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Mirror's Edge Review

Genres: Platformer
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Dice
Publisher: EA
Review Date: 1-7-2009
Review Platform: XBOX360
Review Region: AU Available In Australia
Est Playtime: 9+ hours
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Review By: Bradley Beeck

Faith is a runner, a courier and messenger, someone who lives on the edge of society. She lives outside the rules that govern the city which has surrendered its freedoms in favour of order. Her twin sister Kate lives the opposite life as a cop in the city’s Police Force. Their worlds collide when Kate is framed for the murder of a leading politician.

mirrors_edge023When I picked up Mirror’s Edge off the retail shelf I was surprised to see it was published by EA. I had figured it was a Ubisoft game, that they’d simply taken the climbing aspects from Assassins Creed and made a game out of it. Mirrors Edge may be based on a ‘sport’ (parkour) but it’s a platformer first and foremost so my initial appraisal wasn’t far off. I also had another sneaking suspicious about this game, however I’ll get to that later.

mirrors_edge024As I said Mirror’s Edge is a platformer from a first person perspective. It has you jumping between skyscrapers, sliding down zip lines, running along walls, climbing over vents and bashing your way through doors, making your way towards a goal. Doing this requires a certain level of skill and you also need to figure out how to get from one location to another. Like Dead Space there’s a hint button, which points the screen in the direction of your objective. Some objects in the environment are also coloured red to indicate the primary path towards the objective. However most of the time you don’t have line of sight with the goal so there’s plenty of long periods where you’re trying to figure out how to progress. This game, being based on parkour and the spectacle, should flow. There shouldn’t be times when you get stuck for more than a few seconds let alone minutes. It’s made worse by the repeated presence of the Police who attack you with guns blazing. So you have to try and figure out where to go while being attacked and killed. It’s a really bad combination and it’s just sheer frustration sometimes. Not to mention the irritation of missing a jump and plunging to your death that comes with platformers.

mirrors_edge030While you can kill the Police Officers chasing you the combat system makes it difficult with its learning curve. There are too many options that aren’t effective and it takes too much practice to master. The best option is to either run or disarm the Police to steal their guns. Disarming results in a Quick Time Event that when executed successfully instantly kills the enemy. It’s fast but there’s a Slow Motion ability to make it easier. The weapons on offer are a pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle, and two machine guns. The lack of auto-aim means more practice is needed to aim accurately. The guns themselves sound and feel great and I wouldn’t mind playing a first person shooter with them. Another problem with the combat is that the enemies attack in numbers and won’t let you get close. If you try to get close enough to punch them they’ll just knock you back with the butt of their weapon. This leaves the sliding/jumping kick and disarming as the only viable options for combat. Although I can’t foresee either kicks working when there’s multiple enemies. The under performing combat system is also due to the controls.

mirrors_edge018The game’s controls are less intuitive than they should be and they’re context and time dependent. There’s a lot of unnecessary button presses/separation and the game offers only preset controller layouts. I wanted to swap the right shoulder and trigger buttons because I kept getting them mixed up but I couldn’t. To explain what I mean by unnecessary button presses: it’s LB to jump onto zipper lines/flying foxes and LT to get off. Why not just press LB again to get off? And it’s LT to curl your feet up for bigger jumps. Why not just press and hold LB to jump further? There’s also the question of why the shoulder buttons are used in favour of the traditional A and B buttons.

mirrors_edge009The story of Mirror’s Edge is told through animated cartoon style cutscenes and in game cutscenes. The cartoon cutscenes are a nice change while the in game cutscenes are stiff in places and I didn’t get a lot of feeling from them. The plot revolves around Faith trying to save her sister after she is setup for a murder. While taking place in a Big Brother/1984 world where information is monitored and controlled by the government. Apparently. We’re only told that this is the case and never shown. It seems far more likely that the cops after you because you just murdered (in game) the last batch they sent after you. That puts a different spin on things than taking down the evil totalitarian government and its minions. It short the story was a passable predictable affair and not up to Rhianna Prachett’s previous work, Overlord.

mirrors_edge031Graphically speaking Mirrors Edge is at times quite beautiful. It depicts a sleek gleaming cityscape under a colourful sky that continues into the far distance, something that wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. The colour dominated rooms inside the city’s buildings look stylish and modern and make a great change from the usual dull grey. The streets below these buildings didn’t get the same attention; they’re simple, plain and devoid of much life other than the odd car. Musically the game is excellent. The main theme/song – Still Alive by Lisa Miskovsky – is worth a place on your winamp playlist. I did notice a problem with one song it made a constant loud bass note during the level where you were chasing a runner (Jacknife?). I had to turn the master volume down on my 5.1 speakers - the subwoofer levels were the same they’ve always been.

At the beginning of this review I mentioned a sneaking suspicious I had and that was this game was only going to be really fun the second time around. After all, a game of this kind should be about flowing spectacularly from one area to the next and to do that you need to know where to go. It turned out to be worse than I thought as not only is the first time marred by levels that require a lot of time to figure out while being shot at, but by controls that aren’t as good as they need to be, and a combat system that has an unfriendly learning curve. I replayed some of the game to test this out and it was a lot better, now that I was master of the game’s mechanics, but Mirror’s Edge was still one of the more frustrating games I’ve played in the modern era.