Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: TBA 2008
Perhaps the most promising yet mystifying game in all of GDC was Mirror's Edge, a title that DICE debuted sandwiched between their new Battlefield titles. It also set the room abuzz with anticipation. If I could award a "Best in Show," Mirror's Edge would be that game, and it's not even close to ready yet; that's how impressive it was.
Mirror's Edge is set in a dystopian utopia, but not the crumbling ruined, anarchy-ridden city you're used to. No, this seems to be a land at the height of civilization with gleaming buildings and crime-free streets. Of course, a price was paid for this glossy veneer, and personal freedoms and civil liberties are nothing but relics of the past, words in a history book, the sacrifices made for such a perfect world.
Obviously, not everyone is happy with the current arrangement, and that's where Faith comes in. She's a courier, running messages for the resistance in the hopes of bringing down the ruling elite. Of course, it would be much easier to make a phone call or send an email, but that's not an option. All electronic surveillance is monitored, and the only way to communicate is through handwritten and delivered messages. Of course, the cops are on the lookout for suspicious types, so Faith can't exactly walk down to the local coffee shop and have a chat with the intended recipient. So instead, she takes to the rooftops, jumping, ducking, sliding and running to get her message to the target, no matter what it takes.
The game is presented in first-person, but don't expect any sort of HUD. Stop reading this for a moment and take a look around your house; what you see is what Faith sees. Next time you go jogging or find yourself sprinting to your car in the rain, notice how your head bobs every time a foot hits the pavement; you'll be seeing that with Faith, too. If there is a game more immersive, a title that nails the sense of being there any better than this one, then I've never seen it.
So by now you're probably wondering what you do, and how you get around this strange new world. Well, Faith is granted a special ability that shows critical items in bright red, subtly pointing the way to your next objective. Rather than map markers or floating arrows (remember, realistic display), you have to simply notice the objects and figure out how to use them to get to where you're going. For example, the following objects are all in red: an air conditioning unit, some pipes, a section of a wall, the arm of a crane and another pipe. When you put it all together, you realize that you should use the air conditioner as a springboard to jump over a fence, slide under the pipes as you land, run up the wall to cross a gap, then sprint up the arm of the crane and jump to the other pipe (which happens to be running down the side of the building) and use it to haul yourself up onto the next rooftop. All the while, you need to keep moving; the game is all about momentum, and stopping to catch your breath is about the worst thing you could do.
Right about now, you may be thinking that this is all well and good, but won't it get boring? Unlikely. In the demo we saw, Faith was beset by police with guns drawn, who immediately opened fire. Running into the fray would be sure death, so Faith took off and showed just how important it was to keep moving and not let objects get in your way. Later, more police appeared, but this time with automatic weapons. As the bullets pierced Faith, the world around her started to blur, and suddenly it was harder to see those formerly bright red progress markers. Thankfully, our heroine escaped, and her vision was restored.
There is also a touch of combat in Mirror's Edge, though it's unclear just how deep it will be. At one point Faith, was confronted by a lone officer at point-blank range with a pistol drawn. She had no choice but to unleash some slick hand-to-hand combat and put him down. Faith disarmed the officer, but rather than take the gun with her, she simply disassembled and dropped it. The DICE guys said that weapons would occasionally be available, but from the sounds of things, gunplay segments will be few and far between.
So far, all of the focus has been on simplicity. One button is mapped to "up," while another is "down," and all movement is controlled that way. Faith simply runs in whichever direction you point her, and all you have to do is push the up or down button to get around obstacles. Timing is important, however, as pressing too early or too late will cause you to smash into a fence or trip over a pipe. I don't have to tell you that when people with guns are chasing you and you get stopped cold by a fence, things won't end well for you. Thus far, there's been no explanation of how combat works, but if it stays this simple, then this title can unite casual and hardcore gamers alike with its fresh premise and approachable gameplay.
Coming away from the demo, I'm left wanting so much more. Mirror's Edge sounds simple, and that's because it is, but it's got that new concept smell, and that's such a sweet fragrance in the forest of sequels and clones. If you've been reading other previews, you know that I'm not alone in my captivation, and this mysterious little IP has caught pretty much the entire gaming press by surprise. We're all eager with anticipation for this one, and you should be, too.
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