Developers: EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Action-Adventure Platformer
Rating: T for Teen
Price: Approx. $19.99
Mirror’s Edge has been sitting on the seams of my interest for years, watching as I looked for entertainment elsewhere. As I played other things and also took interest in more TV shows, something would always turn my mind back to that bleeding curiosity of a game. I’d read reviews and I knew the songs, but I never actually played the game, knowing in my heart of hearts it was something special and different, worthy of my time…eventually.
Eight years later and at long last, I took up my mantle in this parkour-inspired, corporate-infiltration adventure. Through the surrogate eyes of Faith Connors, I became a “Runner,” and I sprinted out the other side of the experience with all the pride and enthusiasm of one who has felt freedom, even if there were a couple hangups along the way.
A network of renegading information mules known as “Runners” evade the Big Brother eyes of an unnamed, totalitarian utopian city which has established a fake peace through its streets. Crime is practically non-existent, but this comes at the cost of corrupt policies monitoring and regulating the privacy and media of its citizens. In this society, the Runners traffic goods and information which government officials desperately try to keep secret.
Faith Connors is one of these Runners, an outlaw, and part of Merc’s Runner crew. Her sister Kate, a member of the city police, is framed in the murder of a campaigning government official who opposed the city’s current state of being. Faith takes it upon herself to try and uncover the true culprit, as well as damage the intelligence infrastructure of the governing city to the best of her ability along the way. In the process she must put together knowledge of an experimental test being done within the city, known as Project Icarus.
As far as the story is concerned, it’s good, but owns a certain sense of lacking. There are no real emotional ties developed between the player and the characters, and the objectives basically have you hopping from trying to find one person to the next, without much happening in between. Faith is without a doubt cool, albeit that coolness is nearly her only redeeming feature. She and her sister are given some empathetic background context for flavor, but it doesn’t do much in way of satisfying their histories and relationships as a whole. Not much humor is allotted to the scripting, and even that scripting doesn’t do much to help give the story legs.
Language/Crude Humor: Aside from a few instances of the word “D***,” and at least two times where the Lord’s name is used in vain.
Sexual Content: The most revealing character is Celeste, whose Runner garb subjects the player to some midriff. Nothing else of this nature is shown or otherwise spoken about through the rest of the game.
Drug/Alcohol Use: Because of the government’s regulations against smoking and alcohol, these are practically absent from the narrative and setting.
Violence: Faith is trained in hand-to-hand combat, which the player must utilize throughout the game to debilitate or disarm opponents. Armed combat is an available option, but is not required. There are mild spurts of blood when Faith is hit by gunfire. A few people are shot on-screen and killed. Two people fall to their deaths, though the player never witnesses them hitting the ground. If the player misses a jump or maneuver, there’s a good chance they will be subjected to the heart-in-throat sensation of picking up speed as they plummet hundreds of feet into the concrete below, where the screen blacks out, but only after a brief, distinct sound not entirely unlike the breaking of wet sticks.
In a flashback, Faith and her sister are seen as children during the notorious “November Riots”, when the government brutally shut down a peaceful protest against their totalitarian regime, murdering hundreds of people, including Faith’s parents. You never actually see them die. You only hear Faith’s telling of the event.
Other Negative Themes: Technically, you are a law-breaking deviant who is illegally peddling government-owned belongings, even if said government is tainted. There are multiple stigma applied to the Runners, labeling them as criminals and thieves, with news media encouraging parents to monitor their children for signs that they might be infected with the “plague of Running.” Faith herself doesn’t seem particularly grief-stricken when it comes to killing anybody that aligns themselves with the political forces governing the city.
Spiritual Content: No religious material was evident in my playthrough of Mirror’s Edge. The closest item I can think of is the simple name “Icarus,” drawn from Greek Mythology.
Positive Content: The underlying motive and drive for everything in the game is to clear the good name of Kate, Faith’s incorrectly convicted sister. Sensations of kindness and sisterhood pervade their relationship and interactions. The Runner-trainer, Mercury, took Faith off the streets when she was homeless and gave her shelter and a purpose. That’s about it in terms of definite displays of positive interest.
