Mirror’s Edge is probably one of the most polarizing games I know of. People who don’t like it really don’t like it, but those who like it absolutely love it. It is a game that I’ve wanted to play ever since seeing a review of it when it first came out. But is it a game that you should take a leap of Faith on, or will you plummet to the sidewalk below?
The story is set in an unnamed dystopian city, which is highly locked down by the government. Everything is strictly monitored and kept running smoothly. The only means of communicating without monitoring is by Runners – people who traverse the rooftops by free-running to deliver packages without the authority’s interference. You play as Faith, a young woman who is just coming back to the runners after an accident. Shortly thereafter a candidate for mayor who wants to deregulate much of what the current government has locked down is found murdered, and Faith’s sister is set up to take the fall for it. This tragedy causes Faith to venture out to track down what exactly is going on, and who is masterminding the scheme.
The gameplay is one of the biggest things that drew me to this game. As you can probably guess, you will be free-running across rooftops and through buildings. “But that’s nothing,” you might say. “I’ve played Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider.” What really sets this game apart is that it is in the first person perspective, not a third person view. This mechanic can really throw you for a loop the first time you tuck and roll (pun intended), but it really adds to the realism of the game. It makes you feel like you really are the runner. Your arsenal of moves includes wall-runs, sliding, climbing, rolling, shimming along ledges, etc. The controls are a little complex to learn, but once you grasp them, movement flows very well as you traverse the urban jungle. There will be deaths from misjudged jumps, but thankfully the game saves often enough that you pick back up fairly close to where you died. I hit a couple points where I just could not make a jump. I probably tried each of them at least 30 times each. In most games if something like this happens I wouldn’t stick with it – I’d go play something else instead. But for some reason it never got me frustrated enough to just give up on the game for a while, and in both cases the issue was I forgot a move that once I remember it I was able to get past the point in just a few tries.
Combat is another thing entirely. You have a basic punch and a counter move that can disarm enemies, with the punch being the weakest of your attacks. You have a few other moves that you can pull off from different free-running moves. For example, if you jump then press attack you perform a fairly powerful flying kick or if you attack when you are in a roll you come up performing a crouching uppercut to to a sensitive region. You do not carry a weapon, but you can pick up ones dropped by police and military units. However, you cannot reload and simply drop them once you expend all the ammo. But if you try to play this like you would any other shooter you will quickly die. Faith isn’t some battle-hardened commando. When you have to take on enemies the best bet is to isolate and then take them out. The combat is the weakest part of the game in my opinion. The hand-to-hand is just ok, but the gunplay just does not feel quite right in the game. It just isn’t Faith’s character.
The game still looks very distinctive. You will spot some fuzzy textures, but it still holds up decently well. The city is extremely bright white and light grey, with occasional splashes of color. It is all very clean and neat, but it feels dead – very dystopian. It is well summed up by a line from the final song: “Your concrete heart isn’t beating”. And the music lends itself well to the atmosphere. Most of the time it is very light and slightly haunting, and ramps up to a faster techno style when things start getting crazy. I liked the music enough that I picked up the soundtrack for the game, if you are a fan of game soundtracks I would highly recommend it even if you are not a huge fan of the game.
The game isn’t the longest in the world. It took me 10 hours to beat it, which means that your average gamer will probably make it through in about 7-8 hours. However, if you are the sort of person likes time trial modes in games, you will likely get a lot more time out of the game racing against other peoples’ times in various different levels and stages in a Time Trial mode.
Ultimately, this game isn’t perfect. It has its faults (the combat is the biggest one for me personally), but if you can look past them you will find a gem of a game. I knew from the moment I saw the video review years ago that this was a game that I would like. Now that I’ve played it I can say that I absolutely loved it. If after reading this you find yourself thinking that Mirror’s Edge sounds interesting, definitely give it a try. It gets a very good 8 out of 10.