This past Christmas' rush of hot game releases saw many quality games swept under the rug as blockbuster games with the advertising budgets to back them up claimed the spotlight. One game in particular that was missed and overlooked by many was EA's Mirror's Edge.
Mirror's Edge is both a tranquil and intense game about a runner named Faith in a totalitarian city where lines of communication are watched as frequently as communications are made. Early on Faith plays the roll of a modern urban roof-top courier. She makes her way over, between, through and beneath buildings, often all the while being chased by trigger happy police.
Mirror's Edge is not primarily a first-person shooter, but a first-person action game that at times has guns at your disposal, provided you can get them out of the hands of a policeman. Called "free running" Faith is highly athletic and the game's city is her jungle gym. As such, to traverse roof-tops, Faith employs wall running, vaulting, sliding and a lot of running among many other combinations of means to scale literally deathly heights.
After a brief tutorial level for some roof top obstacle course stumbles and falls to teach players the flow of gameplay in Mirror's Edge, the game kicks right into an immersive and intense first level. Unlike typical first-person games, in Mirror's Edge when faced with a helicopter raining down fire on you, you have no choice but to run. Further unlike other first person games, this is exhilarating while not being particularly frustrating thanks to the attention to detail in Mirror's Edge's gameplay mechanics.
Running from helicopter fire across several precarious roof-tops and air-duct-lined alleyways to finally bust through a door to periodic safety has a great sense of achievement, not only because it's pulse pounding, but the fact you made it without plummeted 20 stories to the ground. That's the thing about Mirror's Edge, you fall to your death nearly as often as you attempt jumping to a yet-undiscovered ledge.
Although, as the game places Faith in many different puzzle-like environments to climb-up and weave through, when you do die it's not overly frustrating, but many times funny, bring solace to your inevitable pitfalls. Players aren't punished much for dying, as Faith, after plunging to the bottom an elevator and hearing the ever-encouraging sounds of hitting the ground at high velocity for example, respawns usually where she fell from. The exception to this is during action packed sequences under gun fire where Faith respawns back at the start.
Initially the controls in Mirror's Edge are to blame for frequent deaths. They're not bad, but they definitely don't follow first-person shooter conventions, mostly because the game downplays using guns and has to accommodate for the controls needed to run, jump and maneuver so intricately through and over buildings. Really they are unique and work well, but easy to forget due to their uniqueness.
The immersive and clean feel of the game can not be solely awarded to the great flow of gameplay, but equally to visuals and sound design. Mirror's Edge is constantly breath taking. The carefully chosen colors and lighting ring in a serene atmosphere for players, even when running for your life. The smooth pulsing ambient music alongside realistic sounds of wind in your face and you feet clapping against pavement and metal further complete the games immersion.
The length of Mirror's Edge feels comfortable and very alluring to replay at 8-10 hours. Between stages the story features 2D animated cutscenes. While not expected at first, the cutscenes are a nice addition to the game even if the animation does seem knowingly clunky. The game rarely feels limiting despite the sheer amount of walls and obstacles thanks to the range of mobility Faith has that has previously been unseen in games past. Furthermore, playing the lead as a female is just as fulfilling as any other game, with Faith's personality adding to the faultless feel of the world.
Overall Mirror's Edge plays great and constantly fuels a players sense of accomplishment. However, at times load screens, while brief, can rudely interrupt exciting sequences and elevator rides seem to take ages as they mask the next area loading. The quality of the story is above typical fare in quality, being a bit more than a reason for Faith to put her life on the line to leap across certain death. In the end the story does come together nicely, with a satisfying movie-like ending.
Mirror's Edge is highly recommended and worth buying. While many gamers today judge value by game-length, Mirror's Edge overcomes this short-sighted outlook with its fluid gameplay and immersive style. Personally, while I did play Gears of Wars 2, LittleBigPlanet and Resistance 2 this past Christmas, I'm glad I came back and tried Mirror's Edge. As it turns out I enjoyed Mirror's Edge more than each of those three blockbuster games, an attribution to that games originality.