Glide from rooftop to rooftop, vault over a chain-link fence, slide under a pipeline, jump onto a spring board, bounce to a higher ledge then wall run passed an unsuspecting guard, conclude this symphony of grace by leaping from the building edge, twisting mid-air, gifting the perplexed gun wielding foe a two finger salute. Fantastic.
This is Mirror’s Edge at its best, and at it’s best it’s a brilliantly executed, original, and expertly realised concept. If Dice hadn’t felt the need to incorporate a horrible combat element into Mirror’s Edge (or fixed the one it did) it would undoubtedly be one of the best titles of the year.
You control Faith, glorified postman (or girl) in a world under constant surveillance. The twist? The rooftops are your playground, and you’re delivering potentially dangerous mail. The game however leaves this minor detail behind, and the plot (which could have been written by a seven year old) sees the murder of a politician add a touch of variety to Faith’s usual parkour antics. The game only lasts seven or eight hours, but the writers manage to fill it with enough clichéd plot twists, developments, and unlovable characters to satisfy anyone.
But Mirror’s Edge isn’t a game about clever narrative and interesting characters. It’s a game about being incredibly awesome, jumping, swinging, climbing, and running across rooftops. At least half of the game is and it’s this half that’s brilliant. It’s here you’ll appreciate the gorgeous visuals, a breath of fresh air within the current state of photo-realistic graphics, the subtle soundtrack and subdued bustle of the city below or the flutter of wings as birds take flight around you. You’ll appreciate the game and the level design. It’s worth noting that these sections are almost always outside, when the game places you in one the many confined indoor environments it falls apart rapidly. Most of all though, you’ll appreciate how it’s all played through a first person perspective. It’s nothing short of awesome. Through it Faith controls fluidly and despite a strange lack of help (your leaps and bounds have to be perfectly accurate, the game won’t step in to aid you with a subtle nudge), these sections remain intuitive and fun throughout the length of the game. It’s stunning.
However the same cannot be said for the combat. It isn’t just a minor inconvenience but a fully-fledged flaw that smashes the pace of the game, transforming numerous sections into trial and error style segments. Most of the issues can be blamed on the lack of a lock on feature. So, much like the free-running aspect, if you aren’t perfectly aligned with your target you’re going to fly kick straight passed their head, which more often than not will end in your demise. It’s frustrating, especially when the game throws up to five or six enemies at you at once. The tutorial claims isolating enemies is the best way to defeat them, and the AI is fairly good at coming at you one at a time, but the awful disarm system (press A when the gun turns red, mid melee) means if you’re looking to steal a gun you’re more likely going to end up dead. And even if you do manage to arm yourself, you can’t iron sight, and the guns rarely fire straight. What with Dice being the developers behind the Battlefield series you’d expect the gunplay to be solid. It’s not.
So you’ll spend a lot of time watching the mercilessly brief loading screen, repeating the combat sections (which are largely found indoors) and hurling controllers about the room. You’ll wonder why cinematic’s harbor the animated prowess of a four year old with a set of Crayola’s, and you’ll laugh at the ridiculous narrative. But, if you look passed this; Mirror’s Edge has the foundations of a masterpiece. The first person viewpoint coupled with the free-running gameplay is stunning, immersive, and very very cool. Whether you’re entirely in control of Faith’s slick movements or flailing wildly, out of control yet somehow surviving, the experience is always edge of your seat exciting. It’s a shame the combat is so awful, especially considering the developer, but with a concept so original it’s hard to dislike Mirror’s Edge. It’s short and bittersweet in which the foundations of something remarkable have been laid. Here’s hoping a sequel can build upon it and fashion something as amazing as Mirror’s Edge should have been.