Sunday, July 12, 2009

On The Mirror's Edge

I finished Mirror's Edge earlier this week, and I sort of felt I should write something about it. I'm not really sure what I'm trying to achieve here, as I doubt I'm going to say anything that hasn't been more eloquently explained in the 82 reviews of the game that have already been written, but I'm going to give it a try anyway.

The first and most obvious thing about the game is the way it incorporates body movement into the usual FPS. It's really more of a first person platform or free running game than it is a first person shooter, and when it all works well, there's an almost tangible sense of weight and flow to movements that in other games can seem more like the character is skimming across the ground. Unfortunately, while the shift to first person perspective may have allowed greater precision in the shooter genre, it makes platforming a little awkward. On several occassions I was left wishing for a Sands of Time style rewind function after missing what seemed like an easy jump.

The other notable thing about the game is it's use of colour. I think we're so used to FPS games being brown, grey or green that the use of white as the game's base colour really makes it stand out. When other colours are used, they are bright, saturated primary colours (unlike, say, the subtle huing that Assassin's Creed used so well). Visually, the game is really striking, and coupled with the minimalist soundtrack, creates a clean, unique aesthetic unlike anything else on the market.

The final thing I found interesting was that it was possible to play the game without killing anyone. A couple of games have theoretically let you do this, Mirror's Edge is probably the only one I've played that I felt that I should actually try to do so. Faith is a minor felon, an courier of unauthorised information, who is framed for a murder (I don't consider things to be plot spoilers if they're written on the back of the game's box), she has actually not committed any serious crime. As soon as she kills a policeman, even in self-defence, that it no longer the case (unfortunately, this sentiment is not shared by the game's enemies, who shoot to kill from the very first level), so I ended up just discarding any weapon I took from an opponent, even though the game sadly appears to be balanced with the assumption that you are prepared to shoot everyone. Faith is fairly capable in hand-to-hand combat, but as the game started to throw larger numbers of better armed opponents at me, I began to dread the inevitable arrived of red-hued enemies (which cannot be evaded, they have to be subdued before you can progress) on each level.

Toward the end of the game, when I started to feel like some opponents did actually deserve to get shot, I was so close to getting the "Test of Faith" achievement for the completing the game without firing a shot at anyone that I soldiered on with it. If anyone does intend to play through the game in a non-lethal way, I'd recommend playing on easy, which lowers the difficulty of the combat sections, but leaves the running and jumping sequences, which are the best part of the game anyway, unchanged. Pointless number chasers won't lose out on any achievements, either.

There were a lot of things I liked about Mirror's Edge. Not least of these was that it is one of the products of the "new" EA, who allowed DICE to develop a relatively risky new IP rather than forcing them to churn out nothing but Battlefield games. I liked the aesthetic, and I enjoyed the free running sections of the game, both the less structured platforming and the more scripted chase sequences in the game. I did, however, get the impression that DICE had a good idea that was probably not sufficient to turn into a full sized game, but just went for it anyway. I was also expecting something more from the plot, but I suppose it was serviceable enough to justify the action. Still, in this day and age, sequels are an inevitability, and I will be quite interested to see what DICE can do with the series on its second attempt.


  1. I found this game to be the most frustrating thing on the face of the planet.
    However, when the free-running works well, it really gives you an awesome sense of achievement after stringing together a few moves. Of course, that is inevitably followed by a missed jump and the long loading screen again :/

  2. I'll admit I also found the game quite frustrating at times. I couldn't play more than one chapter in a sitting, I had to give it a break after each one. For me, it was the combat set-pieces that really made me grind my teeth; while I did fall to my death an awful lot, I found that the load times after dying were tolerable (nowhere near as long as the level loads, which seem to take forever) and the checkpointing was reasonably forgiving on the free running sections.