It’s hard to
imagine how a platform game converted into first-person would
ever work. One would think that the obvious advantage to having
a 2D side-scrolling platformer would be the ability to see where
your pixelated 8-bit character would land. Maybe with the
advancements in gaming technology players have just snubbed
obsolete formats like the pretentious, sophisticated gits they
Mirror’s Edge has taken the old format of platforming and given it a 21st Century vamp. One of the obvious upsides to this idea is that it gives an outdated genre a second chance (like Kylie Minogue. But she’s a talentless ferret and thus a bad example). It’s not a completely original concept but in the light of contemporary first-person games it certainly has a unique aspect to it.
play as Faith – which is an apt name really for a heroine. One
wouldn’t expect the protagonist to be called Bastard or
something, really. Anyhoo, for reasons only explained later in
the game you are a free runner. What that essentially entails is
agile folk you see all the time in Lucozade adverts pelting
through city streets like they’re returning an overdue library
book and leaping from building to building such that it would
make health and safety officers shake their heads in despair.
Evidently riding no hands down a steep hill on your bike just
doesn’t cut it for thrill-seeking in this day and age.
The game seems to encompass some sort of Orwellian vision in which information is monitored and people have sacrificed their liberties for certain things (though what we never really find out) so it appears that Faith is representative of those who live outside established living and law enforcement in which she is some kind of acrobatic courier delivering packages to people who live on or near rooftops.
Faith ends up getting caught slap-bang in the middle of a police cover up in which her sister Kate (not a very inspiring name. Shame really…) is framed for the murder of…some important guy. The player is lead through a series of high-rise levels in which they must leap across skyscrapers at dizzying heights in order to pursue her assailants and save the day etc. (“leap”, “Faith”…you see what they’ve done there…)
The nature of Mirror’s Edge involves a shit load of running towards goals and preferably away from enemies who have nothing better to do than gun down an oriental-looking woman with a Spiderman complex. The lesson here seems to be that running is actually the best option in such a scenario, whereas most games would have you reaching for the largest cannon to level a city with like your penis depended on it.
There is – as you can imagine – the option to fight your antagonists, though it is…not necessarily frowned upon but generally discouraged from. With no guns about your person Faith relies on her fisticuffs to defeat her would-be-killers. Unfortunately tackling a swat team of elite and highly trained (I use in the broadest of terms) special forces is no easy task. I find the best method is to take a running slide at them and follow it with a swift kick to the offending guard’s baby factories. You can pick up any dead guard’s gun but this is not the game’s strongest point. Not because of poor aim or anything, but because it slows the pace of the game down and with limited ammo it’s not something you can keep for very long.
The controls of the game are a little confusing in some parts. It’s generally accepted that one of the coloured buttons (usually “A”) is best for a jump command, but with Mirror’s Edge they’ve moved this to the “LB” button with the left trigger as second in command for other moves such as slide etc. This takes a while to get used to in my opinion but the player is put through a tutorial session at the beginning in order to hone in on what is essentially Faith’s lost skills.
Personally I prefer games that provide hints and tutorials in earlier levels, which puts your skills to the test in real-world scenarios rather than in artificial situations. Kind of like learning to drive by being on the actual roads as opposed to being taken around a closed off circuit. Games that give a supposed professional a rundown of basic skills before they even start their first mission seem to suggest the protagonist has spent the last eighteen months in a coma after a rather serious brain haemorrhage.
Generally Mirror’s Edge is fast-paced what with all the running, jumping, escaping and climbing onto and over shit and it does make for adrenaline-induced game play. One of the major problems seems to come from what you might expect: with hurling yourself blindly over rooftops and leaping at drainpipes it’s inevitable that your flawless run will be cut short by a mistimed jump and subsequently end with a plummet-y death.
This aspect isn’t helped by the sheer brightness of the graphics. I mean, it certainly looks pretty with all the whitewash walls and the heat wave midday sun burning a hole in your retinas but I did find myself having to reduce the brightness of my TV just so I could see the next platform. But then I would find it too dark when I was actually inside so I’d have to increase it again. Repeat ad nauseam.
I get the distinct impression that with all the dismal browns and greys of most first-person games the developers hadn’t quite got the balance of this right. Having said that, though, the graphics do look pretty and have a nice bright sheen to it. It’s a breath of fresh air and it’s kind of a juxtaposition with the somewhat dark storyline.
Mirror’s Edge is definitely worth a look, especially if you’re tired of the current state of first-person games. The levels might be a bit samey but the difficulty curve is sufficient enough to give you a decent challenge with each subsequent level. And to be honest nothing says “Fuck yeah I’m awesome!” like pulling off a series of complicated and overly dramatic jump sequences in quick succession for the first time.