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TVG gets a little giddy with DICE's latest title and finds itself strangely attracted to the colour red...
- Sublime control setup.
- Refreshing concept.
- Stunning visuals.
- Frustrating trial-and-error gameplay.
- Needed more subtance.
- No long-term replay value.
With the bleached white skyline and dramatic reduction in combat, Mirror's Edge proposes a considerable tangent for the studio most famously known for the Battlefield series. A bold attempt to show gamers that DICE isn't just about shooters, and an equally audacious move for the traditionally conservative EA, Mirror's Edge has been riding high on our lists for 2008.
Set against the backdrop of an ultra-stylish dystopian future, Mirror's Edge style and refreshingly creative concept provides an immediate draw that begins in a blazing fashion. Not only is Mirror's Edge a technical accomplishment, but perhaps more so an advocate for artistic style - it's look is quite unlike anything we've ever seen on this generation, and immediately creates an engagement around the game. Despite the clean look sinister organisations lurk in the shadows and as such the passage of information is closely controlled, creating a need for 'Runners' to ensure confidential information can't be tracked by the powers that be. However, protagonist Faith is much more than just a postie from the future, quite quickly she finds her sister embroiled in a staged murder and has to act quickly to save her - cue plenty of double-crosses, twists and turns. Although the story fails to offer anything beyond the typical dystopian view expounded since George Orwell's 1984, the concept at least remains refreshingly fresh.
Jump, Duck and Run
First and foremost DICE must be applauded for attempting something so different and congratulated where they succeed. Movement in the first-person is traditionally thwarted with issues to overcome, and in this respect Mirror's Edge is a universal success. Drawing obvious influences from the art of free running, Faith is an extremely nimble protagonist capable of leaping between skyscrapers, scaling walls and generally making even Sébastien Foucan look clumsy in comparison. At the heart of this lies a streamlined control setup that puts the emphasis on timing as opposed to complex button sequences. It's largely a case of mastering the left bumper button and left trigger button to jump, vault, and duck under obstacles, with more complex techniques such as leaping between two walls extending upon the basic control setup. The skill comes from the timing, slightly off and you'll mistime a jump and slow down, but with the correct rhythm Faith manages to sustain her speed and this is where Mirror's Edge really succeeds. In many ways Mirror's Edge is closer to a racing title than what traditionally goes with games viewed in the first-person.
Discovering the route through each of the eight chapters provides the majority of the challenge in Mirror's Edge. DICE has been particularly shrewd when it comes to level designs, employing the stylish use of the colour red to highlight obstacles that mark a possible route through each location. In many ways this shares a similar dynamic to Portal's 'room' challenges; it's all about how you advance.
It's not all about running and leaping however, as soon the 'Blues' suspect Faith's intentions and quickly attempt to stop her by any means possible. Obviously Faith isn't a typical protagonist and the sense that she's quite vulnerable during firefights is aptly portrayed, lending a suitable sense of urgency to the proceedings - perhaps a little too much at times. A selection of melee attacks ties in with the control setup opening up techniques such as sliding groin kicks and wall kicks that develop beyond the basic punch. With deft timing (or the use of the slow-mo) Faith can also disarm the various opponents that she comes across and use their own weapon on them, although DICE has wisely stood clear of putting too much emphasis on guns. The occasional sequence does require letting off a few rounds of ammo, but once it's gone that's it, time to throw it away and get running once again. TVG applauds DICE for sticking to this principle when guns and action would have been an easy way to add a little gratification.
Leap of Faith
Unfortunately, despite featuring a highly creative concept and a superbly realised control setup, Mirror's Edge doesn't quite manage to achieve what we hoped in its overall implementation. As previously stated Mirror's Edge strangely bears similar dynamics to a racing game, it's all about knowing the layout in a similar way to memorising tracks and circuits. But this is in turn Mirror's Edge greatest fault. When you know where you're supposed to be going and the obstacles to overcome Mirror's Edge is both entertaining and impressive to watch. However to get to this stage Mirror's Edge requires plenty of repetition, replaying the same sequence over and over again just to work out where you're supposed to be going or the correct sequence to defeating the squads of Blues you'll come across.
Mirror's Edge is a game that's supposed to flow from one section to another, but on the first time through you'll often find it anything but: a very stop-start experience that breaks the whole concept of the game. At times it's just a little too stringent on the way in which you have to progress, reducing the game to a frustrating trial-and-error affair. The occasional running commentary from your mentor helps but this is often restricted to the more intensive sections, and whilst it would have made the 'puzzle' sections too easy, we'd like to have seen a little more, Mirror's Edge shouldn't be a test of your perseverance but of your reflexes and timing. Quite often you'll find yourself resorting to last-gasp efforts, because there's not really a clear sense of what you can and can't do. Generally the Mirror's Edge rule is: if it looks too far then you can probably make it.
With only eight chapters Mirror's Edge is a particularly short game and the only thing that extends this is the trial-and-error gameplay. You're constantly left feeling as though Mirror's Edge needed something else to sustain it. Unlike Portal, Mirror's Edge can't rely on one trick to sustain interest and the storyline fails to provide any genuine engagement. With enough perseverance you'll find the end credits coming sooner than you'd probably like, and we doubt collecting hidden packages or the Time Trial mode will provide too much incentive to going back. Knowing the stages on a second time through helps to eradicate some of the frustration that's prevalent throughout the game, but it's a poor reason to justify the game's lack of any long-term value.
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