Regular readers of the site will know that I have been ranting about Mirrors Edge ever since it was first announced all those months ago – and now I have finally played it.
Unfortunately my experience is not entirely positive. The parkour and free running elements of the game excite me as much as I had hoped they would… But there’s a negative side as well.
Dice mentioned in a number of interviews that they wanted to “make a game where it’s fun to throw away the gun”. So why on earth did they make so much of the game revolve around unavoidable combat?
Hand to hand combat from a first person perspective is just a pain, especially when the person you are fighting has a gun, and multiple friends with guns. It’s even more annoying when there are multiple, almost unbeatable parkour ninjas tracking you down. Ninjas who wear body armour and who are just as good at running and jumping as you are.
Why Dice? Why?
On the positive side the running and jumping elements were great fun. Things never quite reached the smooth flowing style that Assassins Creed achieved so effortlessly – but I suspect that’s my fault more than the games and they do improve with practice.
I also liked the story, the lead character (a realistically portrayed female) and the way the story was integrated into the flow of the game work very well. The cutscenes between levels are done in an anime style and tie in nicely to the comic books.
The levels are not quite as open as Dice claimed. Generally there is one route from a to b and you always have to go to the same places. Sometimes there may be a few slightly different obstacles you can cross to get where you’re going – but the destination is always the same and the pathway isn’t wide enough to encourage exploration.
Another positive is the visuals. The levels are designed with quite strong simple colour schemes and this makes Mirrors Edge a very distinctive looking game. Unfortunately it also tends to mean that levels can look the same from one to the next but in general it works really well. The character design is also something I applaud. The enemies are a rather generic but they move well and function appropriately, however Faith (the lead character) has a realistic feel rarely found in video games.
The level design itself is quite varied. Each level has a slightly different location which gives the level designers something different to play with. My favorite levels are those that do things a bit differently – the underground train, for example, is particularly exhilarating.
Aside from the combat – my biggest gripe with the the game is the way you almost HAVE to die, repeatedly, to get anywhere. I’m sure there will be people who say you don’t but – I did find myself experimenting with my mortality to work out how to proceed – a gameplay mechanic I thought we were long past.
Mirrors Edge is a mixed bag. The freedom is hugely enjoyable but the combat gets in the way. I think it would have been better if stealth and athletics could have been used to get past the enemy – let me throw away the gun entirely! I still look forward to the sequel but I will be approaching it with a little more caution next time.