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Mirror’s Edge Review

February 9, 2009

Mirror’s Edge attempted to break the third-person platformer mold by taking it into a first-person view with Mirror’s Edge. Complete with a gorgeous art-style and some great gameplay concepts, Mirror’s Edge mostly delivers but definitely has some shortcomings.

Story

You play as a female character named Faith. You are known as a free-runner which is essentially someone that is trying to operate out of the eye of this supreme-rule government that keeps a close watch over the population (deep right?). Well I don’t want to get into any more as some plot twists are revealed early on, but that’s it in a nutshell.

I disagree with critics (and Julian in his review) on both the story and length of the game. I agree that the story could have filled in a few more gaps and it definitely should have had more character development, but I felt the story was good enough for the type of game that it is. Also, a common complaint is that the game is too short. My first play-through clocked in at roughly 8 hours I would guess. If the game was any longer, it would have been detrimental in my opinion, so I felt that the length was perfectly fine. The next play through only took me maybe 4 hours as I already knew how to navigate the levels, however.

Not your traditional waterslide.

Not your traditional waterslide.

Gameplay

Mirror’s Edge takes platforming like Prince of Persia and translates it to a first-person view. This mostly works in that it really captures the thrill and rush of making long miraculous leaps from rooftops or not making those jumps and falling 30 stories to your death.

The controls are fairly simple. You use L1 to jump, L2 to crouch/slide/drop, R1 to turn, and R2 to attack. The only other buttons used are Square for “bullet-time”, triangle to disarm enemies, and X to interatct with objects. A number of moves are at Faith’s disposal such as wallruning, climbing up onto ledges, sliding under objects, coiling over obstacles when jumping, and combining these and other moves together to reach seemingly unreachable locations.

My only real gripe with the gameplay is that there are some areas that you will literally play over, and over, and over again until you figure out how to get to where you need to. 9/10 times you’ll walk away from the game for 5 mins, come back and say “Oh. I’m an idiot. How’d I miss that?!”. The other 1/10 times will just be a jump that’s near impossible to land (you’ll know what I mean when you get to Chapter 1).

Combat was also heavily criticized and again, I beg to differ, being that the focus of this game is to AVOID combat. However, when engaged in combat, most of it works well, at least to me it does. You can choose to disarm an enemy when you see their gun turn red, and if you have slow reflexes like me, you can activate a slow-down mode to give you more time to react. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can punch, kick, jump kick your enemy to your liking. Even better is that you can use your surroundings to your advantage meaning that you can jump from a ledge and footstomp an enemy for a one-hit takedown, or you could sneak up on an enemy to steal their weapon and incapacitate them. If you choose to use your enemies weapons the guns work fairly well as well as the aiming, and the game balances things out by slowing you down while carrying a gun.

The highest high-point in the gameplay is when you are being chased by enemies and don’t have time to think ahead. You’ll have moments of sheer adrenaline rushes where you are sprinting and leaping, hoping there is a rooftop below. You’ll string together moves you didn’t know you could pull off and it is satisfyingly rewarding. The rush that is experienced here is like nothing else in gaming today.

Graphics/Audio

Mirror’s Edge goes for a very colorful, vibrant, artsy style in its’ presentation and it looks incredibly gorgeous. Each level looks marvelous with great lighting effects and great palletes. The character detail is pretty good overall as well.

The audio soundtrack is A+, top-notch in my opinion. The music is both dramatic piano-based music and techno style music for the more upbeat moments, all of which fits the game perfectly. The voice-acting is surprisingly pretty good as well, although it’s no blockbuster, Hollywood movie. The sounds Faith will make as she lands a tough jump, gets shot, or falls all sound good and help immerse you into the action.

Yeah, get used to crazy jumps like this.

Extras/Online

Mirror’s Edge features both time trial modes and speed runs to keep you busy after beating the story mode. The speed runs just have you complete each of the 9 Chapters and the Prologue in a set time limit. The time trials take portions of levels and have you beat them in less than a certain time. You can be ranked 0, 1, 2 or 3 stars on these.

The problem here is that both modes are EXTREMELY unforgiving. The time trials’ biggest flaw is that it forces you to make a flawless run through a level without knowing any shortcuts just to get 1 star. Miss one jump, don’t jump a fence well, and kiss that lowly 1 star goodbye. Just as bad though, is that there’s hardly any separation between 2 and 3 stars. Meaning, even if you can complete a level with 1 star, it’s a long way to go to get to 2, and if you can do 2 stars, you most likely can do 3. Some better balancing here to make 1 star more attainable, and having a greater distance between 2 and 3 stars would have made the time trials more fun. As it stands though, it becomes extremely frustrating very quickly and is unlikely to keep you coming back for much more.

One nice feature is the online leaderboards. What makes this interesting is that you can download a ‘ghost’ of a runner that has completed the time trial and you can follow their ghost. This is neat in that it allows terrible runners like myself to find shortcuts in the levels, and shows how that runner got the time that they did. For skilled runners, it allows you to compete against an opponent’s record. Even better is that the game will tell you if you’ve beaten any of your friends’ records, like when it told me that I beat Julian’s best time in the Playground by almost a full minute! (What it didn’t tell him was that I logged onto YouTube to find the shortcut that shaved that minute off my time). Unfortunately for the unskilled, the ghost doesn’t adjust to you, so if you lose the ghost because of a mistake, you’re likely not to see it the rest of the course.

Note: PS3 owners were recently treated with an exclusive time trial map which is free to download.

Yes, that is a crane. Yes, you really will be running along it. Yes, you really will jump onto the cargo its carrying.

Yes, that is a crane. Yes, you really will be running along it. Yes, you really will jump onto the cargo it's carrying.

Conclusion

Mirror’s Edge to me was a breath of fresh air for the gaming community. After playing a bunch of FPS’s and typical platformers, it was nice to see a developer take a chance with a new IP like with Mirror’s Edge. It succeeded for the most part, but just a few things keep it from being a must-have game.

If the time trial and speed run modes were more accessible, the game would have a good amount of replayability. Also, if a few of the overly frustrating story-mode moments were tweaked, Mirror’s Edge could have been the must-have game it looked like it wanted to be.

With that, I still highly recommend Mirror’s Edge to all gamers out there, although it’s hard to justify it at it’s $60 price tag. Regardless, I recommend at least renting this title or picking it up on sale as it definitely has many shining moments. Despite slower than exptected sales, I truly hope a sequel is made as I really did enjoy this first entry.

Great

Great

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