Mirror’s Edge was a Bit of a Let Down

As we approached the holiday gaming flood, Mirror’s Edge was on my “it has potential” list as opposed to my “must buy” list. After getting my hands on the demo a couple weeks prior to its release, that changed. But with so many games just out, and still a handful of big titles on the horizon, I decided to rent it. I found myself really enjoying it for the first couple missions, but after a few I was getting bored of the same old situation. With just a couple missions left to play, I threw in the towel entirely. So I guess I’ll never find out… oh wait, what was the story about again?

Another One of Those Games

Unfortunately, you’ll have to throw Mirror’s Edge in the pile of games that branch out into uncharted areas in one way or another, but fall short it every other. It’s one of those, “next year’s sequel will be great!” games. It feels almost as though no one outside of the development team actually played the game before its release, which makes us the testers. So its almost worth taking a pass now to avoid disappointment, and picking up Mirror’s Edge 2, which will surely be a much better and more polished experience.

Ahhh, Now That’s Refreshing!

Mirror's Edge

One aspect of Mirror’s Edge that’s undeniable, is the visual style. In a time when I find myself bumping up the brightness in most games I play, Mirror’s Edge is the complete opposite. It’s bright and vibrant, and just full of colour! A great deal of the game takes place on rooftops in broad daylight. Everything is over-saturated and most colour is wiped out, with the exception of the objects highlighted by “runner’s vision”. But even the interior levels are nice and bright, with plenty of wall-fixed light fixtures and fluorescent overheads to maintain the mood.

What the Hell is Parkour?

Mirror’s Edge is not a great example of parkour. You’re better off reading the Wikipedia entry, or checking out some crazy videos on YouTube if you’re unsure. To sum it up…

Parkour is an activity with the aim of moving from one point to another as efficiently and quickly as possible, using principally the abilities of the human body. It is meant to help one overcome obstacles, which can be anything in the surrounding environmentâ€â€from branches and rocks to rails and concrete wallsâ€â€and can be practiced in both rural and urban areas.

The problem with Mirror’s Edge, is that flow and momentum are constantly interrupted. That is, until you’ve played a level enough times that you have each maneuver memorized and timed perfectly. There’s a feature called “runner’s vision” which paints the trail you’re supposed to follow red. But it’s not always there – especially in situations when you need it most. The majority of the game is spent running away from dudes who are shooting at you with automatic weapons, and in many of these circumstances, runner’s vision is disabled. I found this to be particularly frustrating, and it ended up bringing the game and excitement to a screeching halt. When it works, it’s great! Lots of fun and really satisfying when you string together some crazy maneuvers. Unfortunately, I found the number of these moments dwindling as I played through the campaign.

What makes this game truly different is the first person perspective – which is also what holds it back in a big way. A lot of the jumps and grabs would be easier made if you had a wider viewpoint or could see what your character is doing. I found that the more technical maneuvers, which required you to run along or up a surface, turn, then make another jump, were often missed the first time. It all comes down to timing, and when you’re running up a wall, you’re face is just a few inches from it, so you have no idea how high you are and when you need to make your turn or jump. This results in many, many over or under-shot jumps, missed grabs, etc. = frustrating. The more I played the game, the more I thought it would be better as a third person action game, similar to the Prince of Persia series and Assassin’s Creed. Both of which I found to be more fun and satisfying overall.

I Hate Faith and her Stupid Friends

Mirror's Edge

The characters are all kinds of lame and the story and voice acting are painful. So much so, that I started skipping cut-scenes after the first 2 chapters. I realized quickly that you can play the game without knowing what’s going on in the story and it doesn’t make a lick of difference. You basically just have to keep reaching the point they tell you to, taking out and avoiding the baddies along the way.

But, I Don’t Want to Fight!

There’s an Achievement for finishing the campaign without firing a shot, which was my full intention from the get-go anyway. It just so happened I was going to get rewarded for it. Unfortunately, the game takes a turn towards combat a few chapters in, which only gets heavier as you progress. It got to the point where I had to jack some dude’s shotgun and start blasting dudes. That’s when I lost interest all together. I play a lot of shooters, and I thought Mirror’s Edge was going to be this refreshing change of pace – that wasn’t the case at all.

