No Pun Zone Ahead
Having read at least 10 reviews before buying Mirror’s Edge, I can’t tell you how tired I am of these lame puns involving “Leap of Faith” (because the main character’s name is Faith). Having a little more integrity and not shamelessly trying to pass that off as a good pun, I’ll spare you the bad turns of phrase, and just skip to the review.
Mirror’s Edge is a first-person adventure. Now, that term may be familiar to those of you who remember Metroid Prime, which was also a self-described FPA. While Metroid did turn out to be such a thing, Mirror’s Edge plays like nothing I’ve ever laid hands on before. The concept is surprisingly simple. Take any game where there is parkour (the French-initiated pseudo-sport of running along walls, scaling buildings, and jumping over stuff in general) and meld it into first person seamlessly - the moves you’ll find in Mirror’s Edge are the same kind you’d find in Assasin’s Creed, Prince of Persia, or any game of that sort, but viewed from first person. It is this view that changes the very nature of what you’re doing.
Walking along walls, jumping impossible distances, and performing quick-sprints along walls take on new life when you can’t see where your entire body is at all times. DICE (the developer) specifically picked out the environment to be very sterile, but at the same time, it feels like a blade-runner-esque future-gone-bad. The game performs best when you know exactly what you’re doing - you get a deep sense of freedom that no FPS before has ever given you. Scaling buildings, climbing, jumping, all these things, when combined with an intense speed give the game an amazing look and makes you feel great playing it, almost as if it were you doing the parkour moves yourself (only without the years of training).
However, the game does eventually slow down at times, and is even counter-intuitive at others. In essence, the first three levels of the game’s short duration (only nine levels total) tell you to, at all costs, avoid battling the superior enemy forces. Which makes it all the more annoying when the game funnels you into a room and tells you that you aren’t leaving until all enemies are dead. To be fair, I understand that DICE wanted to appeal to more than just those of us that wanted the parkour game of the century, but if your gun mechanics aren’t exactly inspired, you don’t want to slow down an otherwise amazing game to show them off.
The fighting is competent, assuming you know what you’re doing. Should you fail or otherwise miss a punch, a jump, or anything else, the game has forgiving checkpoints (although later on, they tend to get less forgiving). Which means that as you fight through the game, retries won’t be something of a hassle, they’ll be more of a “get back up and try again quickly” feature.
One comparison I see very few people making is one of Mirror’s Edge to last year’s critical and popular darling, Portal (yes, the cake’s a lie, now can we please move on?). Essentially, both Mirror’s Edge and Portal are enormous, set-pieces that serve as spatial-logic puzzles. Both games require leaps of logic to continue on the path, and both had me feeling very excited when I finally figured out how to get out of a situation I’d been stuck in for a while. Mirror’s Edge does this well by giving you hints in the level (read: glowing red items) that shoehorn you in the right direction. For the most part, this works well, but once you assume that the red stuff is carrying you in the right direction, a sudden misstep in seeing one can lead to frustrating half-hour examinations of entire rooms to see which way will get you out.
Assuming you don’t have motion sickness issues (gave one of my friends the worst headache he’s ever had) this game is a must-buy. If for nothing else, the environments carry the game all the way through the end - and you rightfully won’t care about the story, mostly because it’s contrived, but also partly because you just want to run free through the environments. Now, to eagerly await a game that joins this concept with Grand Theft Auto, now THAT would be something else.
Mirror’s Edge (5 out of 5)
- Great Graphics
- Great Controls
- Pacing is Often Very Good
- Environment is Sterile, but so Alive
- Utterly Forgettable Story
- Occasional Frustrating Segments
- Bad Gunplay Segments