Free-running/ Parkour is nothing that we haven’t seen already but combine that with a first person perspective and platforming elements and it’s a shines anew. Mirror’s Edge, a first person platforming game from the developers of the Battlefield Series DICE, sets to break new ground by combining genres which we’d never think would go together into a package that delivers in innovation. Renown more for First Person Shooters, the Swedish Developer takes a break from the genre to produce an entirely different experience receiving critical acclaim from its showings, but does the Mirror still shine or has it become dull?
Mirror’s Edge takes place in an unknown city governed by a totalitarian regime which monitors all communication and surveillances it’s citizens in order to bring down crime and keep order. This Utopia however, is in fact a dystopia robbing the citizens of their privacy and removing any free speech against the government. An electoral campaign is underway with the current Mayor Callaghan seeking to retain his position. However, there is a new candidate Robert Pope, seeking to bring about vast changes in the way the government runs. This is where you take the role of Faith Conner, a “runner” skilled in the art of Parkour whose sister Kate becomes a suspect framed with the sudden murder of the new candidate. This leads Faith on a mission to prove her sister’s innocence and find the people responsible. The story plays out in both brief in game cutscenes and sequences of 2d cutscenes shown at the start of each level taking on the look and style of flash animations. The problem is that narrative development is devoid of any emotion because of the limited nature of the cutscenes and while in first person, you can never really become attached to Faith because you never see her. Another issue is its length; the story mode ends way too soon before you even feel a sense of accomplishment and with only 9 chapters to play through, skilled players can beat the game in a matter of 6-7 hours. Once you master story mode, there is a large number of speed runs which will give speedrun fanatics a good run for their money.
The game play revolves around the theme of freedom and speed. Most of the time you’ll be running to get from one point to another point clearing obstacles that are directly in your path using whatever path you want. There are however, times where you’ll be either chased or the chaser and these help to add variety to the main campaign. The environments are also mixed with different locales and buildings but most of them have the same look and feel. There are a few varieties with a subway, sewer and ship levels but other than that, you’ll be spending most of your time going up lifts and enjoying the vantage points of the rooftops. Though the game enourages finding different methods to travel from one point to another, the problem is when the game forces combat upon the player breaking the free roaming aspect of the game which occurs more often as you progress through the narrative. The Controls in Mirror’s Edge feels clunky at first but it eventually works and feels right as jumping over obstacles is controlled by your left bumper while crouching is by the left trigger. Combat in the game is broken up into 2 categories, gun and melee performed by either a face button or right trigger. Unfortunately, none of them are well executed. Gun combat is mediocre and melee combat is clunky and robotic as they serve as merely quick time events having to press a button at the right time.
Mirror’s edge uses a first person perspective for the large majority of the game and combining this with the Unreal 3 Engine delivers a vibrant world with mixes of colour to serve as runner’s vision. The use of the first person view for the game is unique and serves to give the player a more intimite feel as you attempt and perfom the acrobatics from a personal perspective.
The Mirror’s Edge world shows through the use of colour with the primary focus on white giving a devoid but clean feel to the environment emphasizing the totalitarian government’s hold on its citizens. The game runs at a crisp framerate which hardly drops in framerate which gives the speed factor a plus. There are occasional mid level loads but it does ever detract from the game.
The audio is also up to scratch with an original theme song and soundtrack specially made to give off an ambient feel to the environment which is lacking in life.
Mirror’s Edge is a game full of innovation and unique ideas and it shows. Regardless of whether players like the core gameplay mechanics or not, there’s definitely nothing like it before. While it does have a few issues, the overall package is one that is worth seeing.
Story – 7.5
Gameplay – 7.5
Overall – 8.0