Wednesday, February 21, 2024

First Play Review: Mirror's Edge [2008]

I saw Josh Strife Hayes play Mirror's Edge recently and thought I might get it and give it a go. Developed by DICE of Battlefield and Battlefront franchise fame in 2008 for Electronic Arts, Mirror's Edge is a first -person free running adventure game where movement and timing are key to success.

The game casts you as Faith Conners a young free runner who lives in an outwardly comfortable and crime-less society society but in secret is rebelling against the totalitarian regime that controls the media and citizens. Once her police-officer sister is framed for murder, Faith is relentlessly pursued by other members of the security forces "Blues" and must investigate the murder and clear her sister while evading Blues by jumping rooftop to rooftop. The story is written by Rhianna Pratchett and told mostly through a series of beautifully and stylistically animated cutscenes when you're not racing through the FPS world.

As the game was inspired by the parkour action scenes of Casino Royale and The Bourne series of movies, the most present aspect of the game while playing is movement. Fast, nimble and agile movements are required from your character as an extension of the player's hands. It's your job to manipulate Faith's abilities as she runs and jumps through an environment where one single fumble or misstep could be her last (until it reloads the checkpoint). The environment itself is unique for such a game. It's comprised of mostly white coloured walls and buildings with some features coloured in more significant colours, blue, orange, red, yellow or green in order for them to stand out and draw your attention. Red objects for example, are important as their placement means faith can use them to grab on to or jump from. Your eyes are drawn to the colours and identifying these objects and using them is crucial to the split-second decisions when you're moving and often evading weapons fire coming from behind you.

Combat is a very secondary mechanic here. Despite her slight frame an unarmed Faith can best a fully armed and armoured Blue with fists and feet, swift movements to evade being shot or clubbed, or grab a weapon from the floor or being held by an enemy. When you grab a weapon you can use it to shoot and kill enemies but it slows you down and you can't grab the surfaces you will likely need to use to evade other enemies so it's best not to hold onto it for long; this isn't a 'real' FPS.

While I enjoyed my time in the game I found that after almost 5 hours of excessive trial & error gameplay that the jumping mechanics required to progress were just a little beyond my skill or patience to learn. I also wasn't engaged enough in the story to investigate if there were cheats to "fly" as that more than a god-mode would be more necessary to progress. A pity to end in the middle, but something I can live with. 

Final Verdict: It's clear from the get go that DICE set out to make something fresh and unique and focus on traversal rather than combat or exploration to establish a new type of game. It was a great idea and implemented well. The sequel Mirror's Edge: Catalyst was not as well received and I doubt the franchise will continue. Mirror's Edge has a cult following and place in the hearts of those who love it, love parkour or enjoy trying new things.

Technicals: 4.5 hours approx on Windows 11 with an RTX4070Ti @ 2540x1440 / 60FPS

Bugs: Offers 21:9 resolution but displys in 16:9. One freeze and lock-up (reported as a common error in forums).

Availability:  Steam/GOG/EA Store €19.99. Review copy €1.89 from GOG in January 2023.

Mirror's Edge games:

  • Mirror's Edge [2008]
  • Mirror's Edge: Catalyst [2016]

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