Note: I am continuing my trend of posting older games as reviewed ones due to a requested reviews thread I’ve got going on one of the sites that I am a member of. Mirror’s Edge is the game in question here, and one that I’ve enjoyed replaying countless times over, as, despite its many striking flaws, it remains the only game in its genre today even, and it is also a fun and intoxicating adventure experience. You’ll have to have some faith to put yourself in Faith’s shoes, but DICE has done well, and the experience is definitely one that I’d say was worth it. If you haven’t played the game yet, for consoles or PC, you can find it in a bargain pile somewhere surely or peruse the interwebs and Steam for the game, as it is probably either on sale or only about $16 or so at most now. Try it, and even if you can’t get into it or enjoy it as much as you would like, savor the taste anyway- as it may be the only one we ever get, seeing as it’s taking them a long time to work on the sequel, which I really hope doesn’t get cancelled inevitably so they can allocate more resources to Battlefield 4 or other juggernauts. Here’s to Mirror’s Edge, and now for my feature presentation…
DICE is normally known and recognized for their epic sagas such as the Battlefield series (and its spinoffs such as Bad Company, 1943, etc.) and other war games and tales of fighting, escalation, and exploration. They generally aren’t the first people you would think of when you hear about a platforming, action-adventure game, and yet here they are with the success of Mirror’s Edge hanging on their mantle now. It’s been quite a few years since 2008, but the game still holds up by today’s standards, even with its sometimes finicky controls and rage-inducing fails coupled with the poor checkpoint system. If we can headshot an enemy from miles away, launch a mortar into a small window a la Luke’s trench run, and stealthily assassinate an entire base of enemies- what is it about platforming that makes us all losers? Well, we’re about to answer just that question once we tackle DICE’s first person adventure here.
Mirror’s Edge has very crisp graphics, and the visual design stands out even today. A mix of the minimalistic and complex, Mirror’s Edge features vast expanses of skyscrapers and a metropolis that is a stark white color, dotted with interesting parts colored in blues, red, oranges, and yellows. Each color stands out vividly, and for good reason. The reds are your main path, or predicted path of travel and parts of the world that you can and should interact with. The blues and greens are simply there for use or to be ignored and simply acknowledged. The oranges represent the completion of that cool colors meets hot pallet in addition to the brisk yellows and tints. Mirror’s Edge isn’t just a game- it’s a statement. DICE goes to show that, despite many of their past endeavors involving them in heavy use, you don’t always need guns and gunplay to make a game fun or interesting, even in the first person market.
Every single jump is satisfying, the set piece moments can be felt and easily get your adrenaline and blood pumping, and connecting your runs in both the story mode and in additional challenge or speedrun modes makes that all the more important in order to conserve time and take the record. As natural and epic as it may seem to leap from building to building in Assassin’s Creed, none of the Templars or Assassins have seen anything remotely as incredible as I’ve witnessed throughout Mirror’s Edge. Whether it be something that I’ve done, a friend or fellow runner has, or the ninja-like running cops have- there’s enough epic sauce to go around. Since this might require a bit of a steep learning curve in order to nail stricter landings and jumps later on, thanks to the heavily intuitive and challenging enemy AI- the game also offers profuse checkpoints and tips along the way. Of course, since most of the checkpoints are in terrible locations, this can sometimes be quite an annoying problem, and definitely destroy your speedrun, forcing you to restart all that hard work for the progress achievements.
Not only is the gameplay quite responsive and the many combinations of acrobatics at your disposal quite fluid, but each camera shot from the viewpoint perspective of Faith’s own eyes is excellently and realistically (for a crazy parkour game anyway) captured. It’s awesome to watch your arms and legs moving while you run, jump, and counter attacks- as is it to witness your individual fingers’ actions whilst climbing, in incredible detail. The world and you are truly one. The sound effects present in the game are masterfully in tune with Faith’s antics as well, often with bullets whipping by so close you can almost feel them, the rustle of your clothing in the wind while running or sliding along the ground, and the huffs and puffs of breath being forced out after a hard landing. It is truly magnificent, and makes the game the uniquely crafted experience it is.
