Friday, 15 February 2013

Now Playing: Mirror’s Edge

Mirror’s Edge is a first person platform game set within a bright, vibrant world. It’s a game with a lot of style, a game that, particularly today, stands out - at least in the sense that it’s not afraid of primary colours.

In terms of gameplay, Mirror’s Edge reminds me of the Sonic franchise because it’s a game about speed and momentum. Like in a Sonic game, ME is all about going fast, about achieving a ‘perfect’ run of every level, and therein lies the challenge. Unlike a Sonic game, there’s no score or rings to collect, but the goal is the same - a perfect run. No slips, trips, stumbles or falls.

It can be a wild, exhilarating experience, and even the subtle, yet clearly defined limitations of the path before you does not dampen the sense of freedom or the rush you feel when you pull off a perfect set of jumps.

And freedom is what ME is really all about. You play as Faith, a runner in a dystopian future society. Beyond the sleek, colourful aesthetic lies a black, corrupt heart beating at its core. Faith lives on the edge of the law, a ‘runner’ delivering packages between...uh, revolutionary type groups, I think? Or something like that. The game isn’t really about that though.

There is a story, of sorts, told through animated cut scenes. It’s decent enough, dealing with the typical conspiracy stuff, but with a bit of a personal investment, as Faith attempts to unravel the mystery of the murder of an upcoming politician and clear her falsely accused sister’s name.

Despite spending so much time in Faith’s stylish shoes, it’s a shame we never really get to know her very well, or see much of her relationship with her sister. There are supporting characters, but these too are rather undeveloped.

It’s not a particularly big deal, but as is usually the case, I always prefer to care about why I’m doing something, and a lot of the time in ME I just didn’t. But unlike another game with the same problem (Metro 2033) ME draws me in thanks to its superbly executed, unique form of gameplay. Is it entirely perfect? Well, no, not always. Sometimes you’ll miss a ledge, or perform a fatal jump you never intended as the controls go a little wonky. It’s rare, but it’s irritating when it happens.

There is combat in the game, but it’s rather basic. The ‘Blues’ who chase you frequently throughout the game are well armed, but fortunately they share the accuracy of an Imperial Stormtrooper. Provided you can isolate one or two at a time, it’s fairly simple to knock them down with a combination of kicks and punches, or if you’re feeling cocky, disarm them and turn their own weapons upon them.

Shooting Blues doesn’t really feel like Faith’s style, but it’s certainly an easy way out of some tricky situations. Combat is all handled through a combination of timing, movement and a single mouse click. It looks and feels incredibly cool, especially when you hit slow motion (a limited recharging ability), disarm a guy by kicking him in the face, flip the gun into the air, catch it, and then blast his friend in the chest, catapulting him several feet…mmm, maybe I shouldn’t enjoy that so much.

The music is fine, the VA is good. Graphically the game looks great, with a very sharp, vivid style. I love being able to look down and actually see my flailing limbs as I crash to the earth and I really wish more games did this - it’s so much more immersive. The feelings of weight, speed and momentum are finely balanced. You feel connected to Faith when you play, unlike the odd disconnect of a floaty ghost with a shadow in a typical first person game.

The story takes around 6 hours to clear, longer if you try to hunt down the collectible packages scattered throughout the levels. There’s also a time trial mode, speed run mode, and some bonus features of artwork, scene unlocks and music, which is always a nice touch. My biggest criticism of the game is really the limitations and linearity of the levels. Although they appear wide and open, there is often only one ‘correct’ path to take.

Overall, Mirror’s Edge is a slightly flawed gem, but it’s certainly a one of a kind experience. Whether you’re leaping from the top of a crane, jumping from a building onto a helicopter, or sliding down the side of skyscraper (!) Mirror’s Edge is a fantastic rush.

I’d love to see a sequel one day, with a more fleshed out story and characters and with multiple routes throughout the levels. Or even just a big open sandbox with primary and secondary missions. If you see it on sale, give it a shot, it’s totally worth it.


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