Mirror's Edge

Rent it, if You Must

With the onslaught of great games we’ve been hit with this year and the inevitable sequel in the works, I’d say Mirror’s Edge is a pass all together. Download the demo, or rent it for a few days. Maybe pick it up second hand for cheap.

Rating: 3/5

Mirror's Edge

6 Responses to “Mirror’s Edge was a Bit of a Let Down”

  1. I completed the game in about 6 hours and that's my only complaint; it's too short. The combat gets a lot heavier (especially in the last mission, good thing you didn't carry on playing), but there's normally a much easier way around enemies that avoids shooting. The first person perspective is both equal parts great and frustrating as you point out, but I think it's as much a part of the overall game as the visuals. And once you have replayed a level and know where to turn, then the real fun kicks in with the speed runs and time trials!

    I just wanted to provide an opposing viewpoint to anyone reading this. I've found your reviews spot on 99% of the time, but I guess this is just one of those unusual cases.

    • I assumed it was only going to get heavier on the gun-play, which is why I decided to just pack it in. Truly a shame, as I had high hopes for this game after enjoying the demo.

      I almost think they should have taken a similar approach to what Valve did with Portal. They came up with a great new gameplay mechanic, and essentially delivered a tech demo.

  2. I generally agree with you there Matt, though I think it's a bit harsh to not even recommend it for renting. The first 6 levels are alright I think. After you meet the ixnay-on-teh-spoiler-enemies, it goes downhill fast, and it's more frustrating than fun, which isn't really a great angle for a game.

    I guess they were too busy getting it done in time to play through and look for difficulty spikes.

    Too bad, because they do do some pretty cool stuff, which I think is worth the price of renting.

    I of course borrowed it from a friend 🙂

    • It's not often I'll steer people away from a game completely, but in cases like this where disappointment is imminent, I'm going to start doing just that. It's just such a drag to get into something that appears to be one thing, and turns out to be another, much more sucky… thing.

      It also has a lot to do with timing. If it were Spring, my view on this game would likely be entirely different. I probably would have finished it too, since there wouldn't be much else competing for my gaming time.

  3. I thought the game was really well done, but with a few flaws. I played through it twice. One time I played through on normal without firing a shot, and second time I played through allowing the use of weapons. The first play through was the hardest. There were quite a few scenes where I would die over and over again by being knocked out by an enemy. It ended up being that I would have to disarm an enemy or knock him out, and then find cover for a while until I could take the next one out. Taking on more than one was almost impossible unless I had the first one done with a disarm. Other than the story being a bit boring, it was still a fun play through. I also couldn't recommend buying it, but even on my first play through, my friends and girlfriend were amazed at how it seemed like I knew what I was doing. I was running the levels pretty much continuously. There were only a few areas where I had to stop at first to get an idea of my surroundings. The second play through on hard added a bit more time due to the fact that I lost my runner's vision, but I still had a general idea based off my first play. It's a good game, but a bit short, and a bit lacking in certain areas. I hope they make a second that maybe expands on the idea, or adds in some cool runner racing multiplayer. I think it would be so cool to have randomly generated race levels with multiple paths. It would be a completely different multiplayer game than any that we currently have.

    I also wanted to mention controls. At first, I sucked at them. I constantly threw myself over edges and would flip around and confuse myself. After I got the hang of it though, it almost felt like second nature. I could run off walls, jump to an adjacent wall, jump again back to another wall, etc without stopping to think. It reminded me of Bionic Commando Rearmed. I was horrible at first, and then soon enough I was swinging with ease.

  4. I've finished ME few days ago and I fully agree with your post. I had very high expectations, and ME didn't deliver even halfway.

    It's just another game that had a great, fresh idea, but got fucked up by clunky controls and awful combat mechanics.

    Storyline? What storyline? Meh.