Seeing as this is after all, a game that could theoretically be beaten in under fifty minutes once you’ve played it enough times to be crazy enough (or good enough) to attempt an all chapters speedrun, it’s only to be expected that the story whistles by just as fast, and might even be missed if you skip one cutscene too many. Without spoiling too much for you, I’ll tell you this much: you are what is known as an information runner, your name is Faith, your sister, who is a cop, has been kidnapped for something she discovered, and it is up to you to race against time to save and protect her. This all flows at a breakneck pace up until the climax of the game, which culminates in an epic final level in which you scale the tallest building in the city, which is viewable at nearly all times throughout the game. The needle-like Spire is simply one of those things like George Washington’s pyramid in AC3, where you see it, and immediately know you will get to climb it at some point. And that’s pretty awesome to have hanging over you too.
Throughout the story, Faith has little real opportunity to bring the fight to her aggressors until the very end, and is inevitably chased for a good portion of the chapters before. The environments all look similarly aesthetically, but the overall pace never shifts once, which is awe inspiring to say the least. You’ll travel through rooftops, offices, construction sites, sewers, skyscrapers, secret underground facilities, a shipyard, and much more for the duration of the story, and it will be an awesome adventure. Recommended paths and environmental objects are, as always, highlighted a vibrant red color, so you’ll always know when you’re on or off track- even when the game “recalculates” your trajectory like a GPS. The only downfall to the coloring scheme in the game is the darkened areas such as nooks, crannies, and the entire sewers chapter and spire chapter. Simply turn the brightness up though, and you’ll be fine- even if it is cheating, sort of.
Should take the Test of Faith challenge, I commend you, as completing the game without ever firing a gun or killing someone is quite difficult indeed (especially since one part of the game requires you to shoot the wheels off a car during a slow motion sequence, in order to save your sister. However, you also have an array of disarming, distracting, killing, and defensive blows at your disposal, should you never pick up a gun as well, but not opt for the challenge route. As limited as DICE kept the gunplay, with no HUD at all even for it- including ammo, enemy health, etc.- it was still fresh, if not slightly annoying at times when a simple “blue” could absorb my barrage of bullets and then force me to toss the gun away and finish him off with a precise kick to the shoulder, groin, or knee. Trivial inconveniences aside though, the gunplay works well against you, which definitely makes the game a lot more challenging with hundreds of goons aiming for you at any one time.
The experience of Mirror’s Edge might take a little bit to stomach and fully complete the first time around due to some frustrations caused by jumping failures and forgetting the odd yet fitting control scheme here and there, but subsequently, each additional runthrough will be faster paced and more exciting, guaranteed. Also, once you’ve focused on a playthrough for a speedrun, one for a warmup, and maybe one just for fun- there are thirty hidden collectable bags to be found throughout the world, which open up new maps for challenges, graphic arts, and more secrets and scene bonuses to players. Things might ramp up in difficulty during the second half of the game, but coupled with the speedrun mode and challenge areas for fun, fast-paced, and intense yet friendly competition on a worldwide leaderboard, this game has a long shelf-life indeed. Add in some flow trials downloadable content and expansions, which I’ve greatly enjoyed in the form of the Pure Time Trials- or a minimalistic freerunning approach to challenges, and you’ve created an excellent game, well worth the trouble.
I just really hope DICE, or someone at least, has the nerve to release a sequel either this generation, at the end, or the next on its cusp- as such a genre bending adventure cannot easily be passed up again…
Concept: Create the best freerunning and parkour game ever even talked about or dreamed up, and succeed- seeing as it is the only triple-A title of its kind.
Graphics: The stark contrast in visuals and the beautifully rendered enemy designs and varied color schemes are simplistic and yet they are entirely more complex than you realize. Everything has a deeper meaning here.
Sound: Sometimes, in the pitch darkness, sound is your only orientation, and Mirror’s Edge boasts both a beautiful soundtrack and sound effects.
Playability: The controls might take a bit to adjust to, but once you understand them, they fit perfectly. In the hands of a capable runner such as Faith, all of the crazy moves and locomotion abilities you possess are pulled off excellently every time, and the satisfaction feels great to witness them.
Entertainment: There’s still nothing to compare it to, after all these years, so there can only truly be one as Connor MacLeod would say. You’ve got to see to believe. Despite its flaws, of which there are a few, the game is pure design and aesthetic nirvana.
Replay Value: Moderately High.
Overall Score: 8.75