Mirror’s Edge Review – “Gotta go fast!”

Mirror’s Edge is one of my favorite games of all time. I don’t think it’s a game without faults by any means, but the thrill of the chase and the art style, coupled with the outstanding soundtrack, make it a far more enjoyable game to me than most, and certainly one that has stuck with me and warranted replays, even when it’s a relatively linear game. In Mirror’s Edge (ME), you play as Faith, a runner who works to help subvert the totalitarian regime that rules over a dystopian city that is both incredibly beautiful but also cold and sterile. Over the course of the game, Faith is embroiled in a conspiracy to end the runners once and for all, while being driven to rescue her own sister who has seemingly been framed for a high profile assassination that she didn’t commit. While the setting is interesting enough, the story in Mirror’s Edge is nothing special. DICE, the developers, certainly go into enough detail to make you understand why things are happening and playing out the way they are, but the game ultimately feels like a piece of a jigsaw in this regard, and the idea that it was conceived as the first-part of a trilogy (only for the upcoming game to be a soft-reboot) confirm this. If you wanted to go into a game with a story that would have you thinking about it long after you finished, then Mirror’s Edge is probably not going to scratch that itch, but it excels in other areas that make it wholly worthwhile.

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For one instance, the game is beautiful. It’s not necessarily the best in a technical sense (although DICE are famed for making technically accomplished games like the Battlefield series) but the art design give it such a unique look that you can’t help but stop and look at some of the vistas presented in the game, or the striking use of color. While the city is primarily white, the use of bright and vibrant colors helps to emphasize the sterility of the city and helps the player notice how un-naturally clean it all is. The color red is also applied to certain objects to help guide the player around the game, although this can be turned off in the options menu if you want to use your intuition as you sprint and leap from rooftop to rooftop. The game uses photo-realistic textures to help give the interiors an incredible detailed and realistic look (if you look past the use of color), although the exteriors focus less on the detail in the textures and more about emphasizing the cleanliness and lifelessness of the city.

The soundtrack, made by Swedish electronic artist Solar Fields, matches the atmosphere of the city as while there are tracks for moment when Faith is embroiled in combat, it is largely full of tracks that feel suited for being played while performing the myriad of actions available while free-running on the games’ rooftops. While the soundtrack is completely electronic, it avoids sounding too “retro” or synthesized and instead manages to just fit with the game and compliment it. Both the soundtrack and the art style feel so unique compared to alot of the games at the time of release that it helps the game stand out and leave a lasting impression as they are quite unlike anything you’ve seen on heard in most video games, especially ones that tend to have overly hollywood-ized bombastic scores that don’t really have time to breathe, and thus lessen the impact of a vista like the cityscapes of Mirror’s Edge, or a moment in the music. In short, this means that while motifs in the music might be less memorable to some than the music from Halo or something similar, it helps the game feel more immersive as the art and audio come together in a fantastic mix. That said, it’s a case of apples and oranges as both are perfectly applicable in the right situation and when called for, but the uniqueness of Mirror’s Edge’s approach compared to other high profile releases of the time simply helps it stand out from the crowd.

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The game play is another area where Mirror’s Edge excels, although it falls short in some areas. You can perform a myriad of actions, both dynamic and contextual, as you sprint across rooftops, perform death-defying leaps over seemingly never-ending drops and the game remains thrilling. On both console and PC the game controls quite well and after the introductory training area, it becomes very intuitive and soon becomes second-nature and you rarely find yourself thinking “What button does what?” while running away from the police or rogue runners. You can vault over an obstacle or slide underneath it to keep Faith’s momentum and speed going, wall-run over a short gap before curling into a ball to avoid some barbed wire only to wall-jump between a vent and scaffolding to reach your objective. All this can happen while bullets whiz past you, taking chunks out of the concrete around you or maybe hitting Faith herself. As Faith’s health is drained, the colors in the game become de-saturated to the point of going grey when she “dies”, as the only part of a HUD (Heads Up Display) you tend to have is the aiming reticule in the center of the screen, which is there to help alleviate any motion sickness people might have by giving them a constant to focus on. You can perform a combination of these actions while running if the environment allows it and you are only ever limited in your actions if you have been shot or tazered by one of the late-game enemies. On lower difficulties it is largely possible to dart through a combat situation, but on higher difficulties (and especially at the final set piece of the game) you must engage the enemies.

The enemies tend to either be baton-wielding police or private security forces armed with pistols, machine guns or shotguns. You will take a lot of damage in Mirror’s Edge so disarming or disabling the enemy becomes of the utmost importance when under fire, and while you can do this by getting within range and pressing a quick-time-event (QTE) button to grab their guns, you can also slide along the ground of leap through the air before punching and kicking them until they drop. The combat is one of Mirror’s Edge’s weakest points and while it never reaches the point of over-saturating you without unavoidable fights against a huge number of enemies, the occasions where you are forced to fight do tend to kill the pace of the game. As said though, these are few and far between and the game does a good job of making your death never  feel unfair, as you always know if you misjudged a jump or simply took one chance too many during a firefight. As said previously, you can run past most of the fights in the game and that makes the chase across rooftops and through abandoned buildings all the more interesting, such as a chance across a high-rise construction sight ending with a heat-stopping leap between two cranes on neighboring builds, or an escape from a shopping mall that sees Faith cornered in a lift before having to escape to the roof.

While the variety goes some way to helping keep Mirror’s Edge fresh for it’s 5-10 hour duration, it never loses the adrenaline rush you get, even when you fall from a building and hear the sickening bone-crunch as Faith hits the pavement far, far below. That said, I have mentioned that the game is a primarily linear affair, and this is true, although it doesn’t detract from the game. If you find yourself enthralled by the game then you will want to replay it and improve upon previous times, perhaps tackling the Time Trials that take you through the story levels and dozens of vertigo-inducing areas not seen in the main game will give you more areas to tackle and hone your skills.

All in all, while Mirror’s Edge is a borderline-criminally short game, it’s unique game play, soundtrack and outstanding art style help it stand out from the pack and is well worth a purchase for anyone who wants one of the most thrilling games they’ll play.

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