Hey it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these but what the hell not like anyone reads them anyway. So I played through Mirrors Edge the 2008 DICE developed first person parkour game. The game arrived to mix reviews, some enjoyed the opened environments and unique gameplay, while others raged at its trial and error gameplay as well as short game length. Though scoring an 81% on Metacritic game sales weren’t what EA predicated and the games future installments has been spoken about year in and year out with no sign of Mirror’s Edge 2 on the way. I picked it up from a local blockbuster that was going out of business for 3 dollars.
The entire premise of the game follows Faith she’s a runner, a person who scales buildings and act as an urban mountain climber. Faith is set in a not too distant future city where the 1984 dystopian Society is in full effect. Information is controlled by the government and the runners who are hunted by authorities are the only ones that can offer freedom to the city. Or at least that’s what the game asks you to believe. I myself couldn’t find how the regular day people lived in the city and for all I knew they were as happy as a pig in shit. The game does a poor job fleshing out the world since you go on maybe one delivery job till you’re pulled into a murder investigation (involving your sister who’s a cop, INTRIGUE) and a city wide cover up that you must unravel.
I think the game could have really benefited from you actually going on these information delivery missions and get a feeling for why this world is so need of runners to begin with. The game visuals still hold up for a 08 release, the city on the outset is nothing but pristine white aside surfaces and objects that are climbable that are bright red. Once you venture inside buildings your eyes are bombarded by hallways and offices of primary colors like bright oranges and blues. The use of color makes the game feel very distinct and the contrast between any of primaries and the alabaster white left me visually sated.
But all this mean very little when you’re never invested into the world. In-between missions your shown cut scenes that have the art style of poorly drawn Saturday morning cartoon. The game could have done with staying in the first person perspective throughout all cut scenes and it might have lent a better sense of flow instead of taking you out of the action.
Flow for me seemed to be the biggest problem with Mirror’s Edge, the game charges you with running, jumping and sliding in a stream of precise movements. The unfortunate part is its so god damn easy to tap button a quarter of second to late and go falling to your death. The margin for error is so small, that a little grace for failure could have gone a long way. On top of the annoying trial and error, check pointing is also sparsely uses correctly.
Imagine that you’re jumping to and fro, sliding under pipes and barely making it to the end of run when you accidently tap the button that makes you release your hold on a ledge. You plummet at incredible speeds, the sound of the wind reaching screeching gets your blood pumping. Then the screen goes black. You’re then loaded back before the entire run of acrobatic movements. This kills the flow, and for a game about momentum you sure do run into a lot of hard stops along the way.
You’re also given a limited combat system when taking on cops, security guards and swat. Most of the time you can just run passed but them but some are put directly in your line. You can counter anyone of their strikes once you get close enough and you’re given the option to use the enemy’s weapon or simply dismiss it. I really liked this idea but near the end of the game it seemed like the game was forcing you into more scenarios where gunning was the obvious way out. Something like this may have just been implemented to suffice some quota for guns in games to make sure they can advertise it on the back of the box. The cool thing about the guns is there is no counter to know how many bullets you have left and once a magazine is spent all you can do is discard the gun. The game actually has no HUD (heads up display) aside from a white dot in the middle of the screen, the aesthetic choice added to the already visual appeal of Mirrors edge.
All this being said future interactions and fine tuning could have made this much more then what it became. I’m not sure if it’s just that a game where a female lead has a normal body and doesn’t (always) require gunplay just can’t break into the mainstream or perhaps the games inherently steep learning curve had something to do with it.