Mirror's Edge Review
November 23, 2008 by Jereme Puik
Innovation is something completely new and exciting that adds a bit of flavor to an industry that desperately needs it. While a gimmick is something that only taunts you and draws you in for that short and un-inspired playing time and ends up falling flat on its face. Mirror’s Edge has been teasing us for quite a while with its stylized gameplay and story trailers. Created by DICE, the game is tagged as being a first-person platform parkour adventure. Does Mirror’s Edge land on its feet or fall flat on its face?
Mirror’s Edge is an ambitious title that should be taken in small doses for there are irritations around every corner. While some may be able to ward off the gaping flaws, those same few may never end up appreciating the true brilliance of the game, when it works. At its core, Mirror’s Edge is all about style with very little substance in between.
There are 9 chapters of gameplay organized into a mix of jumping through rooftops, climbing inside buildings and getting your ass away from those blues. Though what’s unfortunate is that during those 9 chapters, you’ll probably spend more time dying then you will trying to figure out where to go next in your mission. Now you don’t have a HUD so to speak, as I’ll explain later you’re HUD is essentially the environment around you, given with your Runner vision. As you try to nail each jump across each rooftop or climbing through the insides of every building you enter, can either be a rewarding or frustrating experience.
Gameplay as I mentioned above, essentially revolves around you running across rooftops and escaping from the authorities that always seem to know where you are. You’ll be viewing this adventure through the eyes of Faith, a Runner, and you’ll need to use any means necessary to complete your objectives. The game uses “Runner vision” that turns certain objects red to help guide you in the right direction. This could be red poles lighting up that you must swing across or a pipe turning red that you have to leap towards to either climb up or slide down. There are plenty of clues surrounding you, it’s just a matter of finding them and keeping your speed constant because it seems that Mirror’s Edge only works when you’re flying at high speeds.
Another interesting tid-bit is that guns also turn red which indicates when you are able to snatch it from your enemy’s hands. This helps during combat when you’re not trying to flee from a group of blues all shooting at you at once, which happens a lot. It’s recommended to not try and disarm enemies in this fashion but use those same weapons against them in large groups. This’ll make everything quicker and get you out of that level faster. To help you out you can slow-down time for a short period whether you’re getting rid of enemies or trying to figure out the best course of action while a group of blues are chasing after you. It’s always a good idea to use it every once in a while, as I have learned the hard way.
The unfortunate side of things is that you’ll be spending most of your time in elevators. There will be a mad dash for them as you try to escape the on coming groups of SWAT teams running after you. The loading times are atrocious and a big miss-step in an effort to keep the flow of the game. To keep you on the right path, there is a “hint” action button (press B) that locates where you need to be. Though at times that action isn’t available and gets you lost during certain levels. Another flaw is that upon pressing the B button it completely changes your viewpoint around thereby ruining your speed and direction if you were going the opposite direction. The combat during chapters is flaky at best, and with only two buttons designated to it, it gets complicated. When it’s said you should pick off enemies one by one, take that to heart, seriously. You are outmatched 2-1 in almost every situation against the blues, and you’ll spend a lot of time trying to lure them on their own without getting shot at, at the same time, its useless time spent.
Thankfully, there are many checkpoints during the story mode so that if you do end up dying multiple times you won’t have to play through a large part of the level again to get back to where you were. It’s a process of trial and error, more so to the point where this splits the gaming community in half; People who don’t mind trial and error and people who hate trial and error. There is a love/hate relationship with this title, and with the planned trilogy on the way, hopefully everything gets ironed out. Completists shouldn’t have too much trouble getting through the game and earning all of its achievements. There is a touch of replayability through the game’s Time Trial mode. As you complete the story mode, you unlock stages that you’ll be able to replay during Time Trials. You can download ghosts and the game times as you find the best route possible to complete the level.
Mirror’s Edge’s art direction is inconsistent at best. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a 2d game or a 3D game. During your 9 chapter adventure, the main plot points will be shown through the games 2d animation while brief sequences will be brought in through 3D. The 3d sequences were quite intriguing and hopefully is something that DICE sticks with because it was really where the game shined through the most. It didn’t interfere much with the gameplay engine and easily made for a more entertaining experience. The 2d moments, however, broke what flow you had through the chapter you just finished. It also didn’t help that the art itself was in a complete opposite direction then the 3d atmosphere you were associating yourself with.
The voice acting with Mirror’s Edge is ok for the most part. Thankfully it’s pretty consistent between the 2d and 3d sequences. The soundtrack is particularly well produced and has its own unique stand with everything else going on around you. The city below you is also actually filled with bustling everyday life that has police sirens running after you and trains going about their daily schedule. You never really feel like you’re running in an empty city. Also, Mirror’s Edge thankfully gives Faith some substance and gives you the chance to actually care about her as the main character to your story.
What makes Mirror’s Edge that one intriguing game this year? Its platforming parkour nature makes it stand out in the crowd of first-person games that we will be seeing released towards the end of this year. Yes, we’ve had first-person platforming games before, but Mirror’s Edge provides that one unique angle that gives it an edge over the past. That angle being a chance at replayability, based on content. Time trial mode is a fun way to really time yourself and give others a chance to run against you. You can upload and download ghosts for every stage you unlock in the game. The plot, while forgettable, is a starting point and while it tries to do so many things at once, the one thing it does succeed at is being original.
Mirror’s Edge is a quite endearing first effort for DICE, and certainly something out of the ordinary from their Battlefield series. The platforming aspect will present players with a love/hate relationship with the game. The constant dying is a turn off and ruins the flow of the game. Thankfully with the many checkpoints it isn’t too frustrating but death could’ve easily been cut down just a little bit. Overall, Mirror’s Edge is a nice concept that has a lot going for it, but unfortunately falls in certain categories to really make it worthwhile. It is unfortunate that we will have to wait for Mirror’s Edge 2 before we can have a more enjoyable running experience.