I remember hearing about Mirror’s Edge way back when DICE announced they were making a shooter that broke the conventional boundaries. They were saying that the current level design of most first person games was restrictive and didn’t give much in the way of player choice when it came to navigation and so on. Their as of yet untitled dream project promised an end to the short fence that a character couldn’t climb over or the box that they couldn’t climb on. It promised a highly interactive environment akin to that of Assassin’s Creed.
Did it deliver?
Mirror’s Edge is a ‘dystopian science fiction’ first-person action/free-running title that attempts to shatter our preconceptions of a typical fps. I’ve heard several reviews mention that it’s a game based around a gimmick, rather like Assassin’s Creed was – this is partially true, whereas Assassin’s Creed did have a lot of free-running elements, Mirror’s Edge actually has more in common with this extreme sport. You are cast in the first person body of Faith, a ‘Runner’ a kind-of information courier of the future. In the city, you see, it’s clean and pristine on the surface with CCTV cameras and a very Orwellian feel to both the design and the regime that controls it.
It doesn’t take long before something goes wrong and Faith is forced to run, whilst uncovering the plot and the numerous twists and turns along the way. The plot is delivered in game-engine style cut-scenes that are reminiscent of cel-shading, extremely well put together and very well animated. The majority of the game requires you to become adept with the ‘Flow’ the freedom of movement that encapsulates a Runner’s acrobatic skill, their natural understanding of the environment.
To aid you in this end, DICE have included Runner vision, a handy tool that auto-marks objects of interest in red. The chances a red object will help you navigate the sometimes insane obstacles in the game are high. Later levels have less red objects and Runner vision can be toggled off if you want to make things a lot harder. The controls can take some getting used to. Speed and timing is the key between a quick escape and a sudden terminal fall into the ground from high up. There is a simple tutorial level that gets you to grips with the system and once you’ve finished that the game kicks off proper.
From then on in it’s a white knuckle-thrill ride that will last most gamers between 6-8 hours (I finished it in 7.5). Whilst being short the game is highly polished and the story is interesting enough to make you want to finish it. DICE have included features for the speedrun crowd and race modes, but these are superfluous to the core game and story. As you begin to master the controls the game becomes an addictive blend of strategy and fast paced escape. You’re never boxed in, there’s always some way to get out of a particular area and earlier on there are numerous routes to use to gain an advantage in the level.
You will find that there are numerous security forces that are going to shoot first and not bother to ask questions later. There are several ways you can deal with these enemies, either by outright confrontation (lure them out one by one and finish them off in hand-to-hand) or by escape and evasion, moving swiftly through the level where the security can’t follow you. After all, they’re not Runners.