Review by ayame95
"A Terrible Execution of a Brilliant Idea"
Mirror's Edge is a game that deserves praise on many levels. It has that rare kernel of on idea for something truly original that so many developers would kill for. What works in the game works incredibly well and there are elements of the gameplay that are brilliantly innovative. The art design is top notch. Mirror's Edge both looks and sounds great.
The great tragedy of Mirror's Edge is that these strong points are marred by deep flaws in the game. EA and DICE really deserve credit for trying to bring an original IP and new idea for gameplay to the table, but either they weren't able to take an objective perspective on the overall quality or the game, or they were too rushed to complete the game to the level they should have. Read on to find out about the various pros and cons, and decide for yourself whether to walk the Mirror's Edge.
STORY & CHARACTERS 6/10
Mirror's Edge is set in a dystopian future. Evil corporations and government elements have taken over, and the people remain ignorant and oppressed. Private security firms dominate public law enforcement, and are ready to squash.
In this world, the player finds him/herself in control of a young woman named Faith. Faith is a runner. The runners are a group who use parkour skills to deliver illicit packages among various parties. Jumping and rolling across the rooftops, the runners are the last lifeline of the city for moving goods and information under the noses of the cruel authorities.
If it sounds like you've heard this before, then you probably have. It's fairly stock stuff. Faith finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation that ultimately goes up to the highest levels. There are a few incredibly predictable twists along the way (I saw one coming from the initial training mission), and an extremely yawn-worthy ending.
The characters are mediocre and forgettable. Maybe it's just my own Asian ethnic background talking, but the choice of making Faith a petite Asian woman with a tattoo seemed sort of a pathetic appeal to the oh-so-sought after 18-24 male crowd. It just didn't strike me as a high-class move, especially since the character herself is given little depth or originality on any level.
Yet since Mirror's Edge is an action game, this could easily be forgivable. All we're really asking for is a reason to go run around and jump over more stuff. What makes the story so disappointing is that it is told through horrible cutscenes. Readers can check the graphics & sound section for a more detailed explanation of exactly what makes these cutscenes so terrible, but they were literally so bad that I found myself feeling embarrassed for the developers of the game. Like a train wreck that you horrifies you, yet you cannot take your eyes away, I watched with mouth agape as these travesties of justice played out in front of my very own eyes. The only things I hope is that DICE was forced to rely on these shoddy cutscenes do to extreme budgeting and time restraints. Had everything played in-game via a first person perspective (a la the Half-life series), you probably wouldn't be hearing any complaints.
Mirror's Edge is played from the first-person perspective. We're not talking some non-corporeal point floating in the air just a few centimeters above the gun barrel (see: every other FPS in existence). Mirror's Edge imbues the player with a real sense of body. You can look down and see your lower torso and feet. Faith's limbs grab and maneuver over objects in a very realistic fashion, flailing suitably as she flies through the air and coming up to brace her as she runs into a wall or solid object. The camera swings around in such a fashion that really imitates eye movement.
Mirror's Edge is fundamentally a platformer. Faith can jump, duck, roll and slide. She has a variety of other moves such as a wallrun. It may push the boundary of realistic physics at times, but the whole thing feels surprisingly natural and immersive. You may have seen platforming from a first-person perspective, but not like this. The gameplay feels fresh and new, like nothing anybody has really tried before.
Mirror's Edge also continues the platforming tradition with some relatively frustrating checkpoints. The game is all about perfect timing, angles and a little bit of luck. Some trial and error is also inevitable. Younger gamers who didn't weather the frustrating platformers of yesteryear might find this to be an obstacle, but I personally found it highly rewarding when I finally got everything perfect.
What I wish is that DICE and EA had mustered the courage to make this a platforming-only game. Unfortunately they did not, and there is a fair amount of combat in the game. Although you can get through the game without using any guns, it will be necessary to use the game's melee system to take down a fair amount of enemies. The issue with combat is twofold: 1) It feels really out of character for this parkour runner to suddenly be firing a machinegun or roundhouse kicking a cop in the face. 2) It's absolutely terrible. I mean just really bad. I don't have any problem with challenging (see previous paragraph), but that's not the issue hear. The combat controls are unintuitive and finicky, and fighting enemies feels like a chore and isn't rewarding in the slightest. It's so disappointing that such a weak gameplay element is featured so prominently throughout the game.
Mirror's Edge also suffers from poor pacing. Considering that most gamers will beat the campaign in one or two sittings, it's really too bad that the game couldn't do a better job of moving things along at a pleasant rate. The sections that seem to work best are the heart-pounding chase scenes where Faith flees from helicopters and police officers through offices and across the rooftops. Unfortunately, this is mired by sudden stops in the form of obtuse platforming puzzles, long elevator rides (presumably masking loading times) and the aforementioned frustrating combat sequences. The flow of even event into the next is generally poor, and the whole thing feels a little like riding in a car where the driver is constantly stepping on the gas and brake in quick succession.
GRAPHICS & SOUND 8/10
OK, let's get this out of the way: Mirror's Edge looks gorgeous. The game's art design is strong and easily recognizable. The game uses bright and basic colors and a washed-out palette to produce a clean & crisp environment that is easy to navigate and highly immersive. The indoor environments mostly feature a number of offices and warehouses made distinct only by the color of stripes on their wall (there is a blue office, a green one, a yellow one, etc.), but they look good and fit the gameplay. The outdoor environments really shine, with bright white rooftops and a glaring sun that really gives you the feel of traversing the heights of this dystopian society. It would have been a bit nicer to see more people and vehicles populating the streets below, but overall the environments look great.
The sound is also superb. The game features motivating music and one of this year's best 5.1 mixes (second only to Dead Space). Faith's grunts and heavy breathing really add to feeling that it's you doing the jumping and running.
I honestly would have considered marking this category for a full ten points if it were not for the abysmal quality of the cutscenes. For whatever reason (most likely to cut cost and time), the developers choose not to use the in-game engine or anything resembling the art design of the rest of the game. Instead cutscenes play out through incredibly childish and terrible looking animated cutscenes. There's really to words to describe how bad these are, or what a poor choice it was to implement them. They destroy the first-person immersive elements of the actual game are just plain cheesy. Even readers who decide not to play Mirror's Edge should consider going to YouTube or any of the popular gaming websites to check out one of these. I guarantee you'll either laugh or cry, maybe both.
The bad news is that Mirror's Edge is incredibly short, even by today's standards. The hardest difficulty is not available until the game has been completed once, and I was able to beat the normal mode without using any guns (there's an achievement for it) in 5 hours, 20 minutes. The harder difficulty was a bit tougher, but since I already knew my way through the game I breezed through it in about 3 and a half hours. The game does feature some collectibles (apparently it's a legal requirement that any platformer must), but otherwise there is little motivation to replay the campaign. The game also features a time trial mode with some nice features like a ghost runner (so you can see who you have to beat) and a button that illuminates your target. Nonetheless, everyone outside of the OCD must shave a quarter second off this run crowd will be done with this mode inside a few hours.
Mirror's Edge is funny combination of excellent and terrible elements. The platforming elements are innovative on a level that many developers work their entire careers for without attaining. Yet the combat of the game is a tremendous disappointment, almost to the point of qualifying as a dealbreaker. Combine that with horrendous cutscenes, off-kilter pacing, and the extremely short length of the campaign and it's really hard to recommend Mirror's Edge for anything other than a rental or borrowing from a friend. Mirror's Edge is worth giving a try because it is probably the kind of game that will be talked about for years. But you're unlikely to get more than a night or two's enjoyment of it.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/09/09
Game Release: Mirror's Edge (US, 11/11/08)
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