Mirror’s Edge will probably go down as one of the most unique games to release in 2008. It intrigues with its style and graphical innovation, with crisp anime-like graphics that few games dare try. It provides a fresh perspective via its first-person adventure gameplay, something gamers haven’t really seen since Namco’s Breakdown. On the other hand, Mirror’s Edge may also go down as one of the year’s hardest games, with a difficulty and timing mechanism that could very well turn off many people who would otherwise like to give Mirror’s Edge a try.
The yin and yang of Mirror’s Edge is its difficulty. It’s the worst and best parts of the game. What makes the game exciting is knowing that if you screw up you’re toast, but this also makes the game frustrating at times. With its first-person platforming, intense combat and lack of a HUD, Mirror’s Edge could have benefitted by easing gamers into its gameplay. The plot sees players assuming the role of a parkour-style “runner” trying to escape from authorities after her friend is accused of a serious crime. Although the character was thrown into this dramatic situation, that doesn’t justify throwing gamers into this style of gameplay. Gradually introducing a few of the jumping moves and helping gamers better understand where the game is coming from would have been good. As it is, it’s difficult to grasp the language this game is speaking.
In part because of this test-by-fire approach, Mirror’s Edge is also fairly unforgivable. If you leap onto a ladder, you have to hit the ladder dead center. However, Mirror’s Edge is inconsistent in the distances it lets you jump, a flaw for a game whose distance jumping hangs in the gameplay balance. Some jumps that seem impossible can be made with ease, while a few others that seem manageable can’t be made.
Compounding matters is level navigation, which can be tough at times, particularly as you need to figure out where to go and what to do within 30 seconds. This makes for some serious edge-of-your-seat, intense gameplay when you’re making all the right moves and get a good run going as you run from the guards or chase someone down. It’s important, then, to understand the graphical navigation cues, particularly the use of the color red. A lot of things are white or another neutral color, while reds, oranges, blues or greens are used as an accent to walls and objects.
Red almost always points the way to go: red doors are meant to be opened. Red sofas mean you can jump on them and reach some higher point. But half the time you’re looking for something red, and then there’s nothing red around. You can hold down a face button for a hint that points you in the direction of your goal, but it’s only helpful when the goal is at your height, not many, many levels below or above you.
Running and jumping really leads to some great effects, as you feel like you’re truly building up speed as you go through each level. When you slam open doors, it feels really good, if not too realistic as the camera view reacts as you would in real life. The falling effect when you fall many stories to your death is also pretty sweet. And, if you fall and survive, you’ll hit with a thud and be stunned for a second or two.
Between runs and jumps, you’ll find yourself avoiding, engaging and disarming the authorities, though combat isn’t really the focus of Mirror’s Edge. Bullets whizzing by your head get pretty intense, more so than most games because, unlike Call of Duty for instance, the bullets here aren’t just background noise. The enemy is coming for you. And the more bullets you hear the chances of you dying go way up. The game doesn’t wait for you. You earn your close calls here. You’re not given them.
Sometimes disarming the tougher of the two types of enemies is totally frustrating. Maybe hit detection is off a bit, maybe I’m just too slow, or maybe you’re not meant to disarm these harder bad guys. Either way, it can be frustrating, so make sure you slow down time, which can also help you look for a way out when you don’t have much time left. (Speaking of time, check out our Mirror’s Edge Runners Bags locations walkthrough — it’ll save you some previous time.)
Time is something of a special item in general with Mirror’s Edge, though, because the entire game only lasts about six hours. Once you’ve beaten it, the only other thing to do other than playing it again on hard (why would you do that to yourself?) is to play the Time Trial mode This can be quite fun, because one of the thrills of Mirror’s Edge is doing everything right and going fast. And, since you’ve already gone through the levels by trial and error, you’ve gained some competence to get to this Zen-like state of mastery of the game’s levels and controls.
Still, the short experience doesn’t quite warrant Mirror’s Edge as a $60 purchase. It’s definitely different, challenging and has a unique look, but sometimes the effects can wear on you, and the difficulty is flat-out off-putting at times. Mirror’s Edge provides something new and different, and I definitely like its look, but for most gamers, it’s probably best off as a rental.
- Score: 8
- Very stylistic, intense and creative, Mirror’s Edge is missing the replayability to justify its $60 price tag, and it has a difficult learning curve that never quite levels out.
— Steve Minor