When I first saw Mirror’s Edge I thought it looked incredible. I downloaded and played the demo on the 360 repeatedly and it was mind-blowing to me to see and play something so fresh. Then eventually through the sweet, sweet nectar to a high school student that is birthday money, I bought the full game. And I loved every moment of it… Except for some bits, BUT FOR THE MOST PART I loved it! The clean and stylish aesthetics, the focus on momentum and flow, no HUD, no screen clutter. Just you, your ability as a Runner and the world at your feet. It was marvelous then and it’s marvelous now.
Mirror’s Edge works because it’s so damn pure. It’s devilishly simple, but it works. The maps are linear but well designed, with varied routes that reward players with faster runs overall, maintained speed in short segments or even just a sweet line if you take the scenic route. It can be played and enjoyed by players of all skill levels which adds replay value to those wanting to master it. The controls are fluid, smooth and best of all satisfying as all hell to execute perfectly. They interchange so beautifully it feels like second nature, which only adds to the wonderful sense of unstoppable freedom the game gives you.
This also translates into the combat. If you keep up your momentum you can use it against enemies in powerful strikes ranging from sliding low punches to kicking someone in the head mid wallrun. But the best part of the combat is that, similar to maneuvering through the level, the game hands the keys to the player. The game allows you to play the entire story without killing. In fact there’s an achievement for doing a pacifist run. In most situations you can use your prowess as a Runner to simply escape combat, and in scenarios where you must fight you can disarm enemies with well-timed counters.
Now would probably be a good time to point out that the sour note of Mirror’s Edge’s performance IS its story. Though there are certainly elements I love and wish they had expanded upon. You play as Faith. A Runner. Masters of their environment and illegal couriers, working under the noses of a totalitarian police state. Tasked with moving sensitive data by traversing throughout the corrupted city by freerunning. Skilled enough in the art of movement to escape any potential witnesses or threats. After an average job Faith is suddenly caught in circumstances beyond her control, as her only remaining family, her sister, is framed for the murder of a local politician.
The story follows a lot of clichés and introduces totally-not-a-bad-guy characters fairly early on and plays it fairly safe. It’s irritating because there’s a lot of missed potential. There ARE proper twists and turns and interesting pieces, but they’re littered in a sea of meh. I find the characters relations more interesting than anything the plot has to offer. Faith is very close with her sister, Kate, but they’re often distant. One a rebellious soul fighting against the state, the other serving it within its police force. Both forced to choose a way of life by an event in their childhood that, unfortunately, is only covered in exposition. But both are still willing to risk their necks for the other and are fiercely loyal.
I also liked Mercury, or Merc for short. An ex-Runner turned Tracker (comms for Runners) and father figure to Faith. He found her as a child trying to steal from him for survival after she had run away from wherever “home” was, tired of the city and its deceit. He offered to take her in, train her as a Runner. To give her purpose and reason as well as shelter and a family of like-minded individuals. Again, we don’t see this. He’s your eye-in-the-sky in the form of a voice in Faith’s comms. Constantly relaying updated information to you as soon as possible about the state of the mission and incoming enemy reinforcements. It’s a good team I wish we’d seen more of.
But I could and can forgive the hiccups because the game is so damn solid. I can’t properly put into words why this game is so special to me. It elicits something in me no other game does. Faith is the most human feeling character I’ve ever controlled. I didn’t feel like an invisible rectangular prism with the ability to jump and shoot. I felt vulnerable but at the same time powerful. I didn’t have arbitrary Level Ups or skill points to help me, but what I did have, was control. Simple, unmitigated, control. No numbers dictating how good I was. Just my ability for movement and quick thinking. If I had one word to describe Mirror’s Edge, it would be so easy. – Pure.
A new Mirror’s Edge game was announced. Naturally, I freaked out. A sequel! Finally! More of the awesome experience and perhaps they could even expand upon the formula- Wait, what? Prequel…? Oh! Well, okay! It can explain the patches in the story, rewrite it perhaps! Let us see more of the origins of Faith and her family, Merc and the Runn-! OH- WHAT NOW?!
It’s a reboot…
I watched the E3 trailer with bated breath. Praying it wouldn’t ruin what I loved. Immediately I realised Faith’s original voice had been replaced and my heart sank. Merc has suddenly disappeared too, replaced with some younger and far, FAR MORE irritating voice. The gameplay they showed looked more like it was trying to rip-off Mirror’s Edge, not be its successor. The art style was off, the game was far more ‘cinematic’ for no other reason than to be pretty I suppose and enemy takedowns broke the flow completely by showing an animation in THIRD PERSON. Apparently, someone’s brain walked off when making it. Considering one of the strongest points of the original game was that the camera never, repeat, NEVER broke first person!
The one thing I liked was the new environmental takedowns. I love the idea of the environment being a weapon to be utilised in the first game so was glad to see it be expanded upon. I decided I’d await the full game before making my mind up. Upon release of the demo I watched a video that confirmed my fears for the full game. The environments were muddy, samey and confusing. The basics of movement had to be-
Sorry, just trying to avoid vomiting. Unlocked… In order to progress. Yes, you read that right. On top of that, despite being “open world” now, you’d often run through the same old areas and get lost in the awful level design. Or fall to your death with the terrible depth perception issues the game has.
But the cherry on the maggot-ridden parasite cake was the new focus on combat. Dumbed down for the masses. They missed the entire point of Mirror’s Edge. You were never supposed to be great at combat, you could fight but you wouldn’t go LOOKING for one! “Hey, Wolf! Why don’t you run past them?” You say? Oh, how I wish you could! But they don’t want you to miss their fancy new fighting system and animations now, do they? If you do run, you’ll find yourself running into a locked door that miraculously remains locked until all enemies perish. They had built on the few bad parts of the original and stretched it into a full game. And with that, the final nail was slammed into the coffin. I congratulated the dream team on killing yet another of my beloved.
Back then and even now, it feels like Mirror’s Edge walks the same path as the player. Breaking away from the norm, tired of industry standards and trying something new. So off the wall and under the radar, yet showed what video games (and exclusively video games as an interactive experience) were capable of if the developers simply had the balls to believe that it could work and be something original! As opposed to the generic, every day, war shooter. What a shame it is the creators of said experiences are often only a short distance from their own fall from grace. Backtracking in the philosophy of their own design. EA’s stranglehold or DICE’s laziness? Both? Either way it’s depressing.
Sadly, that’s all I have to say on Mirror’s Edge and Me.