Mirror's EdgelikePEGI16 Developer DICE Publisher EA Genre Action Platform Xbox 360, Playstation 3 Release Out Now Electronic Arts has had quite a bit of bad reputation over the last few years for shoe-horning out countless unoriginal sequels-to-sequels-to-sequels games, milking every last drop of precious MoneyMilk for all their franchises could produce. However, just recently is EA's most daring venture into the unknown by making - gasp - new franchises; Dead Space and Mirror's Edge could be the future for EA, making new Intellectual Properties to save their now declining sales and market share. But how does Mirror's Edge fair? A lot is riding on Mirror's Edge's shoulders and it must be admitted right now that I had congered such high expectations for Mirror's Edge to meet, expectations that the game simply couldn't produce. Forgetting this and seeing the game for what it is was, was difficult, however I soon began to truly enjoy the game. With that in mind, let's begin.


Sure hope I don't slip...
Mirror's Edge is a parkour video game, we know it as "Freerunning" and has been made ever-so-popular over the last few years by big hit movies such as the Borne series, James Bond: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and that episode of Top Gear where they race those two guys... But anyway, the whole concept is that a person propels themselves over and under obstacles at great speed for sport and fun. Mirror's Edge takes the idea and wraps it to the task of evading police, delivering packages and generally just getting from A to B. Parkour an utterly intriguing concept which unfortunately has already been attempted in video games, but no where near the level of quality which DICE brings forth here.

The story follows a late-teens/early-twenties Faith Connors who is a 'Runner'. These Runners are the only form of communication yet to be censored or controlled by an oppressive, totarialistic government who wants to suppress all illicit communication to ensure peace and prosperity. We join Faith returning to work from what seemed to be a nasty fall. Now back in action, her first job goes less than smoothly with the CPF (Crime Prevention Force, or "Police" as I will refer to them as) starts opening fire on them. Startled by the Police's over-zealous and heavy-handed approach to merely seeing Faith, Merc(ury) -- who is Faith's boss and your general guide through out the game -- starts digging into what the government are doing. Soon, however, Faith's sister is framed for the murder of a political figure and family friend of the Connor's, Faith must rescue her sister and find out who and what is after them and fellow Runners.

The game's story is told in a few different ways. A lot of the current action in the game is always shown in a first person perspective in stages. There's very rarely a time where the game takes a 3rd person view, keeping you forever immersed in Faith, quite literally. There's also a series of 2D animations which is played during the opening of each chapter. The 2D animations take a bit of getting used to, as the game has such a beautiful in-game graphic style which is very contrasting against the mediocre animated 2D sequences. An attempt to be more stylish than required means that storytelling in the game seems disjointed. Another interesting and far more engaging storytelling method used is the use of scrolling news updates which are usually displayed during elevator loading sequences (oldest trick in the book, loading wise) and on TVs and Radios through out stages. These bulletins can sometimes be missed by a player on their first run-through as they will be more anticipating what lies ahead, however does give a lot of insight to the back-story of Mirror's Edge.


Life on the edge is rather pretty
Mirror's Edge's Gameplay style is rather unique. Although the game is shown in a first person perspective, you must immediately realise that the game is not a first person shooter. Encounters in the game will usually require thought, time and the tendency to remove one's-self from the concept of fighting. This is not helped by the fact the game forces you to take out enemies at certain points who can quite easily kill you if you don't see them coming or have a string of rather unfortunately timed disarms (which I'll mention later). Controls are basic as well. All common commands such as Jump, Slide/Duck/Roll, Turn 180 Degrees and Punch/Kick are all on the shoulder buttons, while disarming enemies and taking their weapons, picking up guns, interacting with the environment and checking in which direction you should be heading is on the face buttons. Normal first person shooter controls apply for navigating, using dual analogue sticks to look/move. A player can string together a bunch of different moves using the shoulder buttons, which becomes essential when you get just a few stages in. Combat with weaponry is poor to say the least, however operates control mechanics similar to that of any other FPS on Xbox 360/Playstation 3. To stop taking damage from longer falls, the left-most shoulder button/trigger is pressed for Faith to roll and avoid taking damage when close to the ground. Disarms are an interesting gimmick in the game which require you to press a button (the Y or Triangle buttons) when a weapon an enemy is holding turns red.

