Mirror’s Edge

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The City at Night, rather awesome.

I got Mirror’s Edge for a much more reasonable £15 at Game on Friday, and finished it on Saturday. The game was, I’ll say, about equal measure of fun and frustration. From what other critical looks I’ve seen, that pretty much is the consensus all round. It is also ridiculously short, as a fast-action platformer, if you actually succeed in doing levels well, the game flies by.

The good parts are that it is, at it’s best points, a great moving, great looking game. The first person perspective can really work, and I thoroughly enjoyed leaping around with speed. The runner vision (where you are best going marked in red) generally succeeds, and level layouts are generally well made in this regard – although quite linear most of the time. I also want to point out, the lack of GUI is refreshing – you actively use your hands (to press buttons, turn things as appropriate) which looks and feels awesome.

However, on the other hand, coupled with the short (no, exceedingly short) nature of the game, it suffers when the design is purposely annoying. One major section I spent at least half an hour falling and dying constantly consisted of jumps and actions which were, really, easy to make, just Faith never seemed to grab hold of something. The game strings out the content by making some bits really difficult, and so get used to seeing that same bit again and again if there are not enough save checkpoints.

I’ll also note there is online activation. This isn’t great, although at least it isn’t a “contacting server to make sure you can’t install this”, so I will always, at least, be able to install it. Since it is so hidden though, I do wonder how many installs I get…hmm…

The combat, well, less said the better. By far the worst aspect of the game – and I wish it was impossible (allowing fast speed to instead allow you to dodge with special moves, or incapacitate for a while, or at best knock out with one button press – not a quicktime event!). The various forced fights, well, I gave up on pacifism pretty quickly near the end. The boss fights, were, well, bizarre – a one which was two rounds of hand to hand fighting, two which were a single quicktime event, and another which was against a server room…sigh.

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More cutscenes like this in game!

The story was hodgepodge – I didn’t like the flash-like cinematics (looks so drab, and un-pretty!) – I think the game engine was underutilised there. The characters were also very unsympathetic, and it barely made sense (“Wait…what? you’re going to investigate a random security firm just like that?!”), and looks like serious sections of sense were cut from the game. The difference between levels (an excuse to do parkour) and the story (I have to go to this area…why exactly?) is quite strange. I didn’t even get to see the protagonist’s base in first person – interactive cutscenes would have been awesome for the game too, like Half-Life 2 has, since you can see your hands – but never actually pick up and use anything. Still, since you are playing a character, it’s not too bad – although like I said, a missed opportunity to not do it for all the cutscenes. The ending – well, if it even was one, was…just a little clichéd, and also a bit silly (for some reason you’re not shot by dozens of security people). If there is a sequel, there’s not many characters who are left alive out of the very tiny cast, so at least there might be some more interesting people there the future.

The audio also went out of sync on my system for some reason when it came to the speaking parts and cutscenes (I tried with and without vsync and PhysX, meh). This leads on nicely to say that the game also always displays in 16:9 – don’t play this on a square monitor, and my 16:10 monitor always had black bars. This is a downright lazy port, what with my audio issues and the black bars, almost but not quite as bad as Assassins Creed (which was worse because it had the fun “multi layer escape” option, making Alt-F4 faster). It does however at least look amazing, with great visuals (including lots of bloom) and some good sounds (running feels like running!).

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Fun disarm moves, if you can pull them off…

How would I improve the gameplay myself? Make the protagonist more prone to doing the “right thing”. Moves are bloody ridiculous to pull off without pre-knowledge of the level layout – especially when you mistime a jump not quite late or early enough. My thinking would be to make it more Assassins Creed-like, where you can hold an “Up action” button and it’ll do a jump at the edge of a building or ledge, and also if there is an available jump while hanging and looking in a certain place – do it automatically (not having to press “up action” then “up action” again to hang on then “up action” again to pull yourself up – holding it down should be enough, and be much more fluid). Also stopping at edges better, so you don’t just fall off, would help – there is no reason why I should be looking at where my feet are in a first person game – my feet should know there is nothing there, and stop walking!

The combat – like I said, remove or drastically improve it. Pacifism would be great (so always having avoidable combat), but failing that the removal of the quicktime gun taking event would be nice – make it always consistently knock out the enemy would be nice. If you are able to get near these gun people, then they should become easy to take down (if you stand still, you would be easy to take down, moving fast though should be another matter). Make sure that the AI also can’t shoot through their friends would also be cool, and adding actual AI so it didn’t just do scripted cover usage (which I saw about once) would be nice. Those melee guys were ridiculous too 🙁 multiple chasing enemies, with tasers, just is frustrating (and rather dumb, since it seems they are the ranged weapon they have, and you can’t disarmt hem in one hit – so you get two people able to hit you, you can’t knock either one out quickly, so you die).

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So much to explore outside…if only we could.

Finally, it’d be nice if like Assassins Creed, it was more open world. The tight control is sometimes nice (for setpieces), but mainly frustrating in the game (when trying to figure out “how on earth do I get up there” usually). So many closed doors, and never an opportunity to see what The City is like in the short time – you only ever meet security personnel! The bag angle is also lost almost immediately when the game starts – this would have been great to have as “something to do”, in addition to mission objectives (and also make the other characters in the story have more point to them). At the very least, making all the cutscenes use the game engine, and possibly even be interactive, would be a great plus.

Give Mirror’s Edge a try if you have a chance – borrowing it should be easy, since you can finish it in something like 5 or 6 hours at the most, and give it back the same day! 🙂 I did enjoy the fast parkour bits when they worked for me, so worth trying just for that, and the visuals are a great change of pace too.

See my gallery for a “travelogue”, or playthrough via. screenshots, or click below:

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