It's amazing as to how hyped up games can be. How the developer promises so much and when you watch the trailers of the game, they simply blow you away. Then when you play the final product you realise that it's not as good as you had hoped for, and no matter how much you try to like it, the game you're playing just is not as awesome as it could, or perhaps should be. A perfect example I can make is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
which I believe is the most disappointing game of 2008 but in this case, I'm talking about Mirror's Edge
. Mirror's Edge
, while a flawed game is to be commended. It's a very original concept. It's new, and it's fresh. The game's developer DICE took a leap of faith with this title but, they failed to land the roll.Mirror's Edge
takes place in an unnamed futuristic city of a cyberpunk-style setting. The city is huge and it's clean, being run by a very strict government that watches over everything and everyone. In order to transport private goods and information people hire the services of 'Runners', people who travel across the city roof tops and urban environment in a parkour/free running style.
The player takes a first person control of young female Runner, Faith. Faith is suddenly caught in trouble as her sister, a police officer is framed for murder. On the run from the police, Faith begins to unfold a conspiracy as she tries to save her sister from certain death.
The story is told in two ways. Through the eyes of Faith in a first person perspective, to 2D animated cut scenes. The problem with these cut scenes though is that they honestly do feel lazy, and the game would have probably looked better if all the cut scenes were from the first person perspective, instead of this strange animation which looks as if it was created using Macromedia Flash (think NewGrounds).
The in-game visuals however, are gorgeous. The realistic lighting, the clean bright colours and textures, it's a very new and fresh art direction that no game has done before up until now. What's more interesting is how the game is played from a "true" first person perspective. Faith's head bops up and down as she runs, the camera will roll as she rolls, it's a new experience that must be experienced at least once by any gamer.
The game utilises parkour/free running for the player to move. Similar to the Prince of Persia
franchise, Faith is capable of wall running, wall jumps and kicks and so fourth. From a first person perspective it is cool to see, but at the same time it can be difficult to time your jumps correctly, especially when approaching ledges and whatnot. The game is all about keeping your momentum running and while it feels extremely rewarding to move non-stop, when you do finally stop to look where to go next, it is an extremely disappointing feel. At least, the game helps the player by using 'Runner's Vision', where objects that can be used for Faith's movement are highlighted in bright red. This can make things a bit easy but thankfully there is an option to turn off the Runner's Vision.
The game is unfortunately, quite linear. There are about twelve levels all up (including the tutorial and the prologue) and each level is very point A to point B. While it feels like you're constantly changing direction, you're not. Realistically speaking you are moving on a straight path. There are at times different paths in the one level but ultimately they are nearby one another and lead you to the same location in the end.
The combat revolves mostly around unarmed combat, but guns can be used. Faith can strike enemies with various attacks such as punches, fly kicks, low crotch punches to sliding kicks, wall spin kicks and scissor kicks. It's quite an arsenal that she has. More importantly though Faith can disarm enemies via the triangle button. As an upclose enemy begins to strike with a melee attack, their weapon will flash red (Runner's Vision). Pressing triangle at the right time will allow Faith to bust out an instant take down disarm attack, allowing Faith to take her opponent's weapon and knock them out instantly.
The problem with the disarm techniques though is some of the animations seem too long, so while you're disarming an enemy, another one or two could be firing at you from afar. The disarms feel a little easy to do as well, as it feels mostly like quick time events as seen in almost every game to date. Related to enemies though, the enemy A.I isn't too terribly intelligent either. Enemies tend to run to a spot before standing still and firing at you. If you run, they chase and resume. No real tactics or anything, pretty straight forward and... dumb. When you approach an enemy it seems they are programmed to do a specific melee attack, always giving you the chance to counter attack with a disarming throw.
Guns are not the way to go in Mirror's Edge
, as the developer encourages not to use them in-game. Guns slow Faith down, especially the big ones which completely hinder her movement. After using up a gun's ammo, Faith can't reload or collect more ammo, she's got to drop it to keep moving. Using guns as well can be a bit hard but as said, the game is encouraging the player to not use them.
The biggest flaw of Mirror's Edge
is tied to one of two things. Firstly, the game is extremely frustrating. Time and time again the player will see themselves dying, whether it's mistiming jumps, to getting shot to pieces by enemies, it is impossible to play the game and not die. The next flaw of the game would have to be how short the game is. I finished it within six hours, and with only concept art to collect via collecting bags throughout the game? It's not worth returning to. The player however is welcome to try speed runs and time trials but sadly, it's not as good as it sounds.
Graphically the game is one of the best of 2008, the gameplay is a bit of a learning curve and the story is a bit thin but these are not the flaws of focus. The major flaws follow... the game is way too short, there is nothing worth going back for (speed runs and time trials get old fairly quickly) and the game is linear and at times very frustrating.
As said before though, the game is to be commended. It is unique, it is new and it is fresh. It's a very good, original concept that needed more work to it. It's rumoured that the Mirror's Edge
story will be told with two more upcoming games as a trilogy, so the leap of faith has been made, let's just hope the next game or two can make the landing.
After all the deaths I've had in this game, I'm still alive.