Review: Mirror’s Edge

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Geeze, a week without a single post? Yes, it’s been a busy time for me lately, but thankfully I’ve been in the middle of beating two (yes, two!) games, and I just finished up one of them. Earlier this week I was working on finishing up Burnout Paradise when I decided I wanted to take quick break from it. I turned to Mirror’s Edge to fill the gap, my last remaining unbeaten game on Origin and the last game in my EA Humble Bundle.

Turns out this one was wise pick – the game is literally about five hours long on normal mode. The length might be a little short for some people, but as I’ve said many times before, I’m perfectly okay with a game that doesn’t outstay its welcome. I installed it last night and was able to breeze through most of the game in a single sitting. I decided that today I would make the final push to the end and managed to do so in about two hours (turns out the last few levels were more of a challenge than I expected).

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My roommate described Mirror’s Edge as “Sonic in first person mode”, and that’s a surprisingly accurate summation of the game. Mirror’s Edge simply wants you to keep running. You basically need to run, jump, slide, swing, climb, shimmy, and wall-run your way from one end of a level to the other. There are guards who will try to stop you along the way, but you shouldn’t have to stop and fight them. In fact, you are discouraged from doing so most of the time. Even though the levels are fairly linear, they are also very expansive, and the game gives you more than one way to traverse a particular rooftop. This means that you won’t be punished for jumping over a fence rather than sliding under some pipes – it was just a different way to get to the same place.

This non-pace breaking style of game play is surprisingly addicting and also what drew me into Mirror’s Edge. You feel almost compelled to do each level in the slickest, flashiest way possible even though that’s not even part of the game. Everything feels like it needs to be done fast, in one solid, unending motion. The parkour feels very fluid and the HUD-free first-person view makes pulling off fast stunts feel satisfying and cool.

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The parkour mechanic should feel quite familiar to fans of Assassin’s Creed. Much of the game relies on finding an edge that you can lift yourself up to, but also requires a good deal of wall-running, climbing pipes, and swinging. Finding the right combination of these moves to get you across a particular environment is what constitutes the puzzle-solving aspect of the Mirror’s Edge, and it was honestly my favorite part of the game. The closed, indoor portions of the game emphasize finding ledges and using your environment to climb to a certain position (think Portal without the portal gun) while the outdoor sections tend emphasize speed and precision jumping. Certain parts of the game consisted solely of these platforming sessions, and it’s during these slower phases of the game that you really get to appreciate the awesome electronica soundtrack and the expansive environments.

Some of the levels are indoors and emphasize finesse and puzzle-solving more than speed.

Some of the levels are indoors and emphasize finesse and puzzle-solving more than speed.

And speaking of environments, god damn is this game beautiful. Not only does it have some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen, but it also utilizes a wonderful color scheme that highlights important objects in solid, bright colors that pop against the bleach-white city backdrop. The brightly lit environments and stainless blue sky also serve to emphasize the warmth of the city. To boot, the first-person perspective really makes you feel like you are in the middle of the action. Falling off a forty story building makes your stomach drop out from underneath you, and being chased by guards across rooftops scares the willies out of you.

Despite most of its best sections taking place outdoors, Mirror's Edge has striking interior environments.

Despite most of its best sections taking place outdoors, Mirror’s Edge has striking interior environments.

Unfortunately, for a game that emphasizes running, speed, and utilizing your environment, there are an awful lot of combat segments towards the end of the game, and that’s what wound up taking me so long to beat the last couple of levels. It feels like the game just couldn’t make up its mind on whether it wanted to include combat or not. In fact, I would even conjecture that combat is the weakest part of the game, which makes it worse that there seem to be a lot of unavoidable combat  in the last couple of levels. Talk about immersion-breaking. If you want to make combat part of the game, no problem. But don’t give me a weak-ass set of karate chops to defend myself for most of the game, and then suddenly halt the game play for me to take down five machine-gun wielding soldiers.

Combat slows you down quite a bit in segments where it becomes mandatory.

Combat slows you down quite a bit in segments where it becomes mandatory.

Also, what’s with the mediocre story lines lately? Why does a short game automatically equal a hastily written plot? Apparently you are some courier working for some sort of underground militia that’s trying to fight the Big Bad CorporationsTM. After that it’s basically up to you to figure out what’s going on. However, that’s about all the explanation you will ever get. You’re never told what you’re carrying or who you are carrying it to. The government is supposedly evil, but they don’t ever even come close to saying why. Yes, it’s apparent that corruption is pretty bad and they go a little overboard on surveillance, but that’s not even close to totalitarian – that’s basically reality at this point. I can’t even tell if you’re a courier for the rebels, or if the couriers are the rebels themselves somehow.

In fact, after the first mission you don’t ever carry another package ever again. You become wrapped up in a Nefarious Government ConspiracyTM and wind up spending the entire game saving your sister, whom we meet after about 20 minutes and couldn’t care less about. Then you save your sister after killing a few villainous people and then the game ends. So then what? What happens to the couriers? Do the rebels fight back? Do the rebels even exist at all? It’s like trying to read a book with the first and last chapters cut out and the developers presuming we’ll get the gist of the story from the context clues we’re provided. Yawn.

Well, I was hoping to get another progress report out before the weekend, but it looks like one will have to suffice for now. It’s another busy weekend, this time in yet another remote place of the world without internet or games, so don’t expect anything from me until Monday. Cheers!

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One Response to Review: Mirror’s Edge

  1. Chris says:

    Mirror’s Edge also is home to so many sequence breaks it would make any speed runner cry. There are ways to make yourself run at full speed without having to accelerate as well as getting out of bounds. Overall, I thought it was a great game for the price I payed (like $5) and totally agree with you.

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