Mirror’s Edge seems to be one of those games that I spent so much time umming and ahhing over whether to buy I’m surprised my bones hadn’t turned to dust. You’d hear someone talking it up like a new religion or fad diet and then you’d get another person, almost always two metres away from you who would should quite loudly that it was about as enjoyable as listening to Rebecca Black’s Friday on repeat for ten hours. So fairly mixed reviews then.
But what with the Steam sale that suddenly appeared at the end of last year (cue Pokémon music), and with Mirror’s Edge going for just under three quid, I thought what the hell, it was a bargain. And so, once again, we must delve into the pitch black abyss that is the obligatory overview.
Mirror’s Edge is set in a dystopian future where life in comfortable and crime is virtually non-existent, however that is at the expense of freedom where a totalitarian regime monitors communication, controls the media and a sham democracy. In this society however, there are the runners who acts a couriers delivering messages away from the eyes of the state.
In this world, Faith Connors is one of these runners finds out that her sister Kate, a cop whom the runners describe as “the Blues”, is set up for the murder of mayoral candidate Robert Pope. Finding the name “Icarus” in Pope’s dead hand, Faith must find out why Pope was murdered and clear Kate’s name, leading to the full force of totalitarianism bearing down on one runner.
What I must give Mirror’s Edge credit for is the game beautiful simplicity. The whole world seems to set in bright primary colours that make everything seem clean and appealing to the eye. The world is also so open that, although you need to get from a to b, the game lets you figure out your own particular root, although this does mostly boil down to get to a to b in the most sensible way you can see.
Also the cut scenes are quite striking as, while the game proper is in a bright 3D style, the cut scenes are all in 2D hand drawn, comic book style which, while a good way to separate in-game action from the cut scenes, may irk some people due to stark contrast of the change. However, and this may just a personal preference, but I felt the animated sequences provided a beautiful breather.
Also, just to put this out there, I was quite satisfied that the game had a female lead. In an age where female gaming characters has been quite a focus and we are finally getting brilliant female game characters (see Ellie from The Last of Us and Elizabeth from Bioshock: Infinite), having Faith as a playable character is brilliant as Mirror’s Edge doesn’t side-track her with a love story or some such nonsense, but rather has in in the fray of this dystopian world trying to help her last family member. It just works.
Mirror’s Edge premise of a dystopian future is also very intriguing, asking us how much personal freedom we are willing to surrender in order to live comfortable lives. While it is clear we are on the side of freedom, we are always playing above the heads of those who are living in this city, consciously aware of their repression but living within it for easiness’ sake. It’s quite a good concept and makes for enjoyable minor philosophising while playing, which is probably why I died as much as I did… I hope.
The fast-paced free-flowing style of gameplay was also a brilliant departure from the usual shooters, football games and racing games that EA seems to churn out with all the thought and imagination of a Soviet prison worker. While Mirror’s Edge is predicated on quite linear gameplay, you never really get that feeling and, when being chased by the Blues you up the ante with better trained units later in the game, you really feel that every move you make has to be spot on.
Mirror’s Edge is also remarkable unforgiving as the slightest mistake can have you tumbling to your certain demise off a building, which the game lets you experience with the disorientation, noise ringing in your ears and the eventual splat of your body on the pristine road below you. Not only that, but two hits, be they knock by a gun or full on gunshot, and your character is done for.
While this can be an irritant as you can be left trying to do a particular section for the forty-sixth time after being killed by the Blues yet again, but the game reloads really quickly so you can get back in the action straight away and try again so you always feel like “alright, let’s try it this way”.
However, what with all this praise, Mirror’s Edge is not the perfect game by any stretch of the imagination. For one the plot is about as thin as a human hair cut in half at least three times. While the games’ writer Rhianna Pratchett won a few awards for this game, and was an additional writer for the incredibly awesome Bioshock: Infinite, the plot of Mirror’s Edge can be guessed hours before the reveals happen.
I’ll try not to spoil but during the game there is a mysterious assassin and, while some people may be able to guess by the time you get close to the assassin, I, and perhaps many others, guessed it to be that person upon first witnessing the assassin. Having it be that obvious, as well as much of the plot itself, takes you out of the game which is a bit upsetting.
In addition, while being chased by enemies lend to the feel of fast-paced action, when it comes to actually fighting it falls a bit flat. In a nutshell, here’s you offensive capability. Left punch. Right punch. Double punch. That’s it. I mean, you can do a flying kick, but the chances of you actually landing this are slim and usually your opponent then gets a free hit at you for being so audacious.
The game really relies on you trying to trying to counter people’s attacks, usually meaning you knock them out in one go and take their weapon. However, and this might just be me, but it can be so difficult to do that it leads you to many, many deaths. Also, having a gun slows you down for some reason I cannot fathom. I know this is done so that you focus more on the running aspect of it all but these runners are physically fit, having to parkour on building tops, run great distances and pull themselves up from deadly chasms. So why does a gun debilitate you so much?
While I’m not going to go in depth about the ending, all I will say is that it leaves you underwhelmed. The guy who you thought could be the bad guy is the bad guy, the bad guy is finished off in one, albeit stylish, move and the credits role. While the ending isn’t exactly bad in of itself, it does leave you thinking; “That’s it? Well OK, but I expected a bit more”.
All in all though, while Mirror’s Edge has its undeniable flaws, as a game to mess about with and to outrun the bad guys and their bullets, it’s a blast. The parkour, the visual brilliance, the tension all adds up to something that you can invest a few hours into and still feel satisfied, even if not everything about it is satisfying. But then again, they are getting a sequel so let’s see if they can work out the main bug of getting a proper story and then they can work on the rest.
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