Mushroom Soup For The Pixelated Soul
And here it is, just submitted to Armchair, but posted here for your early viewing pleasure. The game’s been out a while, but if previous reviews haven’t helped you reach a decision, perhaps mine will be the deciding factor.
Also, I worked on the closing on this review about five or six times, so apologies if the final line crosses over the edge of cheesiness.
When the first person perspective was created for video games, it introduced players to what would arguably become the most immersive experience a game could offer. Gamers would experience new worlds and settings through the eyes of their character, feeling enemy fire whiz by their ears, hearing their heartbeat violently increasing as their health became low, and having face to face conversations with characters who entrusted players with their hopes, and enemies who would hunt them down relentlessly through winding corridors and full moon nights.
The first person perspective became relevant to gamers during past classics like Doom and Quake, and has steadily increased the immersive experience with modern updates like Bioshock and Call of Duty 4.
With EA’s Mirror’s Edge, the first person view has taken another revolutionary step, followed by a full-on sprint. Putting players through the eyes of a young girl named Faith, Mirror’s Edge almost completely removes the typical conventions of the FPS genre to focus primarily on increasing the immersive experience of the character.
In the near future, there are young delinquents known as “Runners” who scour across city rooftops and buildings to deliver important packages while avoiding the strict and often violent police force, which have perfected the motto of “shoot first” while completely scrapping the “ask questions later” part. As a Runner, Faith becomes entangled in a conspiracy to frame her sister for the murder of a mayoral candidate, and must travel across the city’s highs and lows to solve the case as well as escape the invading police force.
Mirror’s Edge has one primary mechanic, and that is to run. Inspired by the French art of Parkour, players will experience the thrilling routines of Faith’s daily life; Jumping between rooftops, grabbing ledges and ropeways, sliding under pipes and squeezing into air vents, if players can see a reachable area, they can probably get to it, provided they’re always maintaining a good running speed for those impossibly long gaps, and an even faster pace when the fuzz starts blasting away with shotguns and sniper rifles. The graphics are impressive enough in displaying a city primed with gorgeous colors (yet still maintaining an eerie atmosphere of a society sterilized and caged by its government), but it’s the details surrounding Faith that truly amaze. From the crackling wind from a fast sprint to the gasping struggle to hang onto a ledge (not to mention the squeamish moment as you miss that jump and find yourself plummeting into the pavement), Mirror’s Edge stimulates your senses by simulating the experience of Parkour in every painstaking detail. Control of Faith is almost exclusively done by the shoulder buttons, with one trigger to jump and grab ledges, the other trigger for sliding and squeezing unto small structures. Balancing between sliding, grabbing, crawling, and jumping while maintaining a speedy momentum is a wonderful sight to see as well as experience, and the high def visuals and trance-like soundtrack make for a great showcase for non-players to gawk at.
Unfortunately, a couple of pit stops bring this fast and fun game from receiving the gold at the finish line. As mentioned before, police officers and security guards frequently chase after Faith from chapter to chapter, and while there are a number of ways to dispatch these enemies (such as a simple punch and kick combo, or a quick-reflex disarm move that knocks out an enemy and steals their weapon), it’s usually best try and outrun them, or throw a couple of punches and get going before they recuperate. The chase sequences themselves are engaging and usually resulting in the kind of escapes seen in Hollywood movies, but there are moments in the game where you will not be able to advance due to a locked door or elevator, which will remain locked until you take care of all the enemies within the vicinity.
This attempt to keep the elements that have defined FPS games for years ultimately keeps Mirror’s Edge from redefining the genre. Simply foot, it’s a first person game with the shooter portion tacked on, and forcing players to slow down and fight these heavily armed soldiers who can dispatch you in just a few rounds lead to frequent retries and even more frequent frustrations. And while the game does reload players to the nearest checkpoint quick enough, it also dumps them in areas where it can become momentarily disillusioning how far back they’ve gone, and where they’re supposed to go next. There’s a button that will move the camera to where players are supposed to go next, but oftentimes this does not take into account that the destination is closed off or inaccessible from your current position, resulting in some guesswork on where to go next. Lastly, while the game features some breathtaking visuals, the developers have oddly chosen to use a different visual style to tell its story during key cutscenes, which not only feel disjointed from the actual game, but also gives players the feeling that Faith just wants to sell some Esurance.
While the tacked-on combat portions bring a blemish to the game’s identity, and the overall length is a bit on the short side (although there are plenty of speed runs and time trials to encourage multiple playthroughs to master each area for the best online time), Mirror’s Edge is still a breathtaking adventure that has brought a new immersive experience to players along with the thrill of the hunt(ed). Have a little faith, and take that jump over the edge.