The game's progression is simply this; Start Mission, Run, Run, Run, Tricky Puzzle Jumping, Die, Die, Die, Get it right, [Combat, Die, Combat, Run] repeat until Mission End. There are a few deviations to the rule, however the formula is very much the same, not that this is a bad thing. Learning that you have to just simply get to a certain point in the level to end the mission will probably be the greatest advise I could give someone. Many minutes I spent trying to look for specific items I was meant to focus on because the game doesn't clearly state what you're supposed to be doing at any one time. This is a huge flaw in Mirror's Edge, while some games give you far too much information, Mirror's Edge gives you far too little and you'll be wandering around wondering just what exactly could be happening in the stage to help you progress quite a bit. The game asks a bit too much of the player at times, expecting them to know that random things are important even though they're not, or items like them in the past highlighted using the Runner Vision.

Runner Vision is a unique assistant in Mirror's Edge. While the world around you is made up of primary 'soft' colours like Blue, White, Black and (although not a primary colour;) orange. Runner Vision stands out as a sharp red colour which indicates to players that they can use this piece of scenery to progress. There is an option to turn off the Runner Vision and the Hard setting of the game requires players to go without Runner Vision at all. When the system works, it's a vitally helpful feature of the game and will help you through your several run-troughs of the game. However, the system just becomes unloved as the game progresses with the cues to turn items red delayed and the opportunity to miss a vitally important piece of scenery is missed, leading to a frustrating death. Important switches or pipes which you could use suddenly don't activate and by this stage in the game you've learnt that if it isn't red, it's basically useless to you. After a few play-troughs I get varying results of helpfulness from the Runner Vision. Despite myself already knowing the route I have to take, I couldn't help but notice something not turning red when it should have done. Runner Vision also becomes your lifeline during the game, however it seems DICE leads you into a false sense of security with the later stages in the game tricking you by placing red-coloured but useless items in tense moments which require quick thinking to escape from. Not cool. There's also whole hallways bathed in the colour red which can be misleading.


You know, maybe I should have used that wire...
There are several issues which will seem the most frustrating things ever when starting to play the game. Least of which is the seemingly random checkpoint system. Several times I had to replay a whole section of one Chapter only for it to randomly create a checkpoint for me to respawn from on my 4th or 5th attempt. It helped curve the difficulty and strain of trying to perfectly string together difficult jumps and nearly impossible to judge gaps thanks to tedious shadows which my 32" CRT TV just couldn't make heads-or-tails out of. This same issue happens later on as well with extremely thin bars or ladders which you must use look like seeming like useless scenery, even when painted red (it just appears black on a non-HD TV). Shouting at the TV does help relieve some pepped up frustration and is the same method I used to get through Mega Man 9 without blowing up, but seriously a game should NOT be this frustrating. Trying to decide if it's human error which the game does not compensate for in the least-bit or a game which demands perfection from imperfect players is impossible. Just be ready to die... A lot. Respawning is no big issue and takes but seconds. This cannot be said for mid-level loading sequences which bring the whole game to a stand-still and can last anywhere from 5 seconds to a 20 seconds (the last one in the game seems like it takes FOREVER). If you don't think 20 seconds is a long time to wait, sit perfectly still looking blankly at this computer screen for 20 seconds (best to get someone else time you). Not so short now, is it?

