Is your child, spouse or friend an illegal Runner
? If you've been noticing some unusual behaviour about them lately, they might very well have gotten themselves into a dangerous, criminal lifestyle. Thankfully, there are five
ways of discovering if they have indeed taken to this illegal lifestyle:
1. Telltale scuffmarks on their clothes.
2. Unexplained scrapes, bruises or broken bones.
3. Unreliable or unexplained absences from work or school.
4. Calluses on the palms, knuckles and fingertips.
5. A fondness for the colour red.
If this sounds like the person you're concerned about, contact authorities immediately.
This is just the sort of propaganda you're going to find in the world of Mirror's Edge; a not-so-utopian future glossed with the unassuming innocence of the colour white, blanketed upon its concrete surface. Beneath and within its boiling belfry are vibrant, non-confrontational colours of an existential Ikea
modern living model – there is no chaos here, only brightly lit pastel order and composure. The city is clean and seemingly safe, a facet (and facade) directly paralleling its clearly accepting (and blissfully ignorant) citizens.
From afar, the city of Mirror's Edge is definitely a tranquil, peaceful place but upon closer inspection the ever-present stench of corruption, greed and power of so many other clandestine governments and partitions stings the nostrils, and it's in fighting this odour of governing wrong, we meet a free-spirit (aptly named Faith), making her way through the world in the only way she knows how: high above and deep beneath.
Faith is a Runner
- a courier of sorts - only her packages contain the truth
and her contractors are people who live beyond the veil of lies
the city has manifested in order to maintain its embracing docility. Because of her chosen path above the city's sheen she is an outcast, and while the rest of the city moves in motion like a well-timed clock, Faith and her ilk are hunted for embracing
the very freedom
for – it's an ironical nightmare, but one they collectively face every day they set foot on a white rooftop.
DICE have crafted a believably functional world with Mirror's Edge; a white-washed society that has bleached
its tumultuous past. It's also a past that haunts the game's jumpy protagonist, Faith. Her parents were killed during a series of protests that turned bad, and as a result Faith and her sister have taken different paths on opposite sides of the law.
It's these separate paths, however, that bring our game together. Faith's sister, Kate, is framed for the murder of would-be-mayor Alexander Pope. His ideas and potential to change the city - on a governmental level
- is a true beacon of hope for a city in lost yet accepted despair, making his murder all the more suspect. It doesn't help Kate's case her sister is a Runner either, despite being a "Blue" (a cop) herself.
Things go from bad to worse the deeper Faith investigates and all manner of grimy politics, back-scratching and power-mongering rear their head. It's the sort of thing Faith has spent the last three years both fighting and avoiding, but now it's directly in her path, and in order to save her sister she has no choice but to run at it all head-on.
The story here is wrought with potential. Mirror's Edge's narrative is as much about the oblivious city wrapped in its own self-consciousness as it is about Faith saving her sister. When you get to the end of the six-or-so hour long journey you'll get the sense we've only just scratched the surface of potential here, and that for all intents and purposes, that's exactly what DICE wanted to do.
Some people will likely complain about the narrative and campaign length, but what needs to be brought into discussion is that Mirror's Edge really isn't like any game you've played before. And to this end, DICE really were just rolling
their odds on the table before upping the ante. It's also worth noting they're also probably playing it smart – dealing with the criticisms of the industry at large, both constructively and harshly. Hopefully they approach the sequels (revealed to be in existence by AusGamers at TGS
), with as much of this on board as possible because what DICE get right with Mirror's Edge is more than worth saving and it ironically correlates to the juxtaposed city described during this review's intro.
Beyond throwing a first-person parkour experience
at us, Mirror's Edge also delivers one of the most aesthetically pleasing games this side of BioShock.
Like the aforementioned title, Mirror's Edge takes full advantage of the Unreal Engine, and equally like that game, does with it what few other titles have – create a unique game-world built off a thoroughly thought-out and constructed new game-universe.
The unnamed city is as real above as it is deep within. There's a design aesthetic that follows throughout the game, no matter how deep you progress. However, it's never the same twice over, and is stylistically modelled off our real-world obsession with minimalist design and the Ikea catalogue way of living (which is funny, because DICE and Ikea are both Swedish companies).
What's very cool about the overall design of the game is there's a massive divide between being outside, jumping and running across rooftops, and navigating the insides of buildings and their lengthy stairwells, constricting air ducts and functional offices.
The bridging between using rooftops, streets, courtyards and more is also handled with applaud. It's true the game, for the most part, is linear, but the progressive nature of the story, your abilities and the threat levels you face keep this linearity feeling fresh and most of the time warranted. Anytime there's no threat or rush Mirror's Edge tends to give you just enough freedom to allow for the right kind of exploration, but more importantly, the right kind of parkour playground.
