Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE
Mirror’s Edge, much like Dead Space, is another original IP from EA, that got a lot of hype with it’s new approach to an already well established genre. Mirror’s Edge hopes to put a new spin to the aging FPS genre by increasing the amount of bodily control that you have over the main character. Mirror’s Edge is set in a government controlled dystopian society that is visually similar to the sterile vistas of the Matrix Reloaded. You play the part of Faith, a strong female character and on-the-go metaphor that is a part of an underground group of ‘messengers’ who complain about “The Man” but don’t do anything but run from it (like a recent college graduate). They aren’t trying to open the eyes of the brain washed citizens to this not so perfect society, but rather just survive in it. To put it simply; if Hackers, “1984” and the French martial art Parkur had a baby, that bastard’s name would be Mirror’s Edge. The game holds its own as an important first step in giving the player increased control over their avatar, but the loss of a few other important elements may have you running for the ledge. If you’re afraid of heights and and don’t like taking risks, this game might not be for you.
I’ve always been a fan of dystopian societies and the bands of merry misfits breaking free from it. It is a tale that will be relevant as long as there are rules, authoritarian power and people with conflicting opinions. So I personally feel that Mirror’s Edge futuristic setting and Imperials verses Rebels concept is very cool. This is all enhanced by the designers use of a monochromatic color scheme. The game plays on the contrast of silvers, whites, blues and light grays that cast an ambiance of perfection and cleanliness. You learn more about the repressed society by the color and shape of the buildings than by any cut scene or in game text. Standing in contrast to that gleam are the runners with their ‘tribal’ looking tatoos and brightly colored and varied clothing style. The only character that truly meshes with this style is Faith though, the rest seem a bit forced. Graphically speaking Mirror’s Edge looks great. You spend most of your time running across rooftops, blazing through chaotic subways and rolling through back alleys all of which look sleek and provide some astounding visuals. A lot of games these days are really giving the middle finger to Ghost Recon and reducing the HUD – In Mirror’s Edge there isn’t one at all. Health is displayed by a growing redness on the screen as more damage is inflicted – not a new concept, but it works really well and allows for total immersion in the world. There are guns in the game but they take a backseat to your martial art abilities. The game does offer a pretty cool time trial section for each level as you unlock them – which provides for great online competition and decent replay value. It’s not multiplayer, but at least EA is trying to give you more bang for your buck. I really enjoyed the new spin on the FPS (FPP? First Person Parkur?). Having so much control over your avatar is inspiring. Running across rooftops, jumping off walls, doing dive rolls, hitting your marks and taking out enemies smoothly is pretty awesome and definitely gets you sucked into the game. Sadly, controls don’t always make the game.
Some very important and very big steps have been made as far as FPS control goes. That being said, all of the hard work isn’t done yet. The control at times feels very rigid. If you aren’t ready to die over and over again, this is not a game for you. Combinations of two buttons pull off a majority of your moves. If you miss one hit you’re all of a sudden doing something completely different from what you intended, which usually involves falling off a building and going splat. I didn’t have much of a problem figuring out where to go, other than a few instances and to be honest I was a little drunk. The game equips you with “runners vision” that typically points you in the right direction. I have heard countless complaints about people not being able to figure out where to go (even with runners vision on), so it should be mentioned. The maps are pretty short even though there are occasionally a couple different ways to get through them its not varied enough to be considered anything but linear. The developers created this beautiful landscape to play in but its very limited. I would have liked to have seen it opened up more and offer more exploration. In that vein, the game seems rushed. Take for instance the cut scenes, about 20% of them are in game the rest appear to be some amalgam of anime and flash. At first, the animation is welcome, but as the game progresses you can’t help but feel it is out of place and perhaps used to avoid the work of creating in game cut scenes. I mean, why work so hard to get you to feel immersed in this world and then suck you out with a new art style. It’s a very suspicious choice.
Guns are such a secondary weapon that when you do use one there is no ammo count and no reloading. I understand that the focus of this game was not gun play, and I totally fine with that. But why in God’s name do they force the player to take part in no less than three epic gun battles? The set ups are cool, and it would be a blast to play, if any focus was placed evolving the character and their use of guns. You can’t tell me to always disarm enemies and run from them and then stack 15 armored enemies for me to take out before I can platform. Another epic fail is the use of bullet time. It exists to make disarming the enemy easier and perhaps to even assist in the broken gun play (it doesn’t). What it will most often do is make you wait twice as long for an elevator when you accidentally hit it. What’s that you say? Just turn it off? Well, they don’t let you turn it off. You need to wait out the full extent of the bullet time with your gloved thumb up your ass. As bad as all of that is, the main failing of this game is the length. It is not much longer than Portal and it is more than three times the asking price. 60 bucks for a 4-6 hour game seems just too steep, even with the time trials. In an age of games launching with a 10 hour campaign and a fully functioning multiplayer for the same price, I just can’t in good faith (pun?) call Mirror’s Edge anything but a rental.
I like that EA has expanded itself into original IPs. So far they have given us a few good titles and with both Dead Space and Mirror’s Ege in line for sequels we should expect some great gaming ahead. Mirror’s Edge although not completely backing its hype is still a cool title and definitely worth checking out. There could be a Icarus metaphor somewhere in here if EA actually poured some passion into this title, as it stands it comes off as sterile as the dystopia it takes place in. I can’t recommend buying it, but it makes for a fun rental. It plays like a demo for what will ultimately be Mirror’s Edge 2. Hopefully the sequel can work on the story, fix the gun-play, allow for character progression, expand the campaign, and add multiplayer. Or they could just cut the price in half.
[8bit Take]: It runs fast but doesn’t keep up with the hype.