|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: Nov. 11, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Rolling the DICE
by Jonathan Marx
Digital Illusions CE (EA DICE) has rapidly grown as a studio. The Swedish developer began life as a low-key firm creating Pinball titles in the early 90s. By the end of the decade, they had moved on to racers, from rally to NASCAR.
After the turn of the millennium, the company truly found itself with the release of Battlefield 1942 in 2002. This marked the beginning of the wildly successful series whose latest entry, the cinematic Battlefield: Bad Company, cemented the developer as a marquis company, capable of producing highly entertaining AAA titles for the console market. DICE's story of evolution has fueled an adventurous spirit within the studio, one that has led to the development of the exceedingly ambitious, first-person platform/adventure Mirror's Edge.
Unlike any game I've ever played, Mirror's Edge pushes gaming boundaries. It is a very original title that does away with first-person conventions such as gunplay and focuses on revolutionizing the platformer. Players take on the life of Faith, a member of a group of illicit couriers known as Runners, in a city that has been transformed from one of exciting diversity and danger to a barren, hygienic police state. These Runners circumvent the sterile establishment by delivering key bits of information that undermines the iron grip of the powers that be. Taking to the rooftops and utilizing the flow, Runners use their urban environment to turn the cityscape into a playground. Hopping from ledge to ledge and building to building is the only way to deliver the vital information without getting caught. This premise sets the stage for the gameplay of Mirror's Edge.
Throughout the various levels, players will adeptly navigate through the city by creating their own highway through and on top of the massive hyper-modern buildings. Faith is as agile as a cat and uses her speed, momentum, strength, and athleticism to attain her objectives, all the while, narrowly evading capture from the seemingly ever-present Blues (police).
It's difficult to describe the feeling of playing as Faith; this title truly is unique. The gaming series' that is most similar to Mirror's Edge is Ubisoft's The Prince of Persia in terms of action platforming and the protagonists' sheer athleticism. However, the amazing first-person perspective used in Mirror's Edge is borderline virtual reality, lending a sense of scale and danger unique to this game.
In fact, the first-person perspective is so dynamic that I found myself getting a little queasy after playing for an hour on my 52' screen (and I don't experience motion sickness easily). I had to lug my console upstairs and use my 20' monitor to finish up. Thankfully, the smaller screen cured what was ailing me. Nausea aside, Mirror's Edge delivers a visual experience unlike anything I've ever known. There were times when I would put my face within a couple feet of my monitor, had Faith look over the edge of a tall building, and I actually experienced a touch of vertigo - talk about exhilarating!
Unfortunately, the visuals aren't perfect. Initially, I was intrigued by the minimalistic design and presentation of the cityscape. The white buildings, primary colors, and crisp azure sky contrast nicely and were appealing to the eye. However, after going through level after level, you begin to get bored with the surroundings, as it is so uniform and homogenous. Also, I realized that the developers used such stark and plain environments as a function of gameplay mechanics rather than as a preferred aesthetic; it was going to be a lot easier for players to recognize what objects they could interact with. As a result, players will constantly run into the same objects from cranes and A/C units to plywood ramps and zip-line cables.
After awhile, these standardized features serve as harsh reminders that you are inside a video game; it acts as a foil to the excellent use of first-person perspective. If a second title in the series is made, I hope the developers will make a world that is more vibrant and natural. After a few hours, I longed to see gothic architecture, garbage-laden alleys, and rooftops that didn't have plywood conveniently positioned. The world of Mirror's Edge simply isn't realistic enough to support the engaging perspective. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the Story mode, though the plot itself is somewhat suspect. Again, even the story suffers from the use of vanilla environments, which translate into the narrative itself.
Then there is the issue of controls. For the most part, players will make use of the shoulder buttons and analog sticks almost exclusively. Fighting, high moves (jumping), low moves (sliding), and a 180 degree quick-turn are all mapped to the top of the controller. A time slowing function, action/interact, and disarm actions are occasionally used via the face buttons. I had almost no problem adapting to this control scheme. I quickly found myself wall running, tumbling, scaling, jumping, sliding, etc. like a monkey and it brought a big smile to my face. However, there will be a huge learning curve for those who aren't particularly proficient in their platforming abilities. Moreover, even savvy gamers will constantly run into tricky sequences that are not only frustrating, but also stridently end your flow.