The entire game is presented to you in the first-person. So while you can definitely perform a number of similar feats to the likes of Prince of Persia's Prince or Altair of Assassin's Creed fame, the whole experience is relayed in a completely different way. Faith can execute a few key moves such as jump, wall-run, 180, slide, hurdle and punch and kick. A lot of this is equally context sensitive, but unlike the system in Assassin's Creed you have a lot more control over your motion destiny.
Early on your hand is reasonably held so as to allow you the full experience of whisking seamlessly through a level, but when things open up for you and you see platforms and structural tools beyond
the helpful red ones, Mirror's Edge truly begins to shine.
You can perform most of your moves on surfaces or obstacles that look like you can, and as mentioned above, you don't always need to look for the red coloured playthings to progress. In fact it's more rewarding to actually shy off the highlighted path, and is infinitely more satisfying and rewarding when you find faster, more exciting routes through levels.
It's in linking together full running combos the freedom and organic nature of the parkour movement come to life in Mirror's Edge without ever taking over as the main point of the game – ultimately Faith's abilities high above are really just a means to an end, and while ultimately exhilarating to perform, it's the culmination of her functional, organic actions against the unforgiving cold urban playground and the narrative thrills and dangers found within that create the overall experience. And it's definitely an awesome one.
In saying all that though, there's definitely a lot of room for improvement in progressing this concept. A few issues arrive from throwing everything at you in the first-person when so much of it relies on context sensitive contact. You'll find yourself missing walls or platforms and cursing because you're sure you angled it just right.
Pulling the left trigger (used to soften bigger landings) and still having Faith jar as she hits the flat is equally frustrating and once again comes into play because of peripheral judgement. There's nothing worse than being sure you nailed the right button combination only to have Faith fall to certain doom and being respawned back at your last checkpoint.
And herein lays my biggest issue with the game: trial and error. It's something you'll get used to in unravelling the game's plot or making the best time through the Time Trial or Speed modes, but ultimately it makes the game far less engaging, frustrating and ultimately detracts from the potential for consistent fun. There are equally less and less dynamic moments of creative movement as you progress because it seems DICE just ran out of ideas. It's part of the reason the game is so short in the first place, and similarly perhaps a cry for creative help in lengthening the overall concept. It's not entirely detrimental to finishing the game or getting the most out of it, but there's a clear divide between expansion and end here.
Beyond the trial and error lays the issue with combat. You can move your way through the game without ever shooting an enemy, the way DICE wanted you to (it's worth a whopping 80g Achievement), but it's really tough to do so. This is mostly because the trial and error element forces you to face situations with enemies over and over again, so I can easily see how an annoyed player might turn to lethal force to get through an impediment (especially when said impediment
is annoying guards).
But it's also reasonably clear DICE want you to play the game as someone above the petty fightings thrown at you. After all, Faith is a free spirit, right?
Combat consists of jumping and attacking enemies, sliding into and attacking enemies or facing them head-on. You can disarm an unsuspecting victim with their back turned, or wait for their weapon to turn red in mid confrontation to do it (with a tap of Y or Triangle), but I honestly found the best way to deal with baddies was to just avoid them outright. There are definitely moments where you'll have to do something with them, but more often than not you can escape, you just need to pick the best line to do so.
In saying that, it's important to point out there really is a way through almost every obstacle; it all just boils down to your ability to work under pressure, deal with constant frustration and whether or not you have enough patience. I didn't have too much of an issue with the game's length, and while not 100% original, the story itself was still thoroughly entertaining.
As far as replayability goes (given the single-player campaign is less than eight hours long for the average gamer), there's still plenty of stuff to sink your teeth into once the end credits have rolled (aside from just playing within the city despite whatever objective you may have been given).
You can re-tackle every campaign level of the game in Speed Run mode where you attempt to find the fastest way through them, while Time Trial gives you a series of courses with checkpoint markers that must be reached - do this in the quickest time you can and Achievements or Leaderboard glory await.
There's definitely room for more with the Mirror's Edge concept. The game's art-direction (both in-game and during animated narrative moments) is excellent and the notion is perfectly sound, there just seems to be a few boundaries DICE can't get their head around just yet.
Whether or not these are addressed in any of the follow-up games remains to be seen, but a quick glance around sees the consensus fairly similar everywhere. I just stand by the idea there's definitely a lot more here than you might be lead to believe; you just need patience and an ability to fully see the way in which these guys want
you to play their game to fully grasp it.
I agree with taking the first step in this franchise and idea in a smaller chunk like they have here (a sandbox parkour game might just be a bit too much to deal with alongside a narrative concept or overall direction), but in saying that I definitely recall moments where I wished I could just run off the beaten path and explore the tantalising cityscape for myself.
If you're looking for a game that isn't a shooter first, Mirror's Edge is a good place to start. It looks amazing, plays well (at its best) and has moments of sheer genius design. But if you're attention span is short or you have a short fuse, you might want to think twice. Whichever way you look at it though, EA are most-certainly gaining an edge in the original, innovative IP department – first with Dead Space, and now with this.
Hopefully we see more ballsy game development moves like Mirror's Edge from major companies and respected developers in the future.