Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 11, 2008
In Mirror's Edge, the future is pretty bleak if you're a believer in individual privacy. In this dysfunctional dystopian cityscape, everything is monitored by the government, and no communication happens without an extra set of eyes, or ears, unless you employ the services of a runner. Runners deliver messages the old-fashioned way — on foot. While this avoids monitoring, it also puts runners at risk because the totalitarian regime isn't too happy about what they do.
Playing as the runner Faith, you'll face off against the regime firsthand. The government killed your parents and imprisoned your sister, and now they're coming after you. In order to survive, you'll need to complete missions for the underworld, fight off attackers, evade capture and do a whole bunch of running.
Maneuvering through the world in Mirror's Edge requires a great deal of situational awareness. At first glance, the levels may look sterile, but upon closer inspection, you'll find that each is littered with multiple paths. What initially looks like an obstacle may end up being a shortcut. An in-game hint system can help illuminate a path through the level if you're not sure where to go, but it rarely highlights the quickest route.
In some ways, Faith is reminiscent of the old Sonic the Hedgehog games. Yes, you'll fight enemies, but quickly finding the ideal way through the level is what's going to propel you to victory. Faith's repertoire of moves is limited, but easy to learn and quite flexible. For example, she can not only run up walls but also flip off them. Time it right, and Faith can wall-hop up a pillar to the next floor rather than taking the long way around on the stairs. When running toward an object blocking your path, you need to decide whether to run around it, go over it or slide underneath it.
If you're thinking, "Hey, this game sounds like it's made for a time trial mode," you'd be right. Aside from the main story arc, a time trial mode is the major draw here. Competing against the clock, running a time trial requires extremely precise maneuvering. One misstep (this includes improperly sticking a landing), and Faith will stumble, causing her to lose precious time in the process.
Visually, Mirror's Edge stands out both for its stark look and its handling of the main character. While playing the game, you don't see Faith because you are Faith; you'll see your hands, arms, legs and feet, but only from the perspective of Faith's head. It's a bit of a departure from the standard "floating head" model used in most first-person shooters, but it can be useful, especially when trying to traverse narrow surfaces.
One of Faith's special abilities is slowing down time. It's a charge-based ability, so you can't use it constantly, but it does allow for finer control over movement and better reaction time. This is important because part of the gameplay mechanic is always staying in motion. You don't really want to stop and smell the roses. By slowing down time, you get a chance to take a breather and check out your surroundings without losing any momentum.
Like many FPS games, Mirror's Edge promises plenty of gunplay. Faith will be able to choose from more than a dozen weapons over the course of the game, with all of the standard fare — pistols, shotguns, rifles — making an appearance. Just because Faith is fast, doesn't mean you won't need to shoot your way out of a jam every so often.
We're intrigued by what Mirror's Edge offers if only because no one has ever really tried something quite like this before. Yes, it's an FPS, but it's one where the shooting is somewhat secondary and learning how to maneuver around with acrobatic grace is the primary concern. There's also no doubt that the game looks good, both in screens and in motion. Watching someone else play can be quite engaging, especially if you're new to the level.
Running across rooftops and flipping around scaffolding looks pretty darn cool, but what happens once you break out of that first 30 minutes of gameplay? Assuming Mirror's Edge can keep the player occupied with innovative maps and routes that challenge the grey matter, it'll no doubt be a resounding success for EA.
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