|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA DICE||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 12, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Derek Hidey
Electronic Arts has been busy developing the PC version of last year's Mirror's Edge, which released on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 last November. Since then, PC gamers have been highly anticipating this title and all that it promised to bring. Now that it has finally arrived, however, does it make good on its appeal?
First, it is important to mention that Mirror's Edge isn't a standard FPS game. Its focus isn't on combat, but rather avoiding it. Faith, the player-controlled, female protagonist is a "runner," a type of fugitive that delivers packages by running across rooftops and through narrow corridors while avoiding law enforcement. It's the future, and the government has gone to great lengths to install sophisticated security in the city. There are cameras everywhere and just about every movement is monitored. The result is a clean, sterile, and nearly crime-free city, but it is designated by many as not being worth the sacrifice. This is where the runners come into play.
The whole "Big Brother" thing isn't exactly novel, but it fits well in Mirror's Edge because the story doesn't really attempt to remedy the looming issue of security vs. freedom. Instead, it takes a much more personal route through Faith and her relationships. It is also refreshing to see a female lead character that wasn't modeled to be the next Lara Croft. Instead, Faith exhibits a lot of strong qualities, but without folding completely to male-driven stereotypes.
The story is told using both in-game cutscenes and short, animated cinematics that are interesting and stylized. The cinematics occur after each completed mission, and from a plot standpoint, do a good job of keeping things interesting for the player. While a lot of games tend to use the standard in-game cutscenes or advanced computer-generated images for their storytelling, it is nice to see some alternative thinking to that approach. And, in many ways, using animation can be much more effective.
The PC version of Mirror's Edge appears to be just as polished, if not more so, than its console counterparts. With a patch released just after its release, the PC version definitely plays a bit smoother. A lot of frustration with controls doesn't seem to be much of a problem on the PC. The keyboard/mouse configuration works perfectly with the difficult wall running and double-jumps that it takes to survive.
Impressively, Mirror's Edge's control customization is simple and straight-forward. Considering the number and level of complexity of moves and combos that can be performed, the list of controls is actually shorter than most standard FPS games. Not only does this make it easy to remember how to do things, but executing those moves becomes second nature. For a game that could easily require a long list of controls, Mirror's Edge's simplicity in this area should be applauded.
Visually, Mirror's Edge delivers great things on the PC. It is able to pull off the next-generation visuals well despite the vast cityscapes and outdoor areas that require rendering. And, both the in-game renders and animated cutscenes are uniquely vibrant and bold with color, which is a nice change in the recent trend for "visually realistic" games to be lost in seas of browns, greens, and grays. There are occasions when things seem a bit too bright, but it isn't particularly annoying.
The interiors are just as sterile and empty as the exteriors, but this has more to do with the story and style. One issue that can be had, however, is the lack of people. With all the running and the amount of distance traveled, Faith barely sees another person. This seems odd considering how many buildings she will barrel her way through during the game. It would have been interesting to see how population densities could affect the gameplay, particularly when running through busy office buildings. Instead, all the buildings appear to be devoid of all life. Nevertheless, whether you're jumping between rooftops, tip-toeing across pips, or scaling the interior of a five-story building, the visuals never seem to disappoint, despite being a little empty.
If the visuals weren't good enough, the music, sound effects, and voice acting put Mirror's Edge on the map. With soothing ambient soundtracks for the running done between combat encounters and the heart-pounding, fast-paced tracks for when things get intense, the music is always on point and does what music should do in video games: make an impression and increase immersion.
Because of the first-person perspective, the sound effects need to be just as in sync with the music and visuals, and Mirrors Edge doesnt disappoint here either. Heavy breathing, varying footsteps, grunts, stumbles, bullet ricochets, and the cracks of hand-to-hand combat are all captured and delivered flawlessly. There is never a moment when the player isnt aware of Faith or what she is experiencing.