Mirror's Edge PlayStation 3
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Digital Illusions
Release Date: Out Now
Digital Illusions are clearly developers who like fresh challenges and you have to give them credit because they have created some pretty impressive games over the years such as the Battlefield and RalliSport Challenge series. Mirror's Edge sees them trying something that hasn't been done before, a first-person action/platform game. This may not seem remarkable at first because after all we've had third person actions games for years and the same can be said for first person shooters. Playing a first person action/platform game, which has a sprinkling of action thrown in, is actually an amazingly different experience and to a certain extent Digital Illusions have done a really impressive job. There are problems however, and these problems do manage to knock the shine off the overall experience.
In Mirror's Edge you'll play as Faith who happens to be a runner. Runners deliver sensitive information in a city where everything is monitored. This isn't easy and runners have to be incredibly athletic and prepared to take routes that no one in their right mind would consider. Runners have to do wall runs, leaps, vaults and a variety of acrobatic manoeuvres as they travel from one place to another via the rooftops and other absurd locations in an attempt to go undetected. Faith's sister has been framed for murder and it's up to Faith to find out what's going on and clear her sister. In truth there's not a lot to the storyline in Mirror's Edge but that's not really a problem as the focus is kept firmly on the first person action.
At its best, Mirror's Edge is an exhilarating experience. Running and jumping along the rooftops doing manoeuvres that only a top-level gymnast could do, and doing it with such fluidity makes for a really great gaming experience. Jumping off ramps and leaping from building to building, descending down zip lines and getting fired at by police and doing this in the first person perspective that the game offers and you have something that's not only impressive but also unique, a rarity in these times of multiple sequels and games that are derivative versions of existing games. Some of the moves can used in quick succession to form a combo of sorts which allows you to get something extra from the manoeuvres. When it all comes together, Mirror's Edge is one heck of a satisfying experience.
The problem is that some aspects of the game just don't work well at all. Some jumps, which would be pretty straightforward from a typical third person view, are maddeningly difficult from the first person perspective. The game makes strong use of the colour red highlighting items you can interactive with, such as ramps, pipes, ladders, zip lines and many other things. This is a ingenious way of marking out the direction you should take during a level. The only problem is that sometimes an item will not turn red until you're practically upon it. Sometimes there are no red objects and this leaves you feeling completely disorientated. Whilst you can press the circle button to point you in the general direction you should be heading, it's not always that useful. There's far too much trial and error in the game and it can become frustrating having to constantly fall back to the last checkpoint until you've figured out how to do a jump right or the correct way to go when you've become disorientated.
Combat in the game feels poor. Faith is ill equipped for combat and doesn't carry any weapons. She can use those she obtains from her enemies, using her disarming manoeuvres, but once she runs out of ammunition, the gun is tossed aside. Using the weapons feel unsatisfactory as they are really underpowered, probably deliberately so as to deter you from using them more than you should. It's highly advisable to avoid combat at all costs but there are times when this isn't possible. To make matters worse there are times when you'll be greeted by multiple enemies from which you'll have to rapidly flee or be shot down.
The visual style of Mirror's Edge is quite unlike any other game I've played before. It's so light and bright and this is in stark contrast to the general colour schemes that most games have. The graphic novel-style visuals, used by the cutscenes that link the levels, look great but contrast with the look of the rest of the game. There's so much white being used that at times the world in Mirror's Edge feels a little sterile. Of course, this enables the red items you can interactive with to stand out but it's a shame that it all feels so cold. From a technical standpoint it's quite impressive with fairly decent loading times (elevator rides help to mask a few of them) and a respectable frame rate. The game also uses a variety of visual effects to make the first person action feel more immersive.
Mirror's Edge does offer subtitles (they are initially disabled however). Cutscene and in-game dialogue is simply shown in a bold white font with no character names or portraits. There are times when you won't be aware of who is saying what which is a little unfortunate. There are no captions to visually depict the grunts and panting noises that Faith will make during her many moments of athleticism. Other items of speech such as announcements that are given whilst you're in an elevator are not subtitled. Tutorial information is shown in text. Objectives are shown in text too and can be recalled at any time by pressing the Select button.
Personally, I think Digital Illusions deserve applause for daring to create a game that's so different. There's quite a lot in Mirror's Edge that works well and it offers experiences that are completely original. However, the game has some flaws and certain aspects of the game do harm the experience. That said, there's enough here to suggest Digital Illusions are on to something very special and I for one would like to see more games in the series (which is certainly possible given how the game finishes) and most of the problems addressed. As it stands, Mirror's Edge is a game not everyone will appreciate but one that all should experience.