Review by thedawgXD

Reviewed: 12/02/08 | Updated: 12/04/08

An interesting try at a new and developing genre

Mirror's Edge, an exciting new plat-former from DICE hits the stage, offering an interesting mix of genre's and a decent premise. So, of course, after having an orgy over the demo, I had to get myself the game a day after it comes out.

Summary: The game is great, but sixty bucks for a game that offers hit-and-miss replay value, and not much at that, is a bad bargain. Rent or wait for the price to drop.

End result - 7/10 - Good, a few problems, but worth the time to play
Replay Value - Minimal and hit-or-miss
Verdict - Rent or buy second-hand

Mirror's Edge offers a mix of plat-former, shooter, and parkour a la Prince of Persia, and, while decent, never truly excels in any of those specific genre's, almost creating it's own genre in a sense. The platforming and racing is interesting at first but quickly and easily loses the awe-factor; the shooting is an interesting diversion from regular running around yet leaves much to desire, and the parkour is fun from a first person perspective yet prone to miss-jumps and controller smashing. While this game is quite fun, it is not without its pitfalls (no pun intended) and annoying problems.

The plot-line is simple; Faith (you) is an illegal messenger in a dystopic, futuristic world where all information is controlled by the government and the only way to transport goods or data is physically, through said messengers called Runners. By using parkour-style jumps, flips, wall-running, vaulting, and other acrobatic maneuvers you scale rooftops and buildings in order to reach your destinations, and try to do so in the fastest way possible. Fortunately, this game isn't just a glorified deliver-the-package game, as Faith, the protagonist, runs through a variety of settings from the typical rooftop to a foray on the ground, from an underground subway to a sewer system, from a manufacturing plant to a high security office building, all to try and figure out who set up her sister as the murderer of a high-profile mayoral candidate. Unfortunately, while action packed, the game is incredibly short, beatable on medium in a day or two, and in future speed-runs the entire game can be finished in less than an hour and a half. Not only that, the storyline is weak in many areas, including cheesy dialogue and pathetic character development. Motivation for characters and back-story is touched upon very little in this game, and would have not only increased the length of the game but made it much more enjoyable as well.

Graphics are interesting, yet forgettable. While the overall design is unique and well-made outdoors, the individual designs of the rooftops you scale once you get a bit closer is a bit lacking. The interior is the opposite; details are present yet the overall design is iffy. The character animation was developed using motion capture, though, and really and truly reflects the motions of real life. However, the details of characters are pretty bad, noticeable especially during closeups and cut-scenes inside missions. Cut-scenes outside missions are in an interesting and unique form of 2D, reminiscent of E-surance commercials or the animated segment of Kill Bill vol 1.

Sound Effects are especially well-done, and make up for the lack of decent music. While each level has it's own track, most are ambient and barely noticeable. Only combat music is remotely interesting, yet the tracks are faster variations of the regular music with the same tunes as every other combat track. In short, everything sounds the same. Fortunately, the sound effects make up for this fact, with every possible sound you would expect (and then some), from breathing noises, footsteps, gunshots, shattering glass, and more, all rendered crystal-clear. All the sound effects positively contribute to the sense of immersion developed in the game.

The game-play itself is great; at first. The idea behind the controlling scheme is simple; the most important four commands are mapped to the four trigger buttons. Jumping, vaulting, wall-running and up-oriented commands are all mapped to the L1 button, and coiling, rolling, sliding, and down-oriented commands are all used with the L2 button. The quick-turn command is mapped to the R1 button, a useful technique in a variety of advanced moves like jumping off walls, and R2 is the combat button, from simple punches to jump and slide kicks (when use with one of the L buttons) or shooting a gun. The controls are perhaps one of the greatest assets to Mirror's Edge, providing a simple, effective, and undoubtedly unorthodox scheme that gamers will love.

Platforming in first person perspective has many advantages, but also a few downsides. DICE did a great job on this one in comparison to their usual Battlefield games; the immersion of first person perspective in jumping and running around was definitely a great experience. The game really feels like YOU are the person doing the flips, jumps, running, and climbing around; a lot of work was put into the first person perspective. What I really dislike about shooters is the feeling of detachment; a prime example is when you look down and you can't see your feet, or the movement makes you feel like a "robot on tank treads". Mirror's Edge makes a noticeable effort in removing this detached feeling and creating that immersion; Faith's hands and feet regularly pop-up in front of your vision as you run hard, climb a ledge, jump, vault, or grab a pole, and the camera shakes around quite a bit, keeping in tune with how a head would move. When you roll, the camera actually rolls; when you jump kick, it turns sideways a la exaggerated martial arts movies. Not only that, disarming opponents with the triangle buttons looks really good as well. Unfortunately, this first person perspective makes it quite difficult to judge distances or time jumps correctly until you have played the game quite a bit, and leads to a few annoying periods where you fall to the ground twenty stories below you, twenty times in a row.

