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Mirror's Edge
Jonathan Alisandyr
is a free(lance) runner.  Get it?  No, probably not.

In a world where Princess Zelda has become the village bicycle and the Final Fantasies have reached the double digits, we as gamers can sometimes feel starved for innovation. Enter Mirror's Edge, by developers Digital Illusions. Maybe not the obvious choice for innovation, as they are mostly known for about thirty iterations of the Battlefield series, but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Well, at least until it's tried to kiss me a couple of times.

Mirror’s Edge starts off strong. It's a game set in a dystopian future where society's every move is watched by an overbearing government, and rebellious factions use human "runners" to physically carry sensitive material across the city - mostly via 'Matrix'-inspired rooftop leaping techniques. You play as Faith, one of these runners. From the start, Mirror's Edge establishes itself as being on the cutting edge of visual design. The sterile city and extroverted characters look beautiful. While the colour scheme is very limited, it aids the gameplay, as less obvious ledges and things you can climb on are coloured bright red (called "runner's vision"), helping to keep you focused on the platforming.

Right, because I forgot to mention that this is a platformer. A first-person platformer, no less.

Indeed, this is where Mirror's Edge boasts true innovation. The first-person perspective works better than it has any right to, and creates instant immersion. There's nothing quite like jumping from the roof of a skyscraper to a tiny ledge, thinking you've missed, only to see your arm dart up and grab hold at the last minute. Once you get used to the control scheme you'll be leaping and soaring with a minimum of fuss, considering you'll be controlling, from a first-person perspective, a character who can literally run up a wall, turn around mid-run, and launch off for a distant ledge.

"...grab hold at the last minute..."

For those of you who played the demo, you know everything works beautifully for the first level. Here you'll be treated to a breathtaking run across the rooftops while being pursued by trigger happy cops. Every moment is a bang, every jump is a leap of faith (no pun intended), and the mission ends with classic action grace. Mirror’s Edge raises the bar high in this first stage, but then struggles for the rest of the game to jump over it with the same kind of style.

First of all, the story. After the first mission, the insurgents are never mentioned again. Instead, starting with mission two, you're thrust into a clichéd story of conspiracy involving the framing of your sister. This might be all very exciting for Faith, but you as the player are never given enough background to feel emotionally invested. Instead, the story serves as a constant barrier between the player and Faith, removing that sense of immersion it worked so hard to achieve.

In gameplay, as well, Mirror's Edge throws some strange barriers in your way. Just as you'll be getting orgasmic from soaring over rooftops and performing death-defying stunts a million feet above street level, you'll be thrust inside a building and have to spend the rest of the level running down stifling corridors and stairwells, broken up by the occasional vent crawl or elevator ride. In a game where the draw is soaring through the open air, there seems to be little to gain from clipping the player's wings, yet the developers do it often.

"...clips the player's wings..."

Good platformers offer a mixture of puzzles and action, requiring the player to plot a careful course through the stage and then execute that plan with precision timing. Mirror's Edge approaches both these elements with a fresh view, but then trips over itself in the execution and plummets to its death. While a good platformer would give a player a clear destination but no clear path, Mirror's Edge gives the player clear paths with no destination. You never really know where you're going, so the game becomes more one of trial and error, where you run up walls and try out different moves until you end up somewhere new. The puzzle element is lost, as no actual logic is involved. Action also takes a hit, because you'll spend a lot of time retrying things in a single room, rather than progressing at the high speeds the game thrives on.

Because of its design flaws, Mirror's Edge relies on its unique approach to keep gamers interested. The unlocked speed runs add some decent replay value, but how long it stays fresh for you will really depend on how taken you are with the perspective. For me, Mirror's Edge was a constant promise that something mindblowing was right around the corner - but I could never seem to run fast enough to catch it.

DEVELOPER: Digital Illusions CE
PUBLISHER: Electronic Arts
FORMAT: PS3 (reviewed) / XBox360 / PC



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