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Dec 15, 2008

Review: Mirror’s Edge

Electronic Arts, DICE
Available for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 & PC

There was an enormous amount of hype and marketing over the summer leading up to much anticipation for the release of one of EA’s newest games, Mirror’s Edge. Brought to us by Swedish developer DICE who have taken a chance on making an innovative first person perspective game that for once isn’t based around confrontational gunplay but rather running away from your enemies.

Mirror’s Edge is set in an unnamed city where most citizens have given up their freedoms to a totalitarian government which controls all aspects of society keeping it safe, sterile and devoid of any real culture. For those wanting to live outside of this conformist dystopian existence communication can be tricky with Big Brother constantly watching so they employ people called Runners who are depended on to deliver packages, messages and other sensitive items safely.

You play as Faith, a Runner who uses an acrobatic style of Parkour to deftly traverse city rooftops, along walls, inside buildings, storm drains, train stations or anywhere else to avoid detection by authorities and reach her goal of delivering packages. Faith’s estranged sister Kate is a police officer who finds herself framed for a murder she did not commit. Faith’s attempts to uncover the conspiracy behind the framing and free her sister quickly evolves as the game’s plot and is told through various uniquely animated cut scenes and in game action.

Mirror’s Edge is designed to be played at a breathless pace and from a dizzying first person perspective that will have you as Faith running, leaping, lunging, balancing, sliding and tumbling through environments to reach seemingly impossible destinations. You’ll be helped along the way by your mentor and former runner Mercury who guides you via an earpiece advising you of trouble such as approaching police. You can choose to engage the relentless cops, trying to disarm or even kill them but the game generally encourages you to avoid confrontation. Realistically, Faith has a very low tolerance for gunshots.

The game’s control scheme is fairly simple: one button is for all up actions such as jumping, hurtling over obstacles, scuttling up vertical surfaces, and pulling Faith onto ledges. Another button is for all down actions: sliding under pipes, ducking into vents, and tucking and rolling out of dangerously high jumps. Two other buttons trigger systems at Faith’s disposal: reaction time and runner’s vision. Reaction time slows things down and allows Faith to better execute moves or combat and runner’s vision will provide Faith with a hint on which direction she should be headed. All controls are easily mastered via the in game tutorial.

Graphically Mirror’s Edge is stunning. The bright beautiful environments are richly saturated with primary colors and is a refreshing change from the brown and gray realism of recent games like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty or Gears of War. The city itself appears vast but at most times feels under populated or abandoned aside from the game’s sparse cast of characters and police. To help immerse the player the screen features no HUD, you’ll only see Faith’s arms, hands, legs and feet. Standing on the edge of a skyscraper, looking down can truly make you feel woozy. Audio wise the game is excellent contributing to the complete immersion with sound effects like Faith's breathy heaves and plodding footsteps. There is also a pulsing driving soundtrack that helps to increase tension at just the right moments.

While the game demands a quick pace, much of it is played through trial and error. It is not often clear on the direction you should be taking and time and time again you will die trying to figure it out. Let me repeat that, you will die again and again and this can be very exasperating. Runner’s vision is not nearly as helpful as it should be and although the game discourages you from confronting attackers occasionally it does force you which can be frustrating because Faith’s combat skills are pitiful against heavily armoured police.

Quirks aside Mirror’s Edge feels most fun once you do know where you are going, building momentum as you run, vault and jump through some precarious situations. Once the main storyline wraps players get additional replay value from the game’s surprisingly fun time trial modes and downloadable content.

Mirror’s Edge is an innovative action adventure first person platformer that could be the start of something very good, its ending certainly leaves the door open for a sequel. One of the most original titles out this year makes it a must play for most gamers.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Buy it!


TexCub said...

I really loved Mirror's Edge and am looking forward to more from DICE. Although the experience was a bit on the short side -- after all you're literally running through the game by design -- it was hands down one of the more enjoyable gaming experiences I had all year.

The brightly colored, crisp art style was certainly a refreshing break after playing the browns and greys of Fallout 3.

Outside of story mode, I did manage to unlock all the Time Trial sections, but those speed run qualifying times were brutal!

Leslie said...

I got the edge for my boyfriend because it was his birthday, he beat it in 2 days. Now hes going through all the time trials, its a cool game to watch.