Phew, off-of gameplay and onto visuals. What can I say? The game is amazing and flawless in appearance. There are very few games which can match Mirror's Edge's unique art style, surreal environments and mindbogglingly detailed character models. While some characters have rather uncanny movements which seem blocky and unrealistic, you can easily overlook these flaws and just admire the beauty of the game. It seems there's still blood to be drawn out of this generation's stone, how much can be drawn still is quite an interesting prospect. Transitions to red for the Runner Vision look natural and don't break up the experience. The game will always tell you vital information including the amount of speed you have behind you using subtle on-screen visuals and sound effects. It takes a bit of adjusting to, but once you are acquainted with Mirror's Edge's mechanics, you're solid. The game packs a lot of eye candy, but just be warned. Those who get motion sick may have some problems with Mirror's Edge. As you are seeing everything from Faith's point of view through-out the game, you'll also follow her as she does somersaults, jumps, knocks, tumbles and whatever else she may be doing. The internet is a buzz with stories of motion sickness related problems with Mirror's Edge and unfortunately one of my spectators during my run-through was also feeling rather queasy after a few minutes, although I think it may have just been how bad I was playing. Who knows?

Audio, the game is a wash with wonderful sound effects; with realistic high-pitch squealing of car breaks, distant car horns, planes flying over head and a relaxing score of synthesised music during combat and puzzles alike. It's all unique sounding, the only game which I could think of to try and compare it with would be the Nintendo 64 game; Perfect Dark. But even then it's a stretch. You can't quite explain how weird yet awesome the soundtrack is. Distinctive and under-powering, it fails to really make the mood of the game however keeps you entertained in-between countless deaths and failure the game will present. Sound effects are all coherent and while there seems to be a rather jarring lack of them through-out the game, you wont feel lost without them. It just would have been nice to have them.


Stairs are for cowards
Serious negatives about this game must be levelled to it's seriously short story time. Completed in two sittings by myself, Mirror's Edge has to be one of the shortest games I've played in a long while. Easily 5-6 hours long depending on difficulty, it joins the ranks of games which could have seriously done with another hour of gameplay to seal the deal. A lack-lustre story which fails to really engage the player makes the game harder to bare as well. Although a solid story, nothing is really explained to you and you're basically given bare-bones information about what you're doing, who so-and-so is and at times left wondering who people are because you've only ever seen them in the 2D animations, not in the 3D gameplay world which is so different to that of the gameplay itself. The game is also fraught with frustrating deaths, controls which seem to decide they do not want to work at the most inopportune times and the inability to properly judge how far away from the ground you are to execute health/momentum saving manoeuvres. You'll also have excruciating moments where a puzzle seems easy enough, but you're then thrown off-course by Faith failing to grasp ledges because of something obscuring the ledge above, forcing you to aim for a section but PIXELS away from where you originally jumped. Not that this obscurity makes much difference to the layout of the level either, it's just there to annoy you, I'm sure.

Overall then, Mirror's Edge is an ambitious game which EA hyped up to be the Second Coming in video game form. It's not. When it boils down, Mirror's Edge is a nice attempt to be bold, different and delivers on both points. However, it does so at a cost. There's no freedom in the game. You're teased with a big, open city but you're unable to explore it. There's only ever one solution to a puzzle and one route to get from A to B. The game doesn't even give you the illusion of freedom, as you're strung together by a bunch of boring and rather FPS-cliche air-ducts and corridors filled with unexplorable rooms. The game teases you with all the things you wanted from it yet fails to deliver. It's replay value drops significantly because of this and most players will probably give up after their 20th death on the same jump on the same puzzle which most likely isn't their fault, just poor design choices on small sections of the game. Mixed together with an uninspiring soundtrack (however nice it is) and amazing visuals, Mirror's Edge stacks up to be merely average instead of fantastic, which is a shame because I gave this game every chance to impress. I went out of my way to love this game, but instead I merely like it. I recommend this game as a rental and I would even suggest it as a purchase, however I'm glad I didn't pay the absolute full price for this game, as it is undeserving of the £39.99 they're asking for.