Next on my list of games to play from the fall lineup is Mirror’s Edge. This game has been on my radar since it was announced. As more videos came out, showcasing the unique take on the first-person view, I became even more excited. By the time November came around, Mirror’s Edge had become my most anticipated title from the long list of fall releases. Find out how it holds up below.
For reference, here’s my review standards:
|I’ll discuss four things that I find important in the medium of video games:
Story, which deals with the game’s story.
Presentation, which encompasses the game’s visuals, sound, and UI.
Gameplay, which will entail the mechanics of playing the game.
Technical, which is composed of the technical achievements and faults in the game.Finally, I’ll wrap up with my overall view of the game, and rate it based on three options:
Worth the purchase – I got my $60 worth, and really enjoyed the game. Might play it again down the line.
Worth a rental/bargain – The game was alright, but I probably wouldn’t play it again. I would’ve been OK with moving on halfway through the game.
Skip it – The game isn’t very enjoyable and not worth my money nor time.
The city in Mirror’s Edge is a page right out of 1984. All communications are monitored by the government, the press is controlled and deceitful, and most have accepted the changes out of fear of the terrorism that the government reports on. There is an underground resistance, however, and they found a way to communicate beyond the government’s eye: runners.
Runners are traceurs that carry messenger bags that contain communications for other parts of the resistance. You control a runner named Faith, a runaway whose mother was killed by the government as she protested its control over its citizens.
This whole premise sets up the opportunity for an incredibly intriguing story; however, instead of following the story of the runners and the resistance, Mirror’s Edge focuses more on Faith’s sister, Kate. Kate is a police officer and is framed for the murder of a new mayoral candidate who promised to lift the laws regarding controlling the press and monitoring communication. You end up unraveling a story related to the runners, but it never goes beyond your own small group.
The story isn’t bad – it’s just disappointing. They had a great start and just didn’t follow up on it. You only actually carry one message and never meet anyone from the resistance groups. The game is supposedly the beginning to a trilogy, so perhaps the purpose of the story actually is just to start things off. While I found the story entertaining – I just can’t help but see the missed opportunities.
The way the story is presented is equally disappointing. While in the game, you are always in a first-person view. You get a very good sense of where you are and what you are doing, because you can see the movement of your entire body. This also goes for in-game cutscenes – these aren’t prevalent, but occur occasionally. They make sense and keep you in the same context that the gameplay gives you; however, the story is told in animated shorts between levels. These clips are, stylistically, completely different from the rest of the experience. They’re poorly drawn and animated, and look as though they were done by the same studio that creates the Esurance commercials.
The in-game graphics, however, are great. The world is vibrant and stylized, while still having a degree of realism. The world appears sterile – like a clean environment, which is expressive of the government’s actions. Portal fans will feel quite at home here, as the style is rather similar. While it is stylized, it is still quite realistic. Objects in the environment move realistically, though there aren’t too many around (the PC version looks to improve that). There are some noticeable jaggies when looking at objects closely, but it’s not so noticeable to be distracting. There are also a lot of details that add to the experience. For example, when you run against a wall, you can see the shadow of Faith’s hair waving on the wall.
The UI is slick and minimalist, making it really easy to use. There is no HUD, taking away any distractions on the screen. They leave a dot in the middle of the screen, supposedly to aid motion sickness. I wish they’d allow me to turn it off, to keep the screen completely clear. There is one thing that doesn’t make sense – after Faith dies, the screen fades to black. While the game loads up the last checkpoint, it shows a white screen with a loading icon. This sharp contrast – from a black screen to a white screen – after death tends to exaggerate the time between death and level reload. If it, instead, faded to black and fade back to the checkpoint, the delay would be much less noticeable.
Mirror’s Edge mainly tasks you with getting from point A to point B. It shows you your destination at the beginning of the level, and you just have to figure out how to get there. In this way, it is again comparable to Portal. It is mostly a environmental puzzle game, determining how you can use the layout of the environment to get where you need to go. How you solve the puzzles, however, is much more action-oriented. They often add a time limit to your actions by sending enemies chasing after you, making it more intense and always rewarding speed.
What typically comes out of this is a fast-paced sprint to the goal with no looking back. Faith has a special ‘runner vision’ which paints objects red that will aide in reaching her destination. As you continue running, the runner vision gives you some hints on how to move around the environment. This option can be turned off, but never distracts from the experience. There are other paths to take than the ones painted red, often which are hard to find and rewarding to use. This aspect reminds me of some of the first scenes of Half Life 2, as you are quickly eluding your armed enemies and quickly finding your path while you are running. The excitement slows down at times, giving you puzzles that require accurate aim and careful exploration rather than speedy execution. This helps to keep things fresh, as you are running most of the game.
They split up the running by throwing some enemies directly in your path. Sometimes it is optional to deal with them, but it typically makes it easier (unless you know of a clever path around them). The combat is alright, leaving you with punches, sliding kicks, jumping kicks, and grapples. The punches and kicks do little but stun the enemy and push them backward. If you are in the right position, you can sometimes knock them down; however, it typically isn’t very useful, as they just recover and start shooting you within a second. You can take their gun away with a grapple, but you can only do this when they attempt to melee you with their gun, at which point the gun turns red. This means, in order to disarm someone, you have to run up directly in front of them, wait for them to swing their gun at you, then press triangle at the exact right moment. If you don’t time it right, you take a great deal of damage and have to wait for him to swing again. With some weapons, the time in which you can grapple is so minimal that I often got frustrated with performing it. They give you a bullet-time button to help with this, but when 5 enemies are around you, it’s only useful for the first one. Once you take a weapon, you can start using it; however, I never used them, as I went through the game without shooting anyone. The next time around, I’ll probably explore that, and I’m sure it’d make it easier.
The story mode is a little on the short side – it took me about 7 hours to complete; however, there are time trial and speed run modes to keep you exploring for faster routes. You can even follow a ghost of your best time or the best time on the leaderboards to see how you compare. I spent a little time in these, but I got so anal on the perfection of my execution that I started getting a little obsessive. I think I can still have some fun with it, I just have to go into it with a little less seriousness.
The programming team did a great job syncing up the animations of Faith’s body with the actions the player performs – it was all very fluid and really looked like the view from a person’s head. It also almost always interpreted my actions correctly (that is, whether I wanted to jump/wall run/etc). The world below is very low-detailed, as would be expected to improve performance. However, I think they should have made it look better in one particular level where you actually look carefully at the street level.
The game ran smoothly – not a single hiccup in framerate. There was no noticeable objects popping in , considering the large layout of the levels (though this could also be due in part to the stellar level design). Overall, the entire experience is as I would expect it to be in the actual world – there are few limitations and there are plenty of visual cues to hide the limitations that exist. The only thing that disturbed me was, upon falling down, Faith lands rigidly at a 90 degree angle to the ground atop the first thing she touches. So, if you fall down on a slant, you fall as though you landed on a flat surface (with your hand floating in the air, though you supposedly have gone limp). I can understand that rag doll first-person would be hard to control, but it would certainly improve the death sequence if it could have been done.
As I stated before, Mirror’s Edge was my most anticipated game of the fall. Turns out, it left me completely satisfied.
Worth the purchase
You should find a way to try this game out some time. I think it’s a must-play, as it really brings a new direction to the first-person perspective. I’ll definitely be playing through this one again, and checking out the time trials as well. I can’t wait to see the kind of routes people find in these levels. Hopefully, the PC version will allow people to make maps as well – that might be enough for me to get it again.