GAME REVIEW: Mirror's Edge 

Parkour Poseur: If only Mirror's Edge played to its many first-person-player strengths

Mirror's Edge [Buy Now]
DICE/EA, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3

Mirror's Edge puts you in the shoes of Faith, an information transporter in an unidentified and oppressive modern city. When I say the game puts you in the shoes of Faith, I mean that literally. When you look down, you see Faith's shoes from her perspective.

They look nice, too. They're black and red and have a little gap between the big toe and all the other toes on her feet that aren't cool enough to deserve a nickname like "big toe." Don't look too long though, because you'll get shot, and quickly.

This is where the game is strong. You can't stand still, you have to move, and fast. You can't let any obstacles get in your way. See a fence coming up? Jump over it. A low lying pipe? Slide under it. A soldier with a gun? Walk up to him, try to fight him, then die, then retry, and then die again.

This is where the game is weak. The game moves along at a brisk and exciting pace, but the moment you meet a group of enemies, the game comes to an abrupt stop and frustration overshadows fun to a painful degree. Luckily though, fighting soldiers isn't the focus of the game, so it's not something you'll find yourself doing often enough to hinder the overall experience.

The game is modeled after Parkour runners, athletes who exercise by running up and over walls and hurtling their bodies across unbelievable gaps that punctuate the cityspace. They are like the wire-fu fighters of Japanese cinema, except they think the restraint of a harness would only slow them down. They are a marvel to watch in real life, and a really enjoyable experience to emulate with a videogame.

While playing, Mirror's Edge never leaves the first person perspective of the main character, Faith. You can see her arms pumping faster and faster on the sides of the screen as she speeds up and as I said, you can look down to see her feet furiously pounding the pavement as she picks up speed. It's extremely immersive and you'll find yourself holding your breath while trying to make seemingly impossible leaps.

This part of the game is so good and so exciting it's a wonder why the combat portions are so bad and monotonous. It's also strange that the game sometimes drops out of the first person perspective for storytelling sequences.

These sequences are told with animated shorts reminiscent of the Esurance television commercials about the secret agent who sells car insurance. As I watched the animated cut scenes for Mirror's Edge, all I could really think about was Esurance commercials. And how selling insurance must be a side job.

Why did the story of Mirror's Edge get relegated to these animations when the developers had at their disposal a beautiful and realistic game engine with which to tell the story through Faith's eyes? Immersion was obviously the developers' goal. They wanted you to be Faith, and during the gameplay, you are, but the moment you're shown these animated shorts, immersion is lost.

I cannot stress enough, despite all my negative comments, how good the running gameplay portions of this game are. The bulk of the experience works very well and is fun. The combat sections are laborious and can become frustrating, but you are motivated to push through them, so that you can get back to the excellent running and acrobatic portions.

There is no need to buy Mirror's Edge, as the game clocks in at about 6 hours. You can get through it very quickly, but don't let that dissuade you from at least renting it. It is radically different from anything else available. It's a prime example of a great idea that was executed properly.

Well, for the most part, anyway.



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