When I first saw Mirror's Edge I thought "oh, another first person game". But then I read the fact sheet and watched the first footage, and then it hit me, a delayed pause that followed a "wow." That was about all I could think of at the time. I let all of the info sink in and asked myself "are EA and DICE actually making a game where the act of 'free running' is the concept of the game?" Yes! And to top it all off, much of it takes place hundreds of feet above ground. So how does this new take on the first-person genre fair? As you can see, quite well.
EA's all new I.P. deserves all the recognition it can get. Truly a newfound element to explore in both the genre and industry, Mirror's Edge is perhaps one of the coolest projects of the generation thus far. It's the kind of game where you take one of your wildest fantasies and relive them vicariously through a controller. The gameplay is like a mixture of Jackie Chan's finest stunts, with the opening scene of 007 Casino Royale, and all of those free-running clips and commerials you've seen over the years. With all that in mind, there's no wonder why the game has piqued the interest of many gamers all around the world, especially those who are in awe of free-running.
The best way to describe Mirror's Edge is as a first-person run-and-jump game that is more focused on the running aspect, more so than the combat aspect. Mirror's Edge stars Faith, a free-runner who's goal as a messenger is to stop the regulation and control of communications that a totalitarian regime has implemented. Unfortunately for the city, all but one form of communication is being monitored by the regime, good ol' fashion pen-and-paper notes delivered by runners.
And so, here is Faith, who is essentially a messenger with an amazing set of manuevers. Faith is part of a network of runners whose ultimate goal is to put an end to this monitoring, even if it has created an extremely safe and clean place to live in. You take control of Faith via first-person perspective and traverse throughout each environment, utilizing practically any wall or grabable object in order to progress.
Jumping from roof-top to roof-top is one of the first tasks you get to familiarize yourself with, as Faith can pull off some serious leaps of…errr…faith. As you jump, you can time your landings perfectly, allowing you to roll-land upon touching down. You'll be able to jump off walls in succession, slide underneath obstacles, and even perform wall-runs; acrobatic maneuevers much like those you've seen real life runners perform, albeit a bit more exaggerated in the game.
You'll need decent reflexes to perform some of the manuevers, but nothing that the average gamer doesn't possess. What's superb about the game is that levels, while linear in progression, allow you to take shortcuts by utilizing more advanced manuevers in order to continue. For example, you can either take the easy way and do a few jumps here and there to reach the top, or attempt to pull off four successive wall-jumps to do it even quicker. These alternate quick paths will be scattered all around the stages, so you'll have to keep your eyes peeled open for them.
I noticed that DICE has corrected the collision detection for the game by making grabs a bit more forgiving. Where as in past preview builds you had to be a lot more accurate in your jumps, in the final game this is no longer the case. Faith now has some room for error and instead of falling to her doom for being slightly off-target, she will grab onto the intended object. Certainly a smart move on DICE's part, as I found myself struggling to perfectly align myself and jump precisely towards certain objects while playing the game's earlier builds. Looks like DICE listened.
But of course, there's also the combat, and here's where it all gets even more interesting. Instead of just some featuring generic combat mechanics, Mirror's Edge goes a bit deeper. Melee allows you to go beyond just hitting, but also disarming opponents, or even drop-kicking them! And what's better than drop kicking the s**t out of someone's face? Or hell, what's better than drop kicking an enemy near an edge and watching him fall to his death? It's brilliant! Combat doesn't feel tacked on, and aside from the drop kick, you can also perform a sliding attack to the groin. Moving on, when you're not engaged in fisticuffs, you can pick up a fallen weapon and use it to get you through a few additional enemies that stand in your way. Shooting certainly feels really solid, adding that extra kick to the game, making it even more enjoyable.
But combat isn't something you'll want to concetrate too much on. You're goal is to avoid conflict with the police, and relying on firepower is not a good way to get through the game, because there are no ammo packs to pick-up. Likewise, there are no health packs either, so avoid taking too much damage at one point, and you'll be fine. Your primary concern will be to keep Faith's momentum going, by stringing as many running combos as possible and getting from point-to-point in a hurry.
For the most part, Mirror's Edge features an extremely simplified control scheme that is pretty intuitive. You'll primarily use the L1 and L2 button for most of your on-foot actions, or the R1 and R2 button when it comes down to combat. So Mirror's Egde is a rather simple game, and thus, it also isn't a terribly long game. The entire adventure will last you about six hours when playing normal, and even though that seems a bit short, it's just right for a game like this.
The way I look at Mirror's Edge is as a modern day Sonic the Hedgehog. Think about it: speed, precision, and platforming are the main aspects of both games. And weirdly enough, Mirror's Edge also has that same replayability that made the Genesis Sonic games so great and always a pleasure to come back to time and time again. If you finish the game, there is also a Time Attack mode you can visit, allowing you to re-play sections of the game in an attempt to set the fastest run time through them. It may seem like a barely novel idea, but it's strangely addictive, much like the rest of the game.
Now, what I really applaud DICE for doing is creating an image that is virtually guaranteed to prevent motion-sickness. They've spent time researching the causes of motion-sickness in videogames and have made two simple design choices to prevent it: a focal point in the center of the screen, and a super-wide perspective. I must admit, as someone who cannot stomach playing a number of FPS games, I had not one problem with Mirror's Edge. Bravo, DICE…you've given me more reason to spend more time with the game.
As you've seen by now, Mirror's Edge looks terrific. With an incredible draw-in distance that renders a whole plethora of buildings all around you without any signs of pop-up, this game engine runs along at a splendid pace, capable of rendering 30 non-stop frames with hardly any signs of slowing down. The 720p image brings to you a crystal clear display free of jaggies, background shimmering, and even screen-tearing. The wide-screen angle will really impress those with Elephant-like TVs, and they should also appreciate the amazing scenery and blinding lighting.
Perhaps my only complaint about the visuals is that the lighting can be a bit too overpowering in cases, and even if you tone down the settings on your TV, it's still not quite natural looking. An in-game option to tone down the sun's heavenly rain of light would've been nice. Texture detail is complimented well by the lighting, thankfully, and Mirror's Edge sports some pretty decent texture work all throughout. And even though the game is first-person, you'll still see your arms and legs all throughout the game. Finally, the game's story is unraveled through the use of stylistically animated and real-time cut-scenes, as opposed to just relying on CG.
As far as audio, the game is largely driven by its voice acting, which is done fairly well. Throughout much of your journey, you'll be radioed in on what to expect up ahead as far as trouble. Enemies will shout at you, and bullets will surround you as you make your mad dash away from them. As mentioned earlier, two kinds of cut-scenes unravel the story, and obviously, most of the voice acting is done here. You'll also hear a variety of sound effects, such as the honking of cars, the wind breeze, etc. All in all, nothing to really complain about.
Mirror's Edge is yet another must-own game of the season. It's unlike any other first person adventure out there, and that alone earns your attention. It's addictive gameplay will have you coming back to it long after you've beaten it, even if the full quest only last six hours, thanks to a surprisingly fun Time Attack mode. It's superb visuals and presentation really make all the more engaging, as do the intuitive controls. Mirror's Edge is definitely a worthwhile treat.