Review: Mirror’s Edge (360)
Tech demo of the year.
Sometimes movie trailers are actually better than the full feature, all flash and bang giving you all the best bits of the movie in a short, easy to digest chunks, whetting your appetite just enough to make you anticipate the full movie and ending just before you get bored. Mirror’s Edge is like this as it had for me one of the best demo’s released this year, very short and very appetising. I was left hungry for the game to be released and couldn’t wait to play it fully, however when I sat down to play it for long periods it just started to wear thin.
First impressions of this game are stunning, with a crisp and highly stylised take on a dystopian future with a very distinctive art style. The world of Mirror’s Edge is split into those people who conform to the rules of this dystopia and those people who fight against it. Unsurprisingly you play the role of a cool rebel named Faith who is employed as a runner. Runners are couriers who transport information between the rebels of the city using a free-running style to traverse the city roof-tops and subways. At the start of the story Faith finds herself and her sister being set up for a crime they didn’t commit. It is therefore Faith’s mission to get to the bottom of this conspiracy and find out exactly what is going on. As stories go, it’s nothing too substantial, but at least it’s different from many other game plots.
The game controls really well, with the left shoulder button being used to control upwards movement and the left trigger being used for downwards movement. The decision to put the controls on the trigger buttons makes the game control very uniquely, and although it’s shot from a genuine first person perspective the game actually feels more like a racer. The screen bobs and weaves when you gain speed, and at full pelt the screen narrows into tunnel vision as the centre of your screen falls into sharp focus and your peripheral vision blurs out lending the game a fantastic sense of speed. It’s also highly unusual that your arms and legs are fully realised in the game, coming into view when you turn corners sharply or jump to grab ledges. The game manages to portray the physicality of running extraordinarily well and I can think of no other game which captures motion so well.
However this sense of motion and movement is limited by some poor level design choices and some tricky obstacle sections. Half of the levels are based in buildings or corridors and as such you’ll find yourself penned in by locked doors and given only one route to follow. The other times you find your self running over rooftops, but still being penned in by invisible walls, and although you are allowed to see your target from miles away you are never given the opportunity to make your own personal route.
The levels also seem to be built to stop you experimenting in how you reach your target with any error generally being rewarded with a fall to your death. There are some alternative routes to your targets, but these have been cleverly designed and placed in there by the developers, this game likes to give the illusion of being open-plan sandbox, but in reality it’s as linear as they come.
Quite an interesting one this. Claims of it being a â€œfirst-person platformerâ€ are mostly accurate but ‘Parkour simulator’ is more appropriate. The controls can take a bit of getting used to at first since you will probably automatically expect something similar to the typical FPS set-up. However, once the controls finally click with you it seems like second nature when you are majestically flowing through the environment.
Visually the game is very impressive, particularly the use of colour and it may surprise you that the game runs on Unreal Engine 3, usually associated with drab, dull, murky colour schemes Much like Dead Space there is no HUD to speak of, other than a reticule in the middle of the screen to prevent the poor souls who suffer from motion sickness when playing games from fainting or something like that.
The least enjoyable parts of the game are definitely the combat. Throughout most of the game you can only obtain firearms from enemies by means of disarming them – either by knocking them out using melee attacks, or what is essentially a quick time event where you press Y when their weapon glows red . I decided to play through the game without firing a weapon once â€“ ultimately making things much harder for myself but resulting in a greater sense of achievement.
Ignoring the generic plot and somewhat shoddy combat mechanics, pretty much everything else in the game is a step in the right direction for the inevitable sequel.
Secondary Score: 7/10
You’ll constantly find yourself banging into walls and falling off ledges, the game seems to try it’s hardest to stop your movement and as such you’ll end up playing levels in a very staccato way and not flowing through them at all. Add to this stop start level design some intrusive loading screens are the flow of the game really does break down. There are also some down right confusing sections where your route isn’t easy to identify at all and you’ll spend ages trying new things and dying. You do have â€œrunner visionâ€ which highlights interactive items in red, however this seems to be very temperamental and often doesn’t highlight items in red until you are actually climbing them, which conspires once again to stop your flowing movement through the level.
If the level design wasn’t doing enough to ruin the game for you then the enemies most certainly will. Faith has no weapons and can only get weapons from disarming the enemies, however you have only a split second window in which to hit the disarm button and if you fail this you’ll take damage. You can use a slo-mo move in order to help you disarm opponents, but this feels like a needless gimmick which has been shoehorned because the developers realised it was too hard to use disarm without it. Faith is also vastly underpowered and when you have to face off against multiple heavily armed enemies the game just starts to feel unfair, and more a case of rote memory learning of enemy locations than actual skill based combat.
However there is a nice change to the enemies in the final third of the game, and there are a couple of stand out chase sequences which rank as some of the best and most refreshing gaming I’ve experienced in a long while. And this is the problem with this game, when it’s good it’s exceptional and totally unlike anything else you would have played. But when it’s bad it’s appalling and almost unplayable.
There is some redemption however when you turn to the time trails, as this strips the game into smaller more manageable chunks and tasks you with just getting from point A to B in the fastest time possible. The game really stands out in this mode as you now have to plan precisely where you want to go and look out for alternative routes, and while these routes aren’t truly free routes, being already planned in by the developers, it gives you a nice sense of achievement when you find that alternate route and just break the course record by a second.
The thing with Mirror’s Edge is that it has set its sights too high, when it tries to put all its ideas together to form a coherent game it just falls apart. Mirror’s Edge is best enjoyed when it’s taken apart and digested in small chunks like the time trails and speed runs. Taken in this form Mirrors Edge shines, but taken as a whole it just doesn’t.