Mirror's Edge

It's probably fair to say that a large number of people wish they were experts at free running, but the possible consequences of adopting such a sport are often enough to put most people off trying. To the rescue, once again, come computer games, with two particular titles released in 2008 that give players a movement experience that truly unleashes a genuine feeling of freedom. The sublime Prince of Persia is one example, while the other is Mirror's Edge. Published by EA, Mirror's Edge is one of two uncharacteristic new ideas from the gaming giant (the other being the chilling Dead Space) that demonstrate that even EA isn't always content to simply release sequel after sequel to unimpressed consumers.

Mirror's Edge

The basic premise of the game is that, in the near future, with society oppressed by an over-controlling government designed to create utopia (misguided as always, but when you look at the world today, it's hard not to be depressed at the way people exploit their freedom and "rights"), there are those not willing to submit to the new world order. One such person is Faith, a runner, somebody who utilizes a whole new layer of the city to deliver information. Unlike the normal setting, a seedy underground, the twist is that this particular movement operates across the tops of buildings, up the highest towers and over the most spectacular bridges, cranes and other man-made structures. By jumping from rooftop to rooftop, runners can cover huge areas of ground very quickly, while avoiding the watchful eyes of the law and the surveillance of other corrupt organizations. Sadly for Faith, her sister is framed for the murder of a key politician originally destined to bring about welcome changes to society, leaving Faith (also implicated in the crime) to clear her name. From there, it's down to you to leap from place to place, following the game's plot, uncovering clues and finding a way to free Faith's sister.

Due to the free-running nature of the game, the most crucial element to the gameplay is the movement of the main character. In this respect, the game has passages of spectacular success, but they are interspersed with moments of confusion and irritation. The controls are in no way a failure, but there are moments where it's easy to hate them. The key difficulty for the developers to overcome was that the game plays in first-person perspective, while most action adventure games normally rely on a third-person perspective, particularly when such acrobatic displays are on offer. When things go right, you can find yourself building terrific momentum and springing deftly from ledge to ledge, landing everything perfectly and forging an unstoppable path to your destination. It's a tremendously exhilarating experience, rivalled only by Prince of Persia. What lets it down though are the moments where you find yourself leaping time and time again over a gap you know can be cleared easily, only to find that your character fails to grab a particular ledge or stumbles clumsily on launch, sending her spiralling to a squishy doom. The immense frustration during these moments is swiftly washed away during the more flowing moments of the game, but it stops the game from achieving the level of perfection many might have hoped for.

Mirror's Edge

Though the gameplay is largely devoted to insane jumps and small puzzles (determing a route to an escape vent isn't always easy, even if the key elements in the puzzle tend to be painted red to provide a visual clue), there will also be times when combat is necessary. Faith will not always be able to run away from police, and will sometimes need to confront them head on. Though it's always best to steer clear, Faith can melee hit police in a variety of ways, with slide tackles, punches, kicks and, most importantly, disarming moves available. By disarming an opponent, Faith will not only knock that enemy unconscious, but will also acquire their weapon for use on other attackers. You're left with the choice to discard the weapon or turn it on your oppressors. Though the game shares only the first-person element with traditional First Person Shooters predominantly, the shooting aspects are quite strong, and sometimes even play a role in puzzle solving. The variety in the combat adds a welcome extra layer to the gameplay in Mirror's Edge.

Much like Dead Space, the production values for Mirror's Edge are incredible, with lighting effects and graphical touches (such as the motion lines vectoring outwards from the center of the screen when Faith is running at full tilt) all immersing you further into the game. The visual style of Mirror's Edge is quite remarkable, with fantastic blue skies and bleached buildings that look cleaner than anything in the real world, and every bit as warm as an American city like Chicago on a particularly hot day. It's beautiful to look at, especially when things are moving quickly, with no noticeable drops in frame rate. The only minor breaks in atmosphere occur when the game grinds to a halt momentarily, annoucing that the level is loading. Thankfully, this happens only on rare occasions, and doesn't last long. Also, the loading takes place with you paused on the current screenshot, rather than departing to a dedicated loading screen, which helps to maintain immersion. The only other downer, surprisingly, are some of the character models, which look a little creaky compared with those seen in Dead Space and other recent games. Anime-style cutscenes break up the main gameplay in quite a unique way, though it does slightly clash with the rest of the game's visuals.

Mirror's Edge

The voicework is very good though, with the game's story greatly enhanced by good narrative, provided by a sort of spotter for Faith, monitoring police traffic, and other characters Faith meets that gradually unwrap the story. The sound effects are also top notch, even if there isn't anything particularly inventive to do. Though there isn't a huge amount of music implemented in the game, the score that does appear on occasion is very good, with the theme played for the trailers preceeding the game's release a particular favourite.

With trophy support to encourage gamers to experiment with other things (like getting through the game without shooting any enemies, for example), the lastability and replay value of the title is improved, but length is perhaps the greatest weakness of Mirror's Edge, since the game can be comfortably completed in around 5 hours (and likely a lot less for experienced players). That said, there are also time trial events to take part in, with some absolutely ridiculous target times that will keep players occupied for hours, though those with a more cynical side will no doubt think that this is designed to artificially extend the lifespan of the game. Other than the short duration of the game, and the occasional moments of frustration with the controls, Mirror's Edge is still a great game to play though, which is why the score is as high as it is. When things are going right, with Faith arcing through the sky from building to building, it's a tremendous experience and, due to the first-person nature of the game, unique on PS3. If you can get past the few flaws, Mirror's Edge is a highly enjoyable game.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Electronic Arts

Developer:

DICE Sweden

Players:

1

Online:

Downloadables

Release:

2008-11-14

Trophies:

51

Review summary

Gameplay:

Absolutely exhilarating when things go right

Graphics:

Crystal clear with beautiful blue skies

Sound:

Reasonable voice acting and excellent music

Lastability:

A short game, but with time trial replay incentive

7.6

Volcanic

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Commander Shepard

I trust you too Tali, but you don't have to prove anything to me.

Tali'Zorah

I know... well no not that I know... it's just that... well... it's not normally like this... I mean, wow... when did it get so hot in here?