A wild streak of brave new gaming.
Mirror's Edge reminds me a lot of another EA title, skate!, a skateboarding sim that I reviewed last year. I lauded the game for its innovation but noted that it was clearly a work in progress. Mirror's Edge suffers from the same sense of unfulfilled promise: it's a unique and fresh take on established concepts but it's obviously a sequel or two away from figuring itself out. It's a fantastic first effort, and one I definitely suggest you experience, but it's obviously just an initial step, albeit a bold one, that has the potential to ultimately result in a great leap forward.
- A unique and refreshing gaming experience, freerunning gameplay is amazing, graphics are awesome.
- Level layouts are poor in some areas, questionable design choices ruin the flow of the game, combat feels tacked on.
Amazing visuals, a slick control scheme and sublime free-running gameplay combine to form a unique and fascinating game that delivers some genuine moments of "Holy crap, did I just do that?" thrills. However, some poorly designed levels, awful combat sequences, a skeletal storyline unforgiving collision detection keeps it from soaring to greater heights. Still, it's one hell of a ride and one I definitely recommend you take.
When it's at its best, Mirror's Edge is freaking awesome, offering a one-of-a-kind experience you can't get anywhere else. While I appreciated the slick controls and the fantastic visual style, what impressed me the most was the way the superb level design melded perfectly with the freerunning gameplay; there are times when you enter a kind of Zen-like state as you tear across the expansive urban landscapes, vaulting, leaping, and sliding over and under obstacles with absolute ease. You start to see the world in front of you differently as every box becomes a stepping stone and every ledge becomes a diving board from which to leap.
It's just too bad that the game isn't at its best all the time. There are too many moments when the gameplay falters and the wonderful sense of 'flow' is rudely broken. For every expansive and open rooftop you soar across, you'll have to navigate a suffocating and poorly laid out indoor environment where your movements feel stifled. It has the same effect on your gaming momentum that putting stop signs on the freeway would have on traffic. Oh, and if you thought the loading times in Mass Effect were brutal, wait until you step into an elevator in Mirror's Edge.
Look Out Below
I also hated, hated, the combat. Beating up your opponents is hard, thanks mainly to the fact that they're heavily armed and armored; you're also vastly outnumbered, so I found myself either playing cat-and-mouse, which once again breaks up the fast-moving 'flow' of the game, or picking up a gun to even the odds, which just felt wrong and turned the game into a really clumsy first-person shooter.
Far more successful were the chase scenes where I had to outrun and outmanoeuvre the enemy; these are frantic and fun, so I didn't understand why you had to stand and fight sometimes. Exacerbating the combat is the incredibly constrained first-person viewpoint; to its credit, it does a great job of immersing you into the character and when you leap off that rooftop ledge for a gut-wrenching leap of faith, you really feel it on a visceral level. But it also gives you a bad case of tunnel-vision and you'll often lose track of your more agile opponents during combat; you'll also have a hard time judging distances and where you're about to land during certain platforming segments.
The Air Up There
I know I've spent most of the review complaining about the game but my nitpicking is a result of my vast disappoint that the game wasn't consistently stellar throughout. If the level design had focused more on open environments and giving you the freedom to run, and if the combat wasn't such a roadblock, this would have been a near-perfect game. But it's still a great first step and I can't wait to see how DICE improves upon the formula for the sequel. Until then, I suggest you experience the thrills of this high-flying title; just be warned that sometimes, the gameplay comes crashing down from the sky like a lead weight.
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