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Friday, 27 July 2012

Mirror's Edge

There was a summer sale on video games this past week and during that time, I bought and played through Mirror's Edge. I am sure my friend at Post-Launch Reviews will get around to writing a review on this amazing game, but for now, I thought I would include some thoughts on it.

Mirror's Edge is described as a single player, first person, action adventure, platform game, and that's about right. I like to call it Parkour: The Game. Mirror's Edge follows the story of Faith, a Runner, a courier of secret and illegal messages in a city tightly controlled by a totalitarian police force. Running along rooftops, through maintenance tunnels, Faith and the other Runners keep the lines of communication open for anyone who needs them.

Let me just say that I enjoyed the game, it seems I don't have much to not hate right now, referring to my latest blog posts. Mirror's Edge is fun, exciting, and unique. The level design is beautiful, and beautifully simple. The city is mostly a shining white, a monochromatic metropolis which clearly and easily gets the point across of a city held under tight control. Runner's Vision, your aid in this world, is simple a way of highlighting structures and paths in red to alert you to possible routes through the city.

I love the movement system in this game. It's one of those great achievements in video games where they are able to slowly impart certain skills onto the player and eventually, the player's movements are so fluid that any struggle was worth it. The opening cinematic suggests some of this grace and by the end of the game, I had achieved it. This was great, not only for how fun it was, but because it made me feel like I accomplished something, that I fit and excelled in this world.

Instead of speaking in the theoretical, let me describe the movement system a little, since it is the crux of the game. Not incredibly different from the Prince of Persia games, (I almost put Price of Persia, I guess that would be priceless since it doesn't exist anymore?), or Assassin's Creed games, you move through the environment, climbing, jumping off walls, and using what's near at hand. The main difference is the first-person perspective. During testing, apparently the game was so convincing, was too real, that they had to add a targeting reticule in the middle of the screen to centre people. You can remove it if you want, I left it because it's subtle and was nice to have. But yeah, you can run, jump off buildings, run along walls, climb stuff, slide or vault under/over objects, it's fantastic! Once you're an expert, you can quickly take in the look of a room, and then perform several of these feats at once, combining your movements into a fluid progression which doesn't stop and makes you feel awesome.

Besides falling, your main obstacle, well besides obstacles, is the police force. Some seem like beat cops with a simple uniform and handgun, while others are part of a stricter security force and have shotguns, machine guns, and body armour. There are several ways of taking them out, with your default being punching/kicking them, disarming them, or shooting them once you get their guns. I personally vowed to never shoot anyone in that game as it seems unnecessary. Here is a game which gives you a great opportunity to try something different, instead of blasting your way through enemies with no thought of the consequences. You have no armour, and if you get shot, or pistol whipped, the level will restart, but if you keep moving, you are hard to hit, and really, it not only makes sense, it makes for a lot of fun. I felt like a ninja playing this game, and was a little upset at all the walkthroughs I had seen where players had simply shot the enemy as soon as they had guns. Way to not challenge yourself.  You can also run away from most of your enemies and never engage them which is just challenging enough to be rewarding. Additionally, if you kick them while wall-running, they'll spin around, allowing for a quick disarm. The last cool move is one I call leap-frogging, where you land completely on top of a guard, taking him out and disarming him. It's a fun move, one which had me thinking of Nightcrawler from the Marvel X-Men comic/TV show/movie(s).

I have two complaints about the game. The first is that it is too short. Sometimes, brevity is great in a game, it's the soul of wit, and sometimes a game doesn't have enough to provide more and it keeps you wanting more. That is the case here, which leads me to my second complaint: there is not enough in the combat system. After awhile, I had performed every possible takedown on a guard possible, several times, and it was getting slightly stale. I don't mind either complaint so much though because I would rather deal with those rather than some have been forced entertainment, grinding, or even just a case where the aim far exceeded the grasp.

Mirror's Edge is a great game which will always stand alone in my mind. I really hope they make a sequel and add in some more combat features because if so, I will gladly give the developers more money.

By the way, here is the trailer for the game featuring in-game footage. I think it wraps up what I have to say quite nicely: Mirror's Edge trailer

Or this one which covers some of the combat: Mirror's Edge trailer 2

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