One major problem with games nowadays is lack of originality. The market has been flooded with ‘family’ games with stupid motion controls and little playability for the hardcore gamer or first person shooters with little difference to most other shooters that all seem like a Call of Duty clone, but even in a time flooded with sequels and rip-offs we still manage to see some creativity put to use to make a different and unique game or a clever merging of game ideas used in a new way. Mirror’s edge is one of these unique games and surprisingly enough, the game is published my EA and developed by DICE, two companies that are well known for their countless sequels.
In Mirror’s Edge you play as Faith, a woman lives in the not-too-distant future in which a corrupt government is changing the city in which Faith lives for the worse. What these changes are is unclear and never really explained but they’re obviously bad. Faith is a ‘runner’ which is essentially a courier. They exchange information by running and using acrobatics to get from A to B. What this information actually contains is, once again, never properly explained. Runners are rebelling against the government trying to bring peace back to the city. The story isn’t bad and is told with excellent voice acting. The cutscenes between the ten chapters try to tell most of the story but don’t do as good a job as I would like. These cutscenes are 2-D animations and the animation itself uses quite an original style. These cutscenes aren’t necessarily bad; they just don’t fit well with the more realistic in-game visuals, which I’ll get to later.
Mirror’s edge is a first person game in every meaning of the word, but it certainly shouldn’t be considered as an FPS. This game is about running and climbing more than it is the action. It’s very satisfying pulling off a sequence of jumps, vaults and wall-runs. The control scheme is very simple. LB/L1 is used for upwards movements like jumping, vaulting over obstacles and wall-running, whilst LT/L2 is used for downwards movements such as crouching, sliding under obstacles, letting go of whatever you’re holding onto when climbing and rolling in order to avoid damage and save time when falling large distances. RB/R1 is a quick turn button which saves time and can come in handy during combat but is mostly used to turn when running along a wall before you press LB/L1 to push yourself from the wall. Pressing the B/Circle button give the player a ‘hint’ by pointing the camera in the right direction in certain areas, pressing X/Square slows down time temporarily for use in combat and RT/R2, just like in most first person games, is attack.
Most of Mirror’s Edge is about moving quickly and completing the chapter in the fastest and most efficient way possible. This is assisted with a feature called ‘runner vision’. Runner vision turns nearby objects that lead to the correct and better path red, which makes it stand out against the rest of the environment. This can be turned off and on Hard difficulty (which is unlocked by completing the game on Normal or Easy) it cannot be turned on at all.
Sometimes you are presented with a break from high speeds in the form of climbing puzzles. By swinging on poles, climbing on ledges, shuffling through small gaps and running up, along and jumping off of walls you get to the end of the puzzle and continue the game. Pressing the hint button doesn’t do as much during these areas as it only shows the end of the puzzle and leaves you to guess how to get there. Some of these puzzles are a little too hard, which is frustrating, and Faith doesn’t always move the way you want her to, sometimes jumping to her death when you didn’t mean her to, but the majority of the puzzles are fun to work out even though they aren’t as fun as the high speed sections.
The combat resembles that of most first person games except with a few differences. The key is to pick off your enemies one at a time instead of charging into a large group of cops. Faith’s standard attack is a series of punches and kicks that can be pulled off with a combination of the attack, upwards movement and downwards movement buttons. Most of the enemies in the game have guns to try and stop you when most of the time, you will be fighting with speed and your bare fists. If you get close enough to one enemy he/she will try to melee you. When he/she does this, their gun will flash red which is a prompt for you to press the Y/Triangle button to knock him/her out and take their weapon. This is called ‘Disarming’ and is helped by the temporary slowing down of time. When you have obtained a gun your movement is limited (with the exception of the pistol). Gunplay feels unnatural and isn’t the most fun or easiest way to take down your foes, but this isn’t due to bad game design. Faith’s natural abilities do not lie in her gunplay and it would feel unnatural for faith to use a gun in combat because it is not where she is most skilled, therefore, combat with weapons feels unnatural in gameplay. DICE have done an excellent job of realistically simulating what it would be like to be in Faith’s shoes in this situation, but realism doesn’t always translate to fun.
After playing for a while you may start to realise that Mirror’s Edges unique gameplay may not be as unique as you originally thought. The game reminded me, at times, of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, particularly when running and jumping off of walls, except in first person and not as fun to play. Anyone who liked the prince’s brilliant adventure on the Xbox, PS2, GameCube and PC will feel right at home when they are climbing around in the cityscape of Mirror’s Edge.
The music in Mirror’s Edge is great and suits both the environment and the feel of the particular scene very well. The excellent theme music is the best song in the game, especially the version that contains vocals and appears at the end of the game. It suits the game perfectly and even shares its name with the theme song of another first person game with puzzle elements (cake anyone?).
Other than objects influenced by runner vision, most of the environment is coloured white with a few select colours like blue, yellow and green appearing here and there. Other than the surreal and artistic colour scheme, the graphics are very realistic and well done. The biggest graphical issue is the blurry and/or slow loading textures on some scenery, but this doesn’t happen too often. Blurry textures are often noticeable when close to a wall but this is a common fault with first person games and isn’t very bothersome. The character models are stunning. Textures aren’t remotely blurry and none of the polygons are visible to the human eye. The only problem with them is how much they stand out in the environment. Characters in Mirror’s Edge appear the same in-game as they would in real life which means that they aren’t changed to match the unique colour scheme and can feel a little out of place, especially in the daytime stages, but that certainly doesn’t mean that artistic and surreal looking characters would fit in better.
Overall, Mirror’s Edge is a very original blend of existing game styles. DICE should be congratulated for creating a game so different to their long-running Battlefield series and EA should be congratulated for taking a risk and publishing something different. Some people will like this game more than others, but even if you don’t end up enjoying it much, I recommend that you experience this very different and well made game. JJ Gamer rates Mirror’s Edge 8.5 out of 10.
I reviewed the game for Xbox 360 but all versions of the game are essentially the same, with the exclusion of the iPad application.
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