Mirror's Edge Demo Review

By Mike on 5:01 pm

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Mirror's Edge is probably one of 2008's most anticipated titles for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. The game is being published by the infamous EA but has been developed by Sweden based DICE. They are one of EA's more reputable development teams who was behind the popular Battlefield series. Over the years, Electronic Arts has grown a bad reputation for releasing generic, water down titles and poor customer service. It is now one of the most universally hated publishers in the gaming community. I discussed the Spore fiasco at length last month which illustrates how the gaming conglomerate functions. All this consider, this is what makes Mirror's Edge an unusual title. It represents a rare bold move for EA.

Mirror's Edge is a first person action game. However, it represents a paradigm shift from other first person games which have traditionally been shooters built on the same generic formula since the original Doom first hit the shelves back in 1993. The game can best be described as a first person platformer. There are shooting elements but gamers are encouraged to get through the game without firing a single shot. The majority of the game is based on parkour style running and jumping. For those who don't know, parkour is a sport that has gained some popularity recently. It uses the city as a playground to challenge runners to get from one point to another as quickly as possible using only the capabilities of the human body. Probably its most famous depiction is the opening sequence of 2006's Casino Royale. Elements of this sport have been present in other recent games, such as Naughty Dog's Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, but they've never formed the core of the gameplay. This is what makes Mirror's Edge unique.

Your PC in the game is Faith. She's a bit of an everywoman character which tends to be typical for games like this. Faith is a young tattooed Asian (I'd guess she's Korean based on her appearance) woman in her early 20s living in a dystopian city sometime in the near future. She is a runner, a small group of people who travel the cities roof tops and sewers delivering information to those who wish to remain discrete in the city's surveillance society. Her back story has been explained in some of the game's trailers. Her parents were part of those who openly opposed the increasingly totalitarian regime that was slowly taking over the unnamed country. It is said that she is trying to free her sister who has been detained by the government, though this part does not happen in the demo.
The demo provides you with a tutorial stage and the first level of the game. There is also a time trial mode. The game attempts to provide the most immersive first person experience as possible. There is no map or hud in the game so to speak. The only aid is a white dot in the centre of your screen. This can help you line up your jumps. However, even this was added as an after thought according to the developers. It apparently reduces issues with motion sickness by providing a point of reference. The goal is to run and build up momentum to be able to trigger your jumps successfully. Like most first person games, you control your movement with the left stick and look around with the right stick. Other controls in game are tagged to the shoulder buttons. L1 jumps while L2 crouches. While running, you can use L2 to slide, tuck your feet in during a jump to make it over certain obstacles, or execute a roll on landing. R1 and R2 control your combat functions. R2 punches and kicks. You can execute combos or tricks for both action and combat functions. For example, you can do wall runs by holding down L1. The shoulder button scheme for action functions takes a little getting used to since most of us are familiar with using the button pad.
As for other controls, Triangle is used to disarm enemies. There is also a shooting element in the game, which I didn't test. Presumable R1 shoots though the tutorial doesn't teach you how to use a gun. While you can use a variety of firearms, the game discourages it. There is also a penalty when carrying the extra weight of a gun, which makes Faith less mobile. You can only use the bullets already in the gun. Once the bullets are gone, they're gone. No storing guns in hammer space and picking up additional ammo along the way. In addition to the controls mentioned, the game makes use of SixAxis control for executing rolls on landing, or balancing on beams. Gameplay is quite fast paced but your not completely without help. Runner Vision paints areas of the environment you can use red. This is vary helpful but can be turned off if desired.
Faith cannot die in the game, at least in the traditional sense of a "game over". If you fall, or are killed, you are returned to the last checkpoint. As your health drops, the screen will fade to grey similar to how health was measured in Uncharted.

Level designs are vary well done in Mirror's Edge. There are plenty of obstacles and challenges to get around keeping the game fast paced and constantly changing. The entire cityscape is a stark white environment, which has been done for artistic effect. It gives the city a sanitized appearance, just as the dystopian government has tried to sanitize society. Architectural style closely resembles Toyko though characters in the game speak with a typical North American accent. The game is not meant to depict any real world environment.

Mirror's Edge is said to have been designed for the PS3 and is being ported onto other systems. The game runs flawlessly on that system. Graphics are fairly crisp and clean but they're not really anything cutting edge. Graphics quality I'd place on par with Force Unleashed; good but not the best. Other characters in the game seem a little stuff and textures have a grainy appearance to them. The game runs at 720p. Audio wise, there's not much in the way of in-game music, presumably for realism. Sound quality is good. I did not notice any issues with frame rates or tearing in the game, which is critical for a title like this.

Mirror's Edge is certainly an interesting title. It crosses a lot of genres and yet provides something fresh and innovative. The goal is not to kill everything it sight but to strategize and survive without firing a single shot. Mirror's Edge presents us with a different view of what happens when we sacrifice liberty for security. Whether it's trying to make a political statement or not is a moot point. Even Faith as your character presents gamers with something fresh. It is rather unusual to see Asian female characters as the main protagonist in a video game. At least beyond the typical big breasted anime chick. I frankly don't care what race a developer chooses to make their characters, but I think Faith represents someone more realistic. Mirror's Edge has received a lot of hype over the last few month to the point of it becoming ad nauseam. Does it deserve it? I think it does. The gameplay is fast paced, entertaining, and challenging and it seems to be backed up by a strong story. Hopefully the final game will not be something you can breeze through in under 5 hours, but I don't expect it will be. This is definitely something worth considering for you or the gamer on your list this Christmas.

Mirror's Edge will be released in North America on Novemeber 11th for the PS3 and Xbox 360. No date has been set for the PC version though EA says it will not be out until early 2009. Given that this is an EA title, I would avoid the PC version at all costs since it will likely include the same SecuROM platform that Spore uses.

What Works:
-Innovative gameplay that crosses genres yet is fresh and new
-Excellent level design
-Good graphics with good art design
-Unique main character and strong story

What Doesn't Work
-Shoulder button controls take some getting used to
-Textures feel a little grainy at times

Score: 9 out of 10

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