November 12, 2008 (PS3, 360)
January 13, 2009 (PC)
In 2007, Ben Cousins from EA DICE said that the group of developers was looking to create something new, interesting, and fresh. Mirror’s Edge is the result of that vision, and it couldn’t be much better than how it turned out.
Mirror’s Edge, released in late 2008, is a first-person action-adventure game that follows the story of a Runner named Faith Connors. What’s a Runner, you ask? The Runners are an underground group of people who transport items to and for people. In a city under total control by the government, crime is at an all-time low thanks to security, but at the cost of the citizens’ freedom; this opens a large market for the Runners, whose clients don’t want their deliveries inspected. The police don’t exactly like the Runners, of course, and attempt to exterminate them whenever possible.
The story begins with Faith making a delivery to a fellow Runner, Celeste. After delivering the package, Faith returns to her hideout and listens in on police radios; through them, she learns that gunshots had been reported in the offices of Robert Pope, a man campaigning to be mayor of the city. Faith’s sister, Kate, was supposed to be meeting with Pope at around the same time, so she quickly makes her way over to check on her sister; what she discovers is that Pope is dead, and Kate has no idea how it happened. Faith must uncover who was responsible for Pope’s death, why they did it, and clear Kate’s name, as the police suspect that Kate is the murderer. Without giving away too many other details, the story is fairly interesting, with more than a couple of plot twists to keep you engaged.
The gameplay is just as engaging, and is unique and fun; in the time since the game’s release, I have yet to play a game that plays quite like ME. As Faith, you advance through levels by taking to the rooftops and navigating from one building to another. You will occasionally need to trek through subways, malls, and sewers, but for the most part, you’re only one step away from plummeting to your death. As you climb, crawl, zipline, and leap your way through the city, you’ll occasionally run into the cops, who want to pump so many bullets into you that you’ll look like swiss cheese after they’re through with you. While you can steal their guns away and fight back, it’s generally advised that you get away from them as soon as possible: even with a gun, I died several times simply because there were usually many policemen.
One problem I ran into while playing was the game’s requirement of very precise jumps and turns. For example, at one particular point in the game, you must leap from a pipe to the railing of a walkway, with a bottomless pit below you. Because the game required such precise timing, this was far more difficult than it should have been. Also, while you will traverse rooftops and feel free, you won’t actually be free, as the game doesn’t give you many options of how to get where you need to go. An open-world system would have done well to remedy this, and would also lend itself greatly to the gameplay. Despite these few issues, the game is still fun and very unique.
The game’s soundtrack, composed and performed by Magnus Birgersson (also known as Solar Fields), is mostly comprised of ambient music. While this may be a turn-off initially, it never feels out of place, and actually complements the experience quite nicely. When you’re simply traversing rooftops, the music is calm and soothing, but when you’re escaping the Blues (Runner slang for “police”), it shifts to a catchy, upbeat, exhilarating song. The in-game sound effects are also well-done; gunshots are accurate, and the sound resulting from Faith falling to her death sounds just as awful as I imagine it would be. Voice acting is also well-done, for the most part. There are a few roles that are laughable, though: Ropeburn is a notable example, and Jacknife initially comes off as a bit cheesy as well, but for the most part the characters are very well portrayed.
The game is absolutely gorgeous – you would swear it runs on DICE’s Frostbite engine, even though it doesn’t. It actually runs on Epic’s commonly-used Unreal Engine 3, with an added lighting system called Beast. UR3 and Beast combine to make the game look every bit as beautiful as the Frostbite engine that would go on to power DICE’s later games. People look realistic, buildings shine, and the skyline simply looks stunning. Between levels, animated cartoon-like cutscenes present the ongoing story. While it may be jarring for some to go from playing in a realistic world to seeing that world in cartoon form, the cutscenes are usually presented decently, with an interesting art style.
From start-to-finish, I completed the game’s nine chapters on Normal mode over the course of three hours or so. This is definitely the game’s largest drawback, as the story deserves much more time to flesh itself out than was given. After completing the game once, though, “Hard” mode is unlocked. I say “Hard” because, while enemies deal out more damage, none of the game’s puzzles are changed, which means that there’s a good chance you’ll beat the game quicker than you first did if you memorize the puzzles.
If you want additional replay value, you can go achievement/trophy-hunting, or you can partake in time trials. These trials can be very fun and entertaining, especially since they consist of randomly-colored floating geometric objects (Psychedelic, maaan!). DICE added in leaderboards for these levels as well, so you can attempt to best your friends’ best times. Good luck, though: there are some pretty insane times to beat on the boards.
All-in-all, there isn’t a game quite like Mirror’s Edge, and in a good way. The gameplay is fast and exhilarating, the sounds are spot-on, and the graphics are beautiful. While there are a few faults with the game here and there, nothing is game-breaking. Rest assured knowing that if you give the game a chance (which you should), you won’t want to put your controller down.
Now, the question is: where’s Mirror’s Edge 2, DICE?
Fun, unique gameplay.
Time trials and leaderboards provide replayability.
Little true freedom.
Too much precision required at times.