When the first videos for Mirror’s Edge debuted, I remember being really impressed. Visually, it was a stunning game, with a realism that was just awe inspiring. As more came out about the game, I found myself getting more excited to step into the role of Faith in this not so distant future where runners are used to carry important messages in order to bypass a corrupt police state. The game seemed full of promise, and I was itching to play it.
One thing should have clued me into the fact this game might not be as good as I was thinking. I was visiting my local Play N Trade and noticed they had Mirrors Edge set up on one of the 360 consoles, so I decided to try it. It was not long before I found myself getting quickly frustrated, especially when I was suddenly dropped into a area with three armed guards and just kept dying. I figured that I had missed the tutorial and would be better equipped to play the game if I started from the beginning.
Turns out I was wrong.
Mirror’s Edge had all the makings of a great game. It just fell short.
It seemed like such a good idea
As I mentioned earlier, you take on the role of Faith in Mirror’s Edge. You are a runner: a message deliverer who uses parkour to traverse the roof tops and deliver sensitive materials people do not want to fall into the hands of the totalitarian government. When your sister is framed for murder, you make it your mission to clear her name and bring to light the conspiracy that left the one person who might change things dead. Not the most original plot line, but it had potential.
Mirror’s Edge was going to be a unique experience for gamers. Faith was not a combatant; she was a runner. As such, it would be to your advantage to use the environment to avoid conflicts. You also have what they call “Runner Vision,” which marks in red the areas you need to go to proceed further into the levels. You had to be able to run, jump, roll and time your movements right to be able to reach the next area, and this was something that was supposed to be simple.
Notice I said “supposed to be simple.” That’s because it is not. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is the choice of first person perspective. While that does give you a feel for the speed of movement, it makes it a little hard really measure jumps and other actions. I understand it was a design choice, but I cannot help but feel like it may have been better and easier to play in third person. The other problem is the button combinations for movement are not intuitive. When you are rapidly having to remember a whole series of button presses just to complete a jump, you find you are so focused on the buttons you are not being drawn into the game itself. Compared this to the ease of similar movements in games like Assassin’s Creed, Damnation or Prince of Persia, and Mirror’s Edge just seems needlessly complex. I even menti0ned on a podcast this game made me realize how much I would not have liked Assassin’s Creed if I had to push a button for each movement.
And then there’s the combat
While the movement in this game is overly complex, the combat is just flat out broken. Once again, this was a design choice, and in this case it was a poor one. Faith is not a fighter, and the game designers wanted to make sure you knew this. As a result, they made it very difficult to deal with anymore than one enemy at a time.
Mirror’s Edge’s Graphics are impressive. Its gameplay…not so much.
Fighting in this game is just flat out clunky. You can try to get up close and deal with an opponent in hand to hand combat, but generally you are not going to win a straight up fight. You can slide into an opponent and kick them, but it is really hard to be accurate with that, and if you miss you leave yourself wide open for counter attacks. In the end, your best bet is to try and get in close enough the enemy decides for some reason to try and hit you with the gun instead of shoot you. The gun will turn red for a short period of time as the enemy takes a swing at you, and if you hit the right button, you can disarm him. While the concept is not a bad one, there is a major flaw in it: for some reason, enemies with bigger guns take less time swinging them back to hit you, so you have less time to disarm. This almost seems counter intuitive, but then again so does hitting someone with a gun in the first place.
The problematic combat would not be that big of an issue if you could avoid fighting. The biggest problem with this game is, for a game that is not supposed to be about combat, you sure find yourself in many areas where you have to rely on it at least to an extent. In other words, you have to use this broken fighting system to get through areas of the game. I wish the developers had actually decided to either give you the chance to avoid the combat or make the fight controls work. This was just way too frustrating.
And so the game falls short
I really wanted to like Mirror’s Edge. The anime cut scenes were a nice touch. The story, while nothing new, was intriguing. Some of the parkour elements in the game were really impressive. After getting about five or six levels into the game, however, I found myself getting much too frustrated with it to keep playing. I was tired of hitting several buttons to make any kind of significant movement in the game. I was ready to throw my controller the next time I actually had to engage an enemy in combat. In the end, I decided I had just had enough and sent the game back to Gamefly.
What else can I say? This game is not horrible by any means, but I cannot bring myself to recommend it. If you really want to play it, I would recommend renting it first so you don’t find yourself regretting the purchase. Mirror’s Edge gets a 2 out of 5.