“Parkour” is a particular subject not fully explored in the realm of gaming, although there have been a few “explorations” into the unfamiliar territory. The most recent title that comes to mind is Assassins Creed, which to the game’s credit, was rather fluid and intuitive, albeit a bit clunky and repetitive from time to time. Now, we have Mirror’s Edge which is attempting to further plunge into the free-running style of gameplay by placing the player in the shoes of “Faith,” a runner who “lives on the edge” of a city run by a fascist government (which is strangely never fully elaborated upon). The plot really isn’t anything noteworthy, as it often takes mediocre twists and turns with characters that are rather forgettable. In the end, it’s all about successfully getting from point A to point B in one piece and any amount of drivel poured out to you in the noticeably cheaply animated cinematics isn’t going to drive the point any further, especially due to the sporadic nature of the story, to begin with.
With the abysmal state of the plot, one would hope that the gameplay would at least fair well. Fortunately, Mirror’s Edge does boast solid gameplay mechanics, at its core. The free-running aspect of the controls are rather tight and intuitive and once the title gets going, it’s fun and provides a unique experience unlike anything I’ve ever played before. However, the flow of the title often comes to a halt due to the “trial and error” nature of the gameplay. In a game that declares itself as a “free roaming” first person platformer, you’d think the general direction and objective would be clear and the flow would continue at a constant speed. I often found myself ramping up speed and beginning to feel immersed in the experience until I ultimately died over and over again until I figured out the procedural and “correct” method to completing a puzzle. This is mainly due to the inconsistency of the “Runner’s Vision” feature which serves as the essential guideline throughout each level by highlighting various objects the player may traverse at a rather sloppy rate.
The primary concept to Mirror’s Edge is to provide the feeling of “freedom” and allow the player to freely traverse the environment utilizing any particular method or pathway. This might have been a bit ambitious on Dice’s part since the “freedom” aspect of the title is merely an illusion that gives way to fairly linear gameplay. The game encourages experimentation, albeit to discover the particular solution to each puzzle, which as I have mentioned before ultimately breaks the flow of gameplay and defeats the purpose of a game that claims to root itself in the realm of a supposed “free roaming” mechanic. Combat is often discouraged the developers purposely “optimized” the gameplay to reflect as much. Faith has a very small amount of health, her attacks are weak, and the overall state of the combat is sloppy and unrefined. This wouldn’t be an issue if the developers stuck to the concept of running rather than fighting, but you’ll find yourself placed in moments of the game that force you to take on opponents with the lackluster combat system that often leads to frustratingly cheap deaths. To further add fuel to the proverbial “fire,” playing a platform oriented title from the first person perspective also reduces the judgment of various jumps and often leads to obscured vision and “leap of faith” moments that deliver the frustrating impact of death over and over again.
The visual style to Mirror’s Edge is rather intriguing, as it chooses to rely on a lighter blend of colors rather than the typical bleak and “drained of color” type of visuals we’ve grown accustomed to in a fair share of games throughout this current generation of gaming. The character animations are rather fluid and run fine, albeit with little variety to the actual enemies you’ll encounter. The framerate runs at a solid speed and the lack of a cluttered HUD gives the player a better feel for the environment and sense of realism. One of my primary concerns with the title upon its unveiling was the possibility of motion sickness due to the nature of “free running” in the first person perspective. However, the developers clearly put a decent amount of thought and polish into the visuals, as I had no feelings of nausea or issues with the overall flow in which the game displays movement.
Mirror’s Edge is ultimately a title that attempts a rather ambitious leap, but ultimately falls short and fails to reach its goal due to the numerous design flaws present. The few positive aspects of the game aren’t enough to warrant a purchase and even a rental is questionable depending upon your tolerance and personal taste. Fortunately, the title is very short (even by today’s standards) and the nearly endless string of frustrating “trial and error” gameplay segments and half baked cinematics only needs to be endured for a few hours until it abruptly ends. While it’s refreshing to see a new IP in the sea of sequels and remakes that typically saturate the industry; the numerous flaws ultimately prevent this “experiment” from succeeding.
Pros: Ambitious concept, unique blend of visuals, and it’s quite fun when the flow of gameplay isn’t constantly broken.
Cons: Multiple collision problems in regards to the controls, combat is sloppy and unintuitive, the design of the title is inconsistent and schizophrenic in nature, the plot is poorly crafted and forgettable, and the characters are shallow and unlikeable.
Conclusion: An intriguing concept ultimately foiled by poor design decisions, numerous collisions issues, a terribly shallow campaign, and forgetful plotline. Does not warrant a purchase, much less a rental; pending upon your level of tolerance and personal taste.