Review by Shoy
DICE takes a risk with first person platforming, and it does not disappoint.
In a genre that's been mostly unchanged since Super Mario 64, here comes DICE with their attempt to change things up and to show that the first person view can be used for more than shooting things ad nauseam or for the occasional RPG. Mirror's Edge has arrived and tries to take a fresh approach at the formula.
You play as Faith, a woman adept at parkour. You use her abilities to stylishly make your way from rooftop to rooftop for whatever the current objective may be. Getting right into it, the idea of platforming in the first person might put some people off, especially those suffering from PTSD caused by the N64 game Turok's platforming sections. Thankfully, Faith is far better suited for the environments she faces.
The controls are very simple, as you'll only be using two buttons for the most part. L1 makes her jump, vault, wallrun, climb, and grab depending on the context, while L2 will allow her to slide, safely land, and coil while jumping. The simplicity of the game's primary controls really helps when trying to pull off the more complicated maneuvers, like running up a wall, jumping off it, grabbing onto a bar, jumping off that, and landing safely from high fall. You'll often come across moments where you'll have to take blind leaps, or you'll see a far gap and think to yourself "Holy..." and you'll likely fall to your death, but granted there once you get it down nothing is more satisfying than when you actually pull it off.
The game predominantly features you being shot at, and occasionally makes you fight a few guys before you can progress. Thankfully, the hand-to-hand combat is very good if you can get used to it, but the disarming of enemies can sometimes be so frustrating that you might as well not bother. Getting hit twice by a melee attack will take Faith down, and if you do manage to disarm them, the gun controls are pretty bad that you're better off using your own melee anyway. Thankfully there are very few places in the game where you actually have to fight.
One of the best aspects of the game is how you feel like you're actually controlling a person. Most other first person games tend to fail in this regard by simply making you a floating pair of hands, while in Mirror's Edge, you really get a feel for being in a body. The camera is placed right at eye level, you get a view of your body while looking down, and a nice touch is how that body is generally aware of the environment. For example, when going near a wall, Faith will place her hands up against it. The sense of immersion is completed in this aspect with the sound design. Faith will pant and breathe heavily when running on long stretches, she grunts and groans when botching a landing or taking hits, you hear the wind blowing past you as you're running at breakneck speeds, it really completes the illusion unlike any first person game before it.
While the story mode can be beaten at roughly six hours on your first playthrough, the story of the game itself isn't special at all. The game uses animation for its cutscenes akin to the E-Surance commercials you see on television, and in some ways they're better, and in some ways, they manage to be worse. It's odd how in the past we've used pre-rendered or animated cutscenes in games because the visuals of the games themselves were rough and inadequate for it, but Mirror's Edge seems to have taken the opposite approach, a beautiful game that uses very amateurish looking animation between each chapter.
However, while your first runthrough of the game can be quickly plowed through, it offers up two different modes: Time Trial and Speed Run. One of them is a race against the clock to go through various checkpoints on levels as fast as possible, and another is a race against the clock to beat the story mode's chapters as quick as possible. Both modes are incredibly difficult are out there for the insane who want to learn all the minutia of the game's environments to be able to run through them as quickly as possible. Both modes also have leaderboards and the ability to race with ghosts. These features alone can extend the life of the game massively, or not at all, entirely depending on how you care for those things.
Did this attempt at first person platforming and parkour work? I would say that it most definitely did. The world is vibrant and well designed, the controls are solid, and it's even more fun on its second playthrough. For a first attempt it's exceptionally well done, but it still suffers from minor flaws that don't detract from the overall experience.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Mirror's Edge (US, 11/11/08)
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