Dead Island shambled into my life back in 2012, introducing me to the first-person zombie shooter genre (not a fan of Call of Duty zombies). I fell in love with the formula, despite its shortcomings, so when Dying Light was announced, and it promised frenetic zombie action paired with parkour! It even delivered!
You may be wondering what this may have to do with Mirror’s Edge? Well, be patient.
Platforming is the name of the game here. Mirror’s Edge is a blend of a puzzle and platforming game. Each level gives you the task of traveling from point A to point B, while attempting to avoid enemies and death by rapid deceleration.
Is it really that simple? It kinda is, actually.
Sure, you could take a chance on hand-to-hand combat or using one of the weapons you “procure” from a cop, but those methods don’t play to Mirror’s Edge‘s strengths. Combat is clunky, and often unresponsive. Trying to disarm enemy while they’re attacking you often results in you taking damage, even if you time the move to make use of the window of opportunity.
Luckily, it’s entirely possible to play through the game without killing enemies. This focus on enabling the player to avoid bloodshed is something that sets Mirror’s Edge apart. That and the groundbreaking traversal mechanics. There’s no sprint button; instead, you build up momentum by running forward, with each obstacle stealing a little momentum away from you as you navigate the environment. It works very well, as long as you know where you’re going.
When you don’t know what to do (if you turn off the ridiculously immersion-breaking Runner Vision, for instance), you’re often left to try and figure things out through trial-and-error. And holy crap is it frustrating when you are stuck… Getting thrown back to a prior checkpoint over and over again because you can’t see the path forward while you’re getting shot to death by a half dozen cops doesn’t make for a fun experience. Fortunately, this isn’t a common, though your affinity for puzzles will be a determining factor.
The muted visuals in Mirror’s Edge do an amazing job at selling the setting as a sterile, dystopian city. The cleanliness of the city, and the overwhelming force that you’re met with show quite clearly how… off everything is.
Like many other games, Mirror’s Edge designates important objects of interest with suitable colors. This coloration stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world, making it clear to you where you’re supposed to go; in most cases at least. This contrast allows Mirror’s Edge to be played with an extremely minimalist UI, which is something that I personally adore. Instead of being distracted from the information on your HUD, you can focus on what’s going on around you. Which makes it so much easier to take screenshots (take a hint, developers).
Then there’s the cutscenes, which are animated. Not 3D animation, mind you. The cutscenes have a cartoonish look. Initially, I was a little jarred by the inclusion of traditional animation for the cutscenes, but it grew on me the more I played. It makes me wish that more developers would be a little less focused on “realistic” depictions of characters, considering how often they fall flat (*cough* Mass Effect: Andromeda *cough hack*).
It’s mostly just refreshing that instead of revisiting the usual tropes of fighting authority, like focusing on destroying enemies in combat, you’re given the ability to evade in lieu of fighting everything you run across. Sure, there are games like the original Deus Ex that allow you to use non-lethal options for combat, but not many games allow you to avoid fighting entirely; at least if you don’t include games that don’t have combat at all.
Mirror’s Edge does allow you to kill bad guys, though that isn’t something I explored…
Well, I did shoot the lady from the tutorial in the head a few times, if that counts.
Faith isn’t a warrior or rebel soldier. She’s a runner. Her status as a civilian runner makes her a unique character though. Instead of being focused on fighting authorities, she’s concerned with helping people communicate outside of the official, heavily monitored channels. She fights back by keeping the government on their toes, and does her job despite the incredible risk associated with it.
Of course, nothing ever stays simple. An anti-incumbent politician running for mayor is killed, and the implication is that Faith’s sister is involved somehow. Chaos ensues, and Faith puts her feet to work.
The story isn’t exactly what I’d consider to be riveting. It’s more just a vehicle to facilitate the gameplay. Faith is a decent enough character though, mixing equal parts conviction, humor, and determination. She makes for an interesting protagonist, even if she doesn’t have the most complex motivations.
WILDCARD: HIPSTER FAITH
What really makes Mirror’s Edge stand out is that the parkour mechanics are so well done for a game that existed long before Dying Light, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, and Titanfall. The movement mechanics are pretty well done, and I think that it set the stage for an innovative gameplay mechanic to make its way into the industry. It’s just a shame that Mirror’s Edge didn’t make it as a major franchise.
This is a pretty short review of mine, but don’t let that fool you. Mirror’s Edge is a great niche title, one that fans of parkour mechanics should definitely look into. Why Electronic Arts didn’t attempt to make more of the IP is beyond me.
Actually, it makes perfect sense. Mirror’s Edge, while a wonderfully unique game, attracted too small of an audience. EA wanted titles that could compete with Call of Duty, Fallout 3, and Grand Theft Auto IV in sales, and a game that eschewed combat in favor of running around didn’t meet those needs.
I think that had Mirror’s Edge come out today, it would’ve developed a big following. That is, beyond the cult following that it attracted at the time. Of course, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst released recently, but the changes to the IP had quite an impact on the reception of it… but that’s a story for another day.
That said, I’d say that anyone even remotely interested in Mirror’s Edge should pick it up. It’s remarkably cheap now, and is playable on PC, PS3, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
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