The combat, while an interesting diversion, leaves much to be desired, and should have been fleshed out quite a bit more, as it recurs quite often. R2 controls your basic attacks while unarmed, and jumping or sliding and then hitting R2 provides a more powerful attack that stuns foes and send them reeling. Triangle is the disarm button, and can only be used while adjacent to an enemy, where the user waits until the opponents weapon flashes red before hitting the triangle button to disarm them. Hitting the triangle button after sneaking up to an enemy or spinning them around gives you a free disarm without having to time the press. Unfortunately, that's it; a punch combo, jump kick, slide kick, disarm, and a few more hidden moves. Disarm becomes a lot less useful later on as the window of opportunity to do so is increasingly smaller as enemies become tougher. Regular punches also suck because if you try to three-hit combo with them more than once the enemy blocks it, knocks you on your rear and deals some heavy damage. Fortunately the games comes equipped with a "bullet-time" button that can be used every once in a while and recharges as you run, allowing you to have an easy time in disarms or basic combat.

The choice in combat boils down to either disarming enemies, a more difficult to pull off and much riskier move (missing it is almost always death), or taking them out manually by doing one or two jump/slide kicks, followed by a regular three-move punch (a combo that will take out any enemy in the game), an easier yet much slower maneuver. And once you pick up an enemy weapon (through disarming or by pressing triangle over an enemy weapon), the game is pathetically easy; enemies can't shoot for anything past a few feet. As soon as you grab a weapon just stroll up to the nearest enemy, laugh at his pathetic attempts to shoot you from 5 meters away, and blow his head off. Chuck your weapon (there is no reloading), pick up his, rinse and repeat. An incredibly boring, basic, and broken combat engine that's still pathetically easy even on hard mode, combined with too much combat, really hurt this game.

The parkour-style game-play, saving the best for last, is what the appeal for this game is based upon. Simple platforming is all well and done for a shooter, but throwing in flips and acrobatic maneuvers into a platforming game is a relatively new concept. Without the focus on running and jumping, the game would just be another shooter with a bit of extra jumping, and an incredibly bad one at that. Fortunately, the premise is solid enough and the implementation is excellent, and that was what made this game enjoyable, and not a chore, to play. Parkour being the focus of the game, Faith is able to do a variety of moves to get to a certain area faster; timing the jump button correctly, for example, as you run towards a low obstacle, allows you to perform a "speed vault", which actually increases your speed as you leap over it. Faith can run up and along almost any wall, and use the quick-turn button to jump to another building after that. There are numerous instances where an experienced player can shave milliseconds off their time, a valuable asset in speed-runs and time trials; for example, hitting a ledge very low takes longer to climb up than hitting it higher up, so a runner using a wall-run technique (for the extra height) who jumps up to a ledge will do so faster than a runner who simply takes the most direct route and jumps straight at the ledge. There are alternate pathways for you to take which are often useful and faster than the most obvious or direct routes, and missing a jump may get you stuck in a route that is undesired, incredibly slow or more combat intensive rather than just killing you. All this on-the-fly thinking makes this game an interesting play-through the first time around, yet the replay value of the main campaign is minimal.

The true replay value is in speed-runs and time trials, which are hit-and-miss for most people. Either you enjoy playing segments of the game and trying to beat them as fast as possible, or you don't. Either you sit there playing a certain segment of the game as fast as possible, studying other players paths and moves, or you don't. It all depends on who you are and how much you like the game. Even this early, I have no doubt that the current leaders of the fastest possible times will be there permanently, combining luck with three days of practicing, and the chances of ousting someone who has already found the fastest possible route by trying to skim corners better than they did is slim to none. Still, hit or miss, the experience you get from completing a specific time trial or speed-run quickly and while using amazing techniques and jumps is a pretty good one.

So, with a hit or miss game like Mirror's Edge, an intriguing pioneer into a new form of plat-former, both with many strengths, yet quite a few problems as well, the best bet is to rent it if you want to try it and beat it, and rent it a bit more if you want the achievements/trophies that come with it (which really aren't that hard to get).

End result - 7/10 - Good, a few problems, but worth the time to play
Replay Value - Minimal and hit-or-miss
Verdict - Rent or buy second-hand

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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

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