by David de Gasperi
I have to be honest, when I first heard and saw the game play demonstrations, as well as trailers for Mirror’s Edge, I was slightly skeptical about the whole concept, and among other things, what really baffled me at that point was: what sort of story line could they possibly put to a game like this?
But I didn’t want to think too much pessimism into the matter, as I was sure EA, having produced some of the best titles I’ve ever played, would definitely come up with something that was â€œuber coolâ€ – for lack of a better term.
And indeed, they did.
Living on the edge
You play as Faith, the sexy Eurasian looking lady with cool futuristic tattoos featured on the games cover. Your character is one out of a group of â€œmessenger/deliveryâ€ people known as runners, doing their thing for a sort of underground network/syndicate who are dedicated to the safety and protection of freedom of communication, in a world set far in the future, controlled and ruled by unseen bureaucratic forces bent on the repression of free will and freedom of choice, as well as a Government with all seeing eyes, making use of a vast CCTV type surveillance network to enforce their wrath on the victimized populous.
She makes her rounds in the beautifully glimmering, clean city by making use of Parkour (also known as â€œfree-runningâ€), negotiating her way across the sky-scraped city by running, jumping, skidding, vaulting, ledge grabbing, and wall running in a certain route or combination to get to where she’s going the easiest and fastest way. All the while having to avoid the bad guys who are running after you and unleashing storms of bullets at the same time.
Along her journey, using some of the above mentioned maneuvers, she will make her way across, over, or under shoulder high railings, scaffoldings, cranes, suspended lines, pipes, stairs, industrial air conditioning units, planks, and just about anything you could find on the top or sides of buildings. She also makes some insanely huge jumps at certain points to get away that although very impressive and entertaining, quite frankly had my stomach in a knot for a while.
As a runner, Faith has always lived on â€œthe edgeâ€, tinkering inconsequentially with the laws of conventional society, and gravity, among other things, darting across rooftops and doing insanely dangerous stunts. But in a twist of fate, Faiths sister, and only living family members is framed for murder. As a result, Faiths whole world gets turned upside down. With the help of her friend and accomplice, Merc, who guides and advices her by using a earpiece through out missions, she quickly sets out to attempt to make things right again.
The story unfolds in a well paced sequence, and is well told though out the game, using flat, cell-style animated cut scenes in between each chapter. Although the story itself is frankly a little weak, and not as compelling, or engulfing as we’ve come to expect as the overall production quality of games increase, it’s simple in its premise, and fits in well giving the game substance and a foot to stand on.
The first noticeable difference or â€œuniqueâ€ feature in the game is it’s the first in it’s genre to all take place in first person. It basically equated to playing Prince of Persia permanently in first person, although the entire system has obviously been reworked to cater better for first person view, as all the other titles like this take place in third-person view. Although I can understand the logic in making all previous titles like this in third-person, it has left a gap that no body up till now probably thought about, and Mirror’s Edge fills that gap nothing short of absolutely perfectly.
Many argue that Mirror’s Edge is by no means completely unique, and hasn’t exactly revolutionized gaming, or created a new genre of games, but it is certainly a refreshing breathe of fresh air in a genre that keeps on regurgitated the same old thing over and over, much like Jean-Claud Van Damme, or Steven Segal movies.
As I said before, I was relatively skeptical about the games concept, for the simple reason that many suffer from very sensitive motion sickness, and as I thought, many have complained that they simply cannot play the game as a result. But then again on the other hand, many people struggle to ride in cars, or can’t ride on boats, so it boils down to: it’s just not for everyone.
The overall gameplay is tricky at first, and I also found using a mouse and keyboard not nearly as easy and enjoyable as a console equivalent game pad, but after about 10 or 15 minutes of the initial training, you start to flow around the rooftops and overall control starts to feel very natural.
The controls and button configurations are surprisingly simple, catering for those who hate having to learn 87.5 button combinations to pull off certain maneuvers. The movement through out the game is based on a very intuitive â€œupâ€ and â€œdownâ€ system, negotiated by pressing only two buttons. There are one or two sequential combinations of these buttons, but they never amount to more than three presses, as well as some other buttons to accomplish interaction in the game, but overall very well thought out and simple to use.
Once you’ve mastered the controls, which doesn’t take very long at all, and you’ve found your â€œfootingâ€, while playing, and especially while running away from the bad guys and dodging bullets, the game is almost always very fast paced and achieves a certain sort of fluidity that contributes to the games overall flow and sense of emersion.
The game makes use of a system to guide you to certain obstacles dubbed â€œRunners Visionâ€, which makes you see things as though a runner would, highlighting certain objects red, or blue, to aid you through the course and making use of the best obstacles, as getting from point A, to point B is not always as obvious as it may seem.
