From the moment it was announced, Mirror’s Edge looked ambitious. In-game videos showed a unique and sterile environment with original gameplay and a fascinating story. The title would eventually go on to “wow” critics at E3 and EA’s promotional campaign increased the game’s unique look. Developer DICE – more known for its Battlefield games – have developed a title that strays from the trigger-happy, explosion-direction direction of that series, to focus on hand-to-hand combat, agility-based movement and puzzle-focused levels. While Mirror’s Edge has the look and tone to be something special, is this mirror worth looking through?
Defining what exactly Mirror’s Edge is, is a much tougher task than one might imagine. It’s entirely first person, however there is no distinct focus on gunplay or hand-to-hand combat. Furthermore, the title even incorporates racing and platforming elements that include no combat whatsoever. Mirror’s Edge is, without a doubt, a deeply original title that does the first-person genre in a whole new way. It would be fair to compare this game to the effect that Capcom’s Killer7 had last generation, a game that provided gamers with an uncanny and surreal first-person, on-rail experience that has never – and probably will never – be out-done in the “weird” stakes. Mirror’s Edge isn’t a weird title by any means, as many of its core narrative elements can be associated with contemporary lifestyle, however, it’s still a game that relies on unique first-person gameplay elements, none of which have been realised before in a game.
Mirror’s Edge is set in a future world run by a smothering government that monitors all forms of information. You can take control of Faith, who is a “runner” that delivers otherwise banned or extremely important information through underground networks. The unnamed city in Mirror’s Edge has purposely been given a sterile look to it, generating a feeling that the environment is “clean” and safe.
While the plot might sound incredibly intriguing, the execution is disappointing. Characters have no substance and are uninteresting and the game doesn’t allow you generate a strong enough emotional bond with Faith. There’s the opening animated sequence that gives a bit of a back-story, but overall, the title is too focused on the gameplay elements and not enough on the story. It would have been really good if Faith had a stronger place within the story so that the gamer could generate compassion, but unfortunately, with the way the story has been implemented into the title, that isn’t possible.
Once you first begin to play Mirror’s Edge, you’ll have trouble mastering the games perfectionist direction and necessity for pinpoint accuracy. You’re given a slight tutorial at the beginning of the game and this will give you a fair indication of what you’ll be coming up against and how you have to tackle obstacles. The tutorial will encourage you to use the games unique combat system and attack enemies with Faith’s hands instead of a weapon. For example, you can snatch a weapon out of an enemy’s hand, gun-whip them and then throw the weapon on the ground. Believe it or not, this is actually more effective than simply snatching the weapon, stepping back and shooting them.
Once you’re able to master the gameplay of Mirror’s Edge, it’s a free-flowing and somewhat beautiful pattern of movement that is what this title will be known for. Instead of simply running up to the edge of a building and jumping off, you can leap off it and then perform a simple sliding roll with the tap of a single button as you hit the ground on the other side. Run towards a wall and tap the “up” movement button and you’ll quickly jog horizontally across to the other side. Alternatively, you can approach a pipe or other obstacle and either propel over it or slide under it. At first the gameplay is daunting and intimidating, but once you’re able to recognise environments and appreciate the control scheme, as well as become familiar with it, you’ll find that you’re moving around the world freely and with ease. Mirror’s Edge needs to be experienced by sliding under pipes, jumping across buildings and running across buildings, not walking through areas and slowly climbing ladders.
At its core, Mirror’s Edge feels like a first-person Prince of Persia. The game doesn’t hold your hand in the sense that pathways are so obvious, but it instead makes interactive elements – such as jumping platforms and pipes you can slide under – highlighted in red so you get an idea of which direction to head to. As the story progresses and you discover that there is much more at stake, the missions will become far more tactical and thrilling. While most of the time you’ll be either running from or chasing someone, you’ll encounter enemies and obstacles that crave a tactical and logical approach.
The single-player, while extremely short at only 6-hours, can be extended with the surprisingly enjoyable and deeply challenging Time Trial mode. EA have boasted about this mode and promoted it several times and the leaderboards definitely encourage you to partake. Some of the times are super-human and you’ll feel somewhat obligated to out-do them, especially once you’ve completed the single-player and mastered the gameplay. Once you successfully beat a Time Trial stage, a new one is unlocked. What’s particularly great about this mode if that the pathways aren’t anywhere near as clear as they are in the single-player campaign, so plenty of challenge is waiting for you.
Mirror’s Edge’s level design is good, but never great. City landscapes often repeat and buildings you enter often only change in colour instead of layout, which is disappointing. The question has to be asked as to whether DICE made the city so repetitive on purpose to create a more sterile and plain look to tie in with the direction of the plot, or whether it’s simply an error on the design teams behalf.
Still, the game looks really good in parts, with great lighting effects and decent character design. The environments never really feel out of place with what’s happening in the story, which is good. One of the major downfalls is because of the identical nature of the city, you may frequently become lost in buildings with repeating colour schemes and other building features, such as stairs. You’ll be running away from a hoard of soldiers before you take a wrong turn and eventually end up back where you started.
The audio is one of the games major highlights, with a spectacular soundtrack that compliments that plot and graphical presentation of the title. The voice-overs are nothing special but get the job done and overall, the music and sound have surreal effects that are distinctively “Mirror’s Edge”. DICE have done a wonderful job of creating a unique and memorable presentation for this title and there are aspects of it that will bring people back to the game when they see or hear them.