Review by CrimsonGear80

Reviewed: 12/01/08 | Updated: 12/02/08

We're living on the edge! (You can't stop the Faith from faaaaaaaalling!!)

So it seems to be the year of new franchises for EA. We already got the awesome Dead Space, so now EA and DICE (Battlefield: Bad Company) have given us Mirror’s Edge, a unique platformer that has you jumping off rooftops and such while keeping you in a first-person perspective. So we already have a unique and original (can’t believe I just typed that about an EA game) premise, but does it have enough scruples to keep it afloat, or does it fall 80 stories to a messy death?

STORY’S EDGE

Mirror’s Edge takes place in a city called…wait for it…the CITY! The city is run by a totalitarian government that predictably crushes everyone’s freedom. However, there is still people in the city clinging to freedom and fighting the government, and the only way those people can relay messages to each other is through the use of couriers called “Runners”, acrobatic individuals who run, jump, crawl, and climb the rooftops of the city in order to ensure deliveries. You play as Faith, a star runner who spends her days jumping rooftops and dodging the cops (or “blues” as the runners call them). However, one day Faith learns that her sister Kate has been framed for murder, and now Faith must traverse the entire city in an attempt to clear her sister’s name.

Yawn inducing, right? Yes, we’ve seen this type of story before, and chances are you’ll see all it’s twists and turns coming from a mile away. The ending was also a pretty big “huh, that’s it?” moment. Faith does have a spunky, likable attitude, but that can’t save the overall contrived story. Oh well, hopefully the death-defying gameplay can make up for it.

GAMEPLAY’S EDGE

Like most people know, ME isn’t your typical first-person game. Sure, you’ll be able to pick up guns and shoot dudes, but that would be missing the point, as the best parts of the game are made up of the platforming elements. Faith’s movement controls are typical, with the left stick allowing her to run forward and backwards, and the right stick controlling the camera. However, the buttons you’ll be pressing most of the time are L1 and L2, as these control Faiths acrobatic maneuvers. L1 is the “up” button, which allows Faith to jump, climb up or over obstacles, and wallrun just like in Prince Of Persia. L2 is the “down” button, and allows Faith to crawl, crouch, slide, and do a roll to soften landings from high places. Finally, the R1 button allows Faith to do a very useful 180 degree turn. Combinations of these buttons will allow Faith to pull off some more tricky maneuvers that take some time to master, but are ultimately worth it to do so. In terms of the platforming, the parts where you’re vaulting across the city rooftops make ME shine. Faith will be climbing poles, swinging, jumping off ramps and cranes to reach other rooftops, and truth be told it’s pretty exhilarating. ME has a system called “Runner’s Vision” that shows Faith the way to go by coloring various thing in the environment red. Basically, looking for the color red will show you the way to go in ME. However, rooftops include so many things that Faith can interact with that it’s usually a good (and more fun) idea to find your own way to your destinations (holding the circle button with cause Faith to look in the direction she has to go). If you want, Runner’s Vision can also be turned off in the main menu. Once again, if you play Mirror’s Edge for any reason, make it for it’s awesome rooftop acrobatics.

However, don’t make it for it’s “inside” acrobatics. In her quest to clear her sister, Faith will also be jumping her way through buildings, wherehouses, boats, subways, and other constricting and linear areas that just aren’t as fun as running along rooftops. These areas aren’t like the open-sprawling areas in a Prince Of Persia game that are fun and challenging to navigate, these are fairly small and uninteresting messes of corridors and rooms that can test people's patience. There was a part in the game where you're in the lobby of a building and you need to climb to the second floor to escape a hail of police gunfire. Now pretty much every window and piece of glass you come across in the game up to this point is unbreakable…except for the piece of glass you have to jump through to get to the second floor of this lobby. Okay…did DICE actually think that I would assume the glass would break when every other piece of glass in the game up to that point didn’t? Yeah…I didn’t…and I was killed multiple times trying to find what I thought was the right way to go. The tedious parts don’t stop there, as I found myself falling to my death because of dumb design choices. One of the dumbest: Faith not grabbing a ledge because I’m not looking “up” enough. I could be right on the same level as the ledge where it could have easily been grabbed, but if Faith isn’t looking right at it she will not grab it. I know that sounds kind of dumb, but once you experience it multiple times it gets very frustrating. On top of that, a lot of the indoor sequences are just plain boring and unexciting, then again after the rooftop sections it’s kind of hard not to find them unexciting.