The combat system in the game is relatively difficult to master, and is finicky at times. But considering who your character is, a slim, sexy, Eurasian women who is far from big in build, I couldn’t help but feel it’s almost how it would be in real life, trying to take down professionally trained, hardcore, armed security personnel with nothing more than your wit, speed, and agility. I felt the difficulty in combat was apt considering all the factors involved in the over all game.
The game and combat system in particular make use of a sort of â€œbullet-timeâ€, that builds up while running, and can be activated for a couple of seconds at the touch of a button. I found this particularly helpful in combat situations.
The single player story mode is short, to say the least, and could probably be played through at a comfortable pace in about a total of 5 hours. Although this is quite short by any standard, the Race and Time Trial modes are A LOT of fun, addictive, and can keep you entertained for countless hours trying to set a new best time through a certain course. It entails running through a course laid out with check points in a certain order on the levels you encounter through out the game. There are qualifying times that are already set, rated one to three, and in beating them, you qualify a certain skill level. Obviously the faster your time, the better skill level you obtain.
Once you have set a qualifying time, and you would like to improve on it, a red â€œghostâ€ image of the route you ran on the previous best time runs with you, so in essence you’re racing against yourself. This aids you to determine where you went wrong and the areas of the course that you might need to improve in, or do differently to achieve a better time. In addition to this, the over all time on the course is divided up into sections, and hitting certain check points will tell you whether you’ve made an improvement, or were slower than the previous best time.
The online Race and Time Trial features let you submit your times online to the leader board to see how you rank against the thousands of other players, and although there is no â€œhead-to-headâ€ multiplayer mode, there is a sort of pseudo-multiplayer mode that allows you to upload the â€œghostâ€ data of your best times through certain courses for other players to compete against.
Mirror’s Edge is by no means a graphical marvel, and in certain aspects definitely doesn’t make full use of the Unreal 3 Engine which it is built on, but it in an artistic sense, is one of the most well thought out, most beautiful, best looking games I have ever seen or played. It’s just has this certain aura about it while you run along the roof tops of the sky-scrapers, you can’t help but stand still and â€œoohâ€ and â€œaahâ€, marveling at the enormous city that is the back-drop to Mirror’s edge. The game is riddled with great use of dynamic lighting, lens flares, bump-mapping, contrasting bright vivid colours, and particularly good use of depth of field.
As an added feature to it’s console cousins, the PC version of Mirror’s Edge makes use of nVidias PhysX engine, processing all of the physics in the game using only the graphics card. This feature is not a pre-requisite, but once enabled, subtly introduced certain things like physically modeled curtains, and bending clothes, to enhance the over gaming experience and in my opinion is a welcome bonus to an already astounding game.
One thing that stood out to me while running through out the Mirror’s Edge world, is the exceptional sharpness of some of the textures. Although the game boasts a more clinical, clean look, and over all doesn’t have as many massively detailed textures as some of titles built on the same engine, the textures that there are, are crisp and precise, like writing on a wall, or box in a factory. One place where it is very noticeable is in some of the elevators, where you’ll find a screen with crisp, legible scrolling text on the wall.
As is my experience with games that use the Unreal 3 Engine, Mirror’s Edge performs extremely well. Even on machines with the minimum requirements, it performs brilliantly, while still looking very decent, and not having to sacrifice everything that makes the game as pretty as it is.
If you have an nVidia 8 series or higher (I played it on an nVidia Geforce 8800 GTS), enabling the PhysX feature in the game will bring your overall FPS count down slightly, but to my delight, the difference was barely noticeable.
Mirror’s Edge is well put together, and should perform more than adequately on the majority of system that meet the minimum requirements, recommended requirements, or somewhere in between.
In conclusion, Mirror’s Edge is a game and a half, but in agreement to many opinions I’ve heard about the game, both whom have loved and hated it, it’s definitely a â€œlove or hateâ€ situation. Either you absolutely love it, or you hate it, or on the other hand you just can’t play it for fear of puking on yourself.
Personally I loved it, and would play it over and over many times, simply because I found it to be that enjoyable, and above all, a welcome breath of fresh air, and with rumors of a sequel, all I can say is: I CAN’T WAIT!
Game Play: 9/10 : Intuitive, easy to learn, and an overall pleasure
Presentation: 9.5/10 : Absolutely stunning and a beautiful artistic take on a very plausible future world
Sound: 9/10 : The sound is great, the brilliant production on the sound track being particularly outstanding
Value: 9/10 : although the single player game is short, it’s great value as you’ll find yourself playing a second, third, and possibly even a fourth time, as well as the countless hours you’ll spend playing the Racing and Time Trials modes.
Overall: 9.2/10 : A great game in every sense of the word, it’s as simple as that.
Last Updated: January 26, 2009