Review: Mirror’s Edge Games | My Reviews 23 DEC 2009

In a city where everything is controlled, the only way to pass information around without getting it noticed is by means of runners, fearless free-running men and women who deliver data for a price. Recently returned runner Faith suddenly finds herself thrust deep into politically-driven plot that has so far managed to kill a leading politician and link her sister to his murder – meaning that all of a sudden Faith finds herself running against time and the city itself in order to save her sister and clear her name before it is too late!

Mirror’s Edge is a single-player first person action-adventure game released in 2007 courtesy of Electronic Arts’ Digital Illusions CE (DICE) division and is perhaps the first game ever to base its game dynamics on free running, making it one of the most exhilarating first person action games you’re most likely to find out in the wild.

Driven by the Unreal 3 engine with some major lighting modifications, Mirror’s Edge is visually astounding, using bleached cityscapes contrasted with detailed roof tops and colourful building interiors, creating a stark but beautiful world that you find yourself running around in. In an attempt to promote the feeling of freedom, DICE has done away with the HUD completely, and you’re only aware of the self-healing state of Faith based on the blurred or dulled edges of the screen. Similarly you have no idea of how many bullets a gun that you currently possess still has, nor do you have any idea of where in the greater picture you actually are, thanks to the complete and utter lack of any stage map.

But it works. By showing your hands and feet on the screen as you run, jump and interact forces you into a state of immersion in the game and the cleverly highlighted interaction objects drive you forward through some beautifully elaborate, realized environments, making Mirror’s Edge one of the most visually striking First Person games you’re likely to find.

However, while we’re talking about visuals, I may as well mention the biggest failing of Mirror’s Edge while I’m at it – the use of absolutely abhorrent, badly animated, ‘stylish’-my-ass cutscenes, that completely detract from the beautiful game world in which you play and instead delivers an example of flash-based, silhouette animation done badly. Seriously guys, this was not the place to skimp on money!

Anyway, back to the game itself. Gameplay is simply put, exhilarating and frustrating all rolled into one. The sense of freedom as you run and chain together jumps, rolls, slides and wall-runs is simply phenomenal, and when the game lets you flow, you really do feel like you’re on top of the world. However, that said, there are a lot of tricky jumping puzzles that need to be solved and often you’ll find yourself repeating the same sequence of jumps over and over just to get them right, something which unfortunately can become a little frustrating at time – though thankfully their save-point system works extremely well and you rarely need to do particularly large chunks of a level over again.

The game’s focus is on running and so you’re encouraged to run away from trouble rather than get into it (so much so that there is in fact an achievement that can be unlocked by never actually shooting someone for the entire length of the game), but that doesn’t mean that Mirror’s Edge hasn’t catered for some fun gunplay action, aided by its really cool disarm mechanic that allows you to literally pluck the weapon right out of an officer’s hand, dealing a nifty stun maneuver in the process as well! This is made a little easier by Faith’s time-slowing trick that builds up the more you run and chain together tricks, but it is pretty damn satisfying to pluck a machine gun right out of your target’s hands at normal speed I must say! The shooting isn’t particularly badly handled and the guns certainly respond and sound good enough, but like I said, this isn’t a shooter at heart and so it doesn’t exactly stand out in this particular arena. But it’s not bad at that either.

Level design is varied and you’ll find yourself most of the time other running around and jumping from roof to roof, or else crawling around the dark insides of some or other building, searching for the inviting open passageways that will let you run again. These crawl sections take away some of the speed that makes Mirror’s Edge as enthralling as it can be, but they do help break up the gameplay and offer some pretty fun challenges in terms of figuring out the route that you need to take in order to proceed along the level.

Being a runner caught up in a rather icky mess means that you are most often running away from people and it’s this constant fleeing that adds that edge and excitement to the game. You don’t always have time to find the correct route or look around, simply because if you stick around for too long, the guys in blue will definitely reach you with guns blazing.

And when I say guns blazing, I mean guns blazing. Sound quality in terms of effects are absolutely fantastic, with particular mention of Faith’s noises herself – the grunting, breathing, footsteps are brilliantly applied and really do go a long way in drawing you further and further into the experience. Similarly the ambient background music is something that simply must be treasured. Hauntingly beautiful compositions that follow the pace and tone of the game perfectly, calming things down when the action involves you running around as free as a bird and then building it up to a crashing crescendo of notes as you find yourself running for your life as the bullets batter the walls beside you.

In short, Mirror’s Edge is one of those fantastic must-play games that will have you hooked from start to finish, and will quite simply be unlike anything you’ve ever played before. The sense of movement is absolutely fantastic and combined with its stunning visuals and awesome aural experience, Mirror’s Edge becomes one of those instant classics that simply should not be overlooked. To complete the game won’t take very long at all, that’s for sure, but it is most certainly one of those games that you’ll keep coming back to for more.

(And don’t be surprised if after playing you inexplicably start wondering if you’d be able to jump over that gap between the grass and the pool…)

Performing an evasive slide as an attack helicopter takes aim!

The main protagonist, runner Faith

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.