One of the most frustrating parts of the gameplay (as is the case in most platformers) is the trail-and-error strategy that must be endured as the player learns the best way to handle new obstacles or situations. Expect to die frequently, and stretch the boundaries of your patience in the process. Situations which involve a lot of hostile forces can be particularly testing, as the player must figure out the best way to dispatch all threats and advance to their next location, usually in a timely manner.
Speaking of hostile forces, let’s talk about combat. I’d never experienced a game before Mirror’s Edge that employed first-person shooting and made it the least interesting and least favorable route of action. Simply put, running is much more enjoyable. Besides, Faith is so easily beaten, most altercations are best avoided at all costs. Still, in the situations where there is no running, you can fight. The shooting mechanics aren’t bad, but getting a grasp on your range when things get up close and personal is tricky, especially when you try flashy moves like slide-kicks and flying drop-kicks. It’s easy to miss or misjudge the distance because of the first-person perspective, leading you to a quick death by gunfire. Practice minimizes mistakes, but don’t expect to become a master of combat anytime soon.
There is only a single-player feature in the game, though you can compete with friends via the “time trial” game mode, which functions exactly how you’d expect time trail to work in most games.
The real selling point of Mirror’s Edge is its uncommon use of first-person perspective combined with rapidly changing environments and throttling mobility. Being a Runner, naturally, Faith runs. A lot. The camera makes as much an attempt to show her limbs on the screen during her parkour antics as possible. In addition to this, there is no HUD and no on-screen prompts outside of the tutorial, so you must rely entirely on your own eyes and sense of distance to make jumps, scale walls, slide beneath obstacles, and keep track of enemy locations.
As Faith runs, she is able to choose from multiple routes, with room for creative liberty in their course. At times, it can feel like you have a decent amount of freedom, but in reality, most of the possible routes are preordained. Still, it’s on the player’s shoulders whether they want to take the more obvious ways to their goal, or play some riskier cards and attempt ludicrous stunts. Any props that might be of particular usefulness in reaching new locations are highlighted by teeming red, a color associated with Faith’s “Runner Vision.” These help the player keep track of the general direction they should be going.
Graphically, Mirror’s Edge is aging well, and carries a unique aesthetic that writes itself into your memory. Character models are only beginning to show signs of being outdated, but are still well-designed. The environments are gifted with generous lighting effects, and often accentuate one or two particular colors above all else. For example, some corporate buildings will be almost entirely black, white, and yellow. Another will be armored in glaring blue. These colors provide a dominant contrast, especially in darker locations, such as sewers, where everything is dismal gray and shaded black, with insane lime-green barrels and ladders all over the place. The color management alone is often considered one of the most memorable elements of the game.
In conveying story, Mirror’s Edge turns to brief animated shorts, rather than computer-generated renderings. People seem to be divided with their opinions on this art choice, for while it is creative and unique, it feels sort of…awkward, and maybe even a little lazy. I personally did not care much for the style itself, but appreciated its contribution to diversifying the game from its contemporaries.
The audio shows no major flaws, and the voice over material is strong enough to hold its own, even if it’s not particularly adept. However, I would like to bring attention to the soundtrack, mostly in that it is carried almost entirely by one song. Most of the ambient and associated music is generic or outright boring, with the sole exception of the game’s primary theme: “Still Alive” by Lisa Miskovsky and its instrumental variations. That song opens and closes the game, and is the only memorable track. That being said, “Still Alive” perfectly encapsulates the feeling of running through a dream, and as such synthesizes with Mirror’s Edge (refer to video at the top of this review).
I’m glad I was finally able to enjoy Mirror’s Edge. Frequent frustrations may have cropped up through the platforming process, the combat may have been a bit lacking, and the soundtrack was almost completely forgettable, but in the end, what Mirror’s Edge did right, it did with flying colors. Sometimes literal flying colors. Sorry, bad joke.
But truly, if you want a fun experience, one that grants you that almost inhuman dream of being able to run across walls and leap great distances like the parkour masters of the world, then turn to Mirror’s Edge. It provides these things in spades.
The long-awaited sequel has been in progress for a while, so don’t be surprised if it shows up at this year’s E3. Here’s hoping.
God bless, practice your balance, and always remember to smile.
The Bottom Line
Throttling first-person experience through a metropolitan playground. Suffer as it may in some areas, this game delivers a pleasantly exciting and memorable world for you to run, jump, and fly through in only the way parkour makes available.