where there are no freedoms. There are cartoon cutscenes between chapters, but they don't provide a terrible amount of insight. It's nothing radical or new and merely serves to place you from Level 1 to Level 2.

The gameplay is where this game attempts to seperate itself from the pack. The first-person perspective lends itself very well to the core gameplay. The player feels a great sense of speed and momentum as they're leaping across massive chasms or sliding down a gigantic building's surface. The chase sequences are when the game really takes a turn for awesome. I like to equate it to that scene at the end of The Matrix where Neo is under chase from the agents. You're running as fast as you can and all you see is bullets flying all around you. You never lose your sense of urgency as you never take the time to look behind you. It all makes for a rather exhilarating experience. However, I eventually found that this sense of speed and excitement is quickly derailed by some questionable design decisions and some poor combat.

The games art style lends itself well to the navigation system of the game. Most of the world is painted in a monochromatic white and objects that are key to your route are usually colored red. This allows you to spot where you need to be going from a distance and keep your speed up. Things don't always work that well though. I've encountered rooms that are entirely colored red, which renders this mechanic obsolete. Stopping to try and find your way around totally ruins the game's speedy demeanor. The sense of impending death constantly forces you to act quickly and when the game lends you no direction other than a voice over telling you to go to some arbitrary location, it usually leaves you with little time to act and plenty of time to die. These encounters quickly lead to the games most frustrating aspect.

Mirror's Edge was always developed with running being the main gameplay mechanic. The fighting sequences that are forced onto the player absolutely spoil the game and force you to resort to sequence of trial and error that can take a lot of time. Very early on in the game, you are forced to stop running and fight. For a while, these encounters are almost fun as in they're not too complicated. Enemy placement is fair and the game doesn't really present you with impossible situations. Things quickly change when you have to face entire groups of enemies armed with an arsenal of weapons at once. For a game that stresses running and isolating enemies one at a time, it's not very accommodating. The AI has a bad habit of clumping together and for every one enemy you take out, another two are there to shoot you in the back. I'll admit that my frustration was compounded by me playing the game without using guns, but from what I've played since, the gunplay is very mediocre. Shooting is rather boring and usually ineffective at the ranges you need to be. The combat comes off as very vague and tacked on. You never quite know when fighting or running is necessary. The game tries to assist you by telling you when it's needed, but sometimes you question that when faced with such a steep challenge. While I'm sure they could improve the combat, I wish that they'd scrap it all together and focus much more on the running.

Outside of the story (which will last only a scant 3 or 4 hours), there are the time trials. These are nothing more than streches of the campaign broken down with a time limit. They can be quite addictive, but I found that they soon lose their appeal. It requires a fair amount of precision to navigate a 2 star time and perfection for 3 stars. This mode stresses the trial and error that bogged down the campaign in the first place.

So overall, Mirror's Edge is a fairly average gamed wrapped in a very pretty package. The graphics and core gameplay work very well and when the frustrating bits remain dormant, it's very fun. However, too many times was I burnt with frustrating level design and piss poor combat. If you aren't hardcore about time trials and the like, this game is a very scant package with not a great deal of replay value. It's certainly something new and worth playing at least once, but I wouldn't recommend buying it.