Honestly, I have only ever experienced Parkour by gawping at acrobatic professionals flinging themselves through their local town/city on online videos. Otherwise known as Free-running, this near art form is used by only a limited number of talented individuals as a mode of extreme traversal. I longed to be able to accomplish such feats, however, my hobby of sitting on a chair gaming rather than running became my downfall. This intervention mean't Mirror's Edge became one of my most anticipated games of recent years. Trailers showcased first person platforming with a hands on combat twist which had my mouth watering more than a bacon butty ever could.
A once bustling, free city has been transformed by a totalitarian government. Citizens have become prisoners in their own community. Authority strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life whenever feasible. This is where you come in. Playing as appropriately named Faith, you will carry unregulated messages above the over controlling reach of authority. This brilliantly rebellious group are known as Runners. Rooftops become pathways as you majestically flow through beautifully free, yet brutally dangerous environments. But Faith's life threatening job is about to become a whole lot more perilous. Police Helicopters now patrol through the elevated streets, and Blues are becoming a lot more trigger-happy. Faith must find out why this is whilst also trying to confront demons of her own.
When I said Parkour, I didn't mean this level of extreme.
Mirror's Edge is one of the most unique games you will ever have the fortune to play. Slick, simple controls take full advantage of the shoulder buttons allowing for smooth transitions between Faith's selection of moves. This makes stringing leaps, rolls, slides, and even the odd punch very simple. Little things are more satisfying than traversing several rooftops in a flowing, momentum driven, adrenaline rush. However, progress can be halted by simple mistakes. Mirror's edge is rarely forgiving, requiring players to go through a trail and error process until they find the perfect route with excellently timed, precise jumps. Some may relish in challenging platforming and ultimate precision, however, some may be turned off by its likeliness to frustrate. I took a leap and landed slap bang in the middle of the two.
Momentum is a big mechanic in Mirror's Edge. The further you travel without interruption, the faster you run. The two go side by side in positive correlation. Climbing, landing awkwardly, or running into a wall (I did this often) slows Faith down. Some causing her to stop completely. This may sound like a test of patience on the surface, but in practice its quite thrilling. Faith's free-running would simply not be the same if she traveled at a constant speed. Part of the fun is trying to keep motion quick and smooth whilst trying to reach your destination. Early on you'll plod across rooftops wondering why your ability doesn't match that of the seemingly perfect trailer sequences. But within a few hours vaulting eight feet into the air and proceeding to roll whilst maintaining momentum couldn't seem more natural.
Runner vision makes recommended routes glow bright red.
Faith is more than competent when it comes to bounding across skyscrapers, it's a shame then that her acrobatic ability doesn't translate to combat in any shape or form. Engaging an opponent is like eating stake with a butter knife, it's completely possible, although, it doesn't work like it should. Punches occasionally fail to register, disarming a gun waving officer is surprisingly difficult, and wielding a weapon without the ability to effectively aim feels naive. Enemy variety barely exists. Only different fire-arms and aesthetic changes allow players to distinguish Officers from one another. Plot wise, I'm not sure how brawling with Police could be avoided, but I believe this particular fighting mechanic has a long way to go before it becomes a fully fledged stake knife.
Mirror's Edge certainly has a unique look to it, fully reflecting the totalitarian control over the city. Buildings look sharp, and block, vibrant colours make the journey pleasant. Interior designers have even been at it, although, bright white plants may be taking the clean, brisk visuals slightly too far. Greater detail could have been added, very rarely players will look down and witness bustling city streets, but take a step back and the graphics are bound to impress.
Gun-play and hand to hand combat are probably my least favorite part of Mirror's Edge.
Mirror's Edge story is effectively a Murder Mystery. Robert Pope - a mayor candidate - was shot in the early events of the game. Faith runs to the crime scene only to discover that her sister Kate has been framed for Popes murder, in her angst she recovers a piece of evidence, a page curiously titled Icarus. Faith takes it into her own red gloved hands to find out exactly what project Icarus is and why Pope was killed. The plot takes some much needed twists and turns and ends up flying quite high, thankfully not high enough to crash and burn, much like Icarus himself.
It's true that if desired Mirror's Edge can be completed in one slightly exaggerated play session, however, different modes that play more towards the games strengths will keep players coming back for more, and more, and more. Speedruns of previous chapters will have players needing to beat an allotted time to become successful, while Time Trails require players to set the best score possible, earning them a well deserved place in the online leaderboards. Momentum must be maintained effectively to achieve highly, and the best route must be found to shred seconds away from your time. It's exhilarating when you finally get that perfect run. Muscle memory to access the retry button was impeccable by the time I was done with a level though.
Unlockable Time Trails take creative liberties, and the abstract setting is pretty cool.
A platformer at heart, Mirror's Edge does its job quite well. It's bizarre then that Faith uses so many elevators. This antithesis of the games genre proves to be one of the most frustrating aspects in the game, and for good reason. Used as disguised loading screens players will be subjected to these bright white tombs for upwards of 10 seconds at a time. Occurring in nearly every chapter these rides become tedious, unless you are suffering from a case of ''Avain Flu'' or are planning on visiting the ''New Eden Mall'', just a couple of examples of the lift's advertising board.
Mirror's Edge is a fantastically unique experience. Whether your leaping across cavernous gaps, or are traversing the inner workings of a huge atrium. The first person view truly makes this game deeply endearing. I commend the games efforts to stand out from the crowd, be something different and challenge the huge releases of 2008. Platforming, when done right is an absolute pleasure, and conquering what appears to be an impossible climb is beautifully satisfying. Mirror's Edge, unfortunately, is not without is problems. Frustration became a recurring feeling at some points in the campaign, and combat is brutally weak for such a strong concept. Building upon what they've already established, Dice could take a leap of Faith and add another installment into the series which could be potentially brilliant. But for now this Mirror could do with a good polish.
Release Date: 12th November 2008
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: Playstation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox360, PC