Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mirror's Edge

Game: Mirror’s Edge

System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Release: November 2008

Throughout the history of videogames jumping has been a key feature--just ask Mario. Some games like, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, will focus on acrobatics first and combat second. Mirror's Edge takes this to heart from the first-person perspective. The result is a truly unique experience that defies the basic FPS tactics challenging users in new exciting ways.

Players take control of the parkour Faith. Parkour? Ya I've never heard of it either. Apparently it is the act of getting from one place to the other as quickly as possible. This requires participants to use their own body in very acrobatic intense scenarios to get over the various obstacles from Point A to B. This all started in France, and apparently can be traced all the way back to WWI ( Now why would I go into such details about parkour? Sadly it is more interesting then the plot of Mirror's Edge.

As stated above, the protagonist is Faith a parkour in an unnamed totalitarian metropolis. The organization that she belongs to consist of a handful of "runners" that deliver vital information between parties that obviously can't use their local post office. What's in the package? Can't tell ya cause it's a mystery. In fact throughout the game player's will be doing more detective work than deliveries. This isn't necessarily bad, and on the surface makes for an interesting plot. Unfortunately the story is simplistic at best. Faith stumbles upon a murder, and the suspect just so happens to be her sister. Of course her sibling is being set up by the evil powers at be, and it is up to Faith to unravel the conspiracy. By the end her parkour organization has been double crossed from within. Anyone she worked with is either a traitor or a corpse--with the exception of her sister. The siblings get to reunite for the not so emotional ending.

Thankfully this game doesn't need a plot. The gameplay is truly unique, and creates tons of potential for similar games in the future. There is a bit of a learning curve, especially with combat, but once users get a feel for Faith it's on like Donkey Kong. Throughout the game players will wall run, climb pipes, hop over or slide under obstacles. All of the moves can be pulled of in real time which requires pin point accuracy and timing. The level design takes full advantage of what Faith can do. Each acrobatic technique is utilized frequently throughout the game, and many of the levels have segments with multiple paths. Everything is also done in first-person which may lead to the occasional nauseated player.

For combat, Faith works most efficiently when getting the drop on enemies. With the press of a button the unsuspecting opponent will be disarmed and knocked out. When the element of surprise is not on her side Faith must punch, grapple, and shoot her way to freedom. She has a basic three hit melee combo, jump and slide kicks, and the ability to steal an enemies' weapon. With some experimentation players will quickly realize what combos work best. To aide in the execution of these moves the game includes a bullet time. This helps limit the frustration for the disarm ability, and other moves, that take precise timing to pull off. Shooting in this game is limited and basic—as it should be for a title focused on movement. There is the standard collection of guns from pistols to rifles. Each handles fairly well, and come with sparse ammo to encourage more running. Once again all of the action is presented from the first person creating a unique gaming experience.

Each chapter throws in just enough combat to add some variety but clearly the focus is on acrobatics. Faith's adventure will take you from rooftops to subways all bursting with eloquence. The anime like graphical style creates a vibrant and engaging environment. Even the cut scenes have flair taking a cell shaded approach to major story beats. The electronica audio track and sound effects seal the deal on a brilliantly fresh presentation. The artistic choices may not please everyone, but any open-minded gamer can see the blatant individuality this game delivers. Individuality, however, is far from perfection.

Critics of Mirror’s Edge are quick to denote a handful of faults with the game. I personally don’t agree with all of them, but that doesn’t mean they are invalid. Mirror’s Edge is a trial and error videogame. Players will die quite frequently throughout the adventure usually by falling. Combat will also be a consistent source of death due to the games learning curve. The pain of this fact is lessened by fast loading times and well placed checkpoints, but still generates frustration. The annoyance of death, however, is often based on the player’s skill and knowledge. Once someone learns the ropes the game becomes fast paced entertainment. Another critique of Mirror’s Edge is its length. The story can easily be completed in six hours. Fortunately there is a Time Trial mode where users can attempt to complete segments of the game as quickly as possible. A red ghost racer can be brought up to illustrate members of the leader boards or the player’s best time. There also will be DLC in the near future with new levels. The final complaint warranted against Mirror’s Edge is the story. As stated earlier it is simple, short, and unmemorable.

Despite these few faults, Dice does a great job in creating an original take on the first person shooter. With a few adjustments and subtle additions Mirror’s Edge could be a brilliant new franchise. More stealth abilities, a knife, better writing, and an even sharper execution of the basics may boost this game from innovative to blockbuster. Rubber’s Review gives the game 4 out of 5.

Here is a preview of the upcoming DLC.

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