Finally, we come to the game’s combat. Many times during Faith’s adventure the “blues” will catch wind of Faith and try to take her out. Faith’s best course of action against armed opponents is to “Matrix out” and just run away, but there will be times when asses must be kicked. Pressing the R2 button performs a basic three-ht combo, and combing R2 with L1 or L2 will allow faith to perform a jump kick or sliding kick, respectively. If Faith can get close enough to her opponent or if she can sneak up on them, pressing the triangle button will cause her to disarm them. If your trying to disarm an opponent head on, then you have to wait for them to melee attack you with their weapon, at which point the weapon will turn red which is your cue to press triangle and start a pretty cool disarming animation. You can give yourself some help by pressing square to initiate Reaction Time, which slows down time to make timing your disarms more easy. Disarming opponents is also the only way to pick up weapons of your own to use, so mastering this would be a smart thing to do (even though the game can be beat without shooting anyone, which will also net you a trophy if you accomplish that). The problem with combat is, the collision detection is sometimes way off. There will be times when your right in front of your enemy and you go to smack him, and for some reason it doesn’t register and you end up getting shot in the face. The same can be said for disarms, as even in reaction time with seemingly perfect button press timing enemies still ended up smacking me in the face. Faith also sells these melee strikes long enough for the enemy to strike again and kill her. When you go up against platoons of enemies at certain points in this game, it’s hard not to overlook these flaws.

GRAPHIC’S EDGE

Some good, some bad. The rooftops of the city are well designed and give off a good draw distance. Surfaces of walls, pipes, and the like can give off some excellent detail, like nudges and scratches that have been made in them. Character models are pretty good, and except for a few small drops the framerate held at a solid 30fps. I also liked some of the small details, like seeing Faith’s hands and legs flail into view when making jumps and such, and seeing citizens of the city walking on the streets as you perform your acrobatics.

The bad: the game does have some screen tearing, which doesn’t really bother me much in FPS games but it could bother some people. The worst offender here though is the animated cut-scenes that play in-between the game’s chapters, which are done in the same style of those E-surance commercials on TV. Basically, they’re poorly animated and not very slick. One of the cut-scenes is basically just Faith running for 2 minutes. Ouch. Thankfully, in-game cut-scenes are done through Faith’s perspective with the in-game engine, and they fare much better. The game could have also used a little bit more aliasing in certain areas.

SOUND’S EDGE

Thankfully, not much to complain about here. Sound effects, especially stuff like the wind when your jumping around, are all pretty impressive. Voice acting is pretty decent. The music, which is made up of moody electronic pieces and some up-tempo stuff when engaged in battle, is actually pretty damn phenomenal, especially the game’s theme song. Not the strongest surround mix out there for a game, but it gets the job done.

NOT QUITE AT THE EDGE OF GREATNESS

The game’s main quest is fairly short, and should take around 6-8 hours to complete. Afterwards, a harder difficulty opens up for you to tackle. Speed-runs of each chapter also open up, giving you a chance to beat top times and earn extra trophies. The game also features a time trial mode, where you set a time on a chapter and send your time in to EA’s servers to create a ghost of your run. Others can then download your ghost and race against it. An online leaderboard will also keep track of all the times. If your into this kind of stuff, there is definitely a lot to keep you busy.

Mirror’s Edge is definitely a breath of fresh air at this point in time. Acrobating across rooftops in a first-person view is very fun, but on the flip side some design and tech issues keep it from becoming truly great. I applaud EA and DICE for creating something truly unique, and a hope a sequel is made to fix some of the issues that plagued this one. In the meantime, if you enjoyed the demo, then the game is at least worth a rental. If you didn’t care for Mirror’s Edge in the first place, then continue not to.

KEWL
+Platforming controls are easy and work well
+Rooftop acrobatics are pretty exhilarating
+Some of the stages are nicely designed
+Disarm animations are pretty cool
+Excellent music; Decent sound effects and voice acting
+The game is a pretty original idea
+Trophies, speed runs, and time trials add some replay value

LAME
-Some stupid design choices and boring segments
-Combat is hit-or-miss with shoddy collision detection
-Contrived story
-Animated cut-scenes are yuck!
-Some graphical annoyances
-Definitely not a game for everyone.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Mirror's Edge (US, 11/11/08)

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