Mirror's Edge review
aka Some Eurasian Chick Doing Crazy Stunts
One thing I find amazing is that while long running series like Zelda, Mario and Sonic do the same crap over and over (with the exception of Sonic Unleashed), the game series that just come in are trying all these bright and innovative ideas, or just improving the concept of another series. Look at Dead Space! It's pretty much everything Gears of War 2 wishes it could be! There's Skate, which kicks the shit out of post-Pro Skater 3 Tony Hawk games with some slick controls and an emphasis on motion, instead of just "hey kids hold X, release and press square to do kickflip". Now to improve what many people would've grown up with in the 80's and 90's - platformers! But how is this possible, I thought platformers reached their peak during the N64/PS1/Saturn generation... Well, give it a first person perspective and star a Eurasion chick doing crazy stunts on rooftops, give her some weapons to play with provided she snatches them from SWAT forces or policemen and that's Mirror's Edge.
Mirror's Edge is about a Eurasian chick by the name of Faith, who goes on missions to either deliver information to those who need it or prevent runners like herself from getting killed in gunshots from the police and SWAT forces - or the "blues" as the game calls them - or just plain doing what you're being told to by the boss. There's also the case of the death of a potential mayor and a framing. There is more to the story than that, but as I don't want to spoil people, I'll say this - KICK ASS!
To begin with, you'll already notice that the graphics are somewhat different from your usual first person shooter/Halo. The rooftops and some of the objects don't have a ton of texture - they're more a few fine lines on the roof, and just a fair amount of texture on the objects and parts of the rooftops. Some levels that take place away from rooftops look a fair bit more like your usual FPS levels, and there's a couple of instances of trains on a level, and they're pretty damn shiny. However, when you really look into it, it all looks good. Character models also look fine. They most definitely look like something you'd see this generation and look realistic. Unfortunately, it tends to lag during in-game cutscenes...=(
Hands down, some of the best graphics come in during the cutscenes - well, the chapter transition ones anyway. If you're a fan of vexel/vector artwork, you'll really get into these scenes' graphics, but if you prefer realistic ones...ehh each to their own I guess, but I think these are sweet as! Besides, THESE don't lag like the in-game cutscenes, which lag a bit - not too much, but its noticable. I'd commend this artist...whoever he/she is...
The game fares well when you actually get around to playing it. Immediately, you're given a tutorial to learn the controls and how the game works as a whole. From running to climbing pipes to swinging to throwing punches to disarming and a few other things, you'll be using a lot of these actions throughout your missions to solve the murder mystery and find the real killer. You get a feel for the controls almost instantaneously, and even if you don't, you can experiment to get the right effect and get to places quicker.
And that's what Mirror's Edge's gameplay is all about: Speed. You'll be running fast to build momentum so you can jump across rooftops, slide, wallrun and avoid gunfire from helicopters. Building up momentum is easy enough – just constantly run forward and don't sharply turn too much or stop. Once it's built up enough, keep running and do what needs to be done, whether it's jumping or whatever.
When you first play the prologue level, you may feel that the controls are awkward. That's standard, but a big problem if you don't get used to them. It takes a fair bit to get used to the controls, as they kind of swing around the place. Oh, they respond, but the analog commands are a little too *bleep*ing sensitive, plus during combat (which I'll get to later), running and fighting is not going to work unless you get the feel for the controls, which takes its sweet time! GRR
Anyway, throughout the prologue level, you might come across a gap you can't seem to jump. Well, you see anything red on the ground? You may want to run towards it and jump off the end of that. You might land on the next building. Huzzah! Unless you're playing on the hard difficulty setting (which is unlocked after beating the game on the normal difficulty setting – which is a requirement anyway, only pussies play on easy), you have this thing where the suggested path is outlined in red. The right pipes to hang onto are colored red. The right rope to slide down is colored red. Pretty much the game's suggested route from start to finish - at least where you're supposed to jump to – is outlined in red. This is helpful in getting you to finish the game without too many worries.
Sometimes though, there is no red path guiding the way even on normal and easy mode, and that's where experimentation comes in. You have to figure out the best route to get to the next part of the game. If you are totally clueless, hold down B to get an idea of where you need to be. That should give you a good starting point. From there, find a way to get there!
If you think this game is all platforming, you're dead wrong! There are times where you will be forced to fight. When there are "blues" coming towards you with guns, you either run like hell, or if that fails, fight them. Range of attacks includes punching, disarming (gotta time it right or it fails and you get pistol whipped), slide kicking and jump kicking. Most of your offensive attacks are controlled by the right trigger, except disarming which is done by pressing the Y button. You can also slow everything down by pressing X, but it's not really useful outside of helping with disarm timings and some comic relief with bullet time.
Disarming, if timed right, not only allows you to instantly knock out an enemy, but also allows you to use their gun, which include pistols, uzis, machine guns, shotguns and even sniper rifles. Guns aren't necessarily a requirement to beat the game (in fact, there's an achievement for playing an entire level without firing a gun, and an achievement for going an entire playthrough without firing a gun), but it helps when you can't simply fight them off with your fists after dying millions of times. Control of the gun is simple – aim with the right analog stick and press down on the right trigger. Press Y if you want to ditch it, which is only really a good idea because you can't really run with most weapons nor can you climb while holding any weapon. Don't let go while fighting's going on, though (unless you're trying for an achievement), or you're going to die quickly.
The AI, itself, is decent enough. It manages to hunt you down should you not kill them, and it also manages to shoot when they're supposed to. They can also somewhat put up a fight when needed, etc etc. The only problem with the AI is that once you get an idea of where they're going and what they're going to do, you can basically destroy them because they're scripted! Like specifically scripted, on a sort of linear path – basically, they won't drastically change their actions. It's a memorization thing with them!
In fact, the entire game is built on memorization. You have to memorize the timing of jumps, where everything is and what the enemy will do. Not that that's a bad thing or anything, in fact, that's a good thing (outside AI). It encourages trial and error out of players, without going overkill on it, meaning that you have to pay attention to the details of each of the levels, especially after completing the game when you start doing time trials of these levels for extra replay value and achievement points. In fact, the only thing that can be overkill at times has to be some of these moments that just plain piss me off.
Throughout the game, you'll get to a part where you have either ninjas (yeah, they get ninjas a bit into the second half of the game) fly kicking your head or some other tough fights and, while you're trying to figure out where to go or how to beat these seemingly invincible foes, they're cheapshotting you with headbutts and fly kicks. There are other moments full of cheapness, but you just have to find them for yourself. If you want an idea, it's a part where you die a lot.
How will you know you're about to die? When the saturation of the screen lowers, this happens when you get hit or shot! Of course, you can recover your health by hiding and waiting for the saturation to return to normal, but if you're getting hammered out there, the only things you can do is suicide or try to beat up the people shooting you. That, or run. Another way of dying – falling off a roof onto the road, getting run over by cars and such, but you don't see the cars because you black out after falling.
In other words, there's no HUD, no indication of how much ammo you have left or how alive you are. And trust me, this does more good than bad. I mean it, too! Imagine if you had a whole bunch of stats and such on screen while looking for where to go next? Well, might be a little more challenging, but it's usually a huge inconvenience having all those things on screen anyway, especially in a game like this!
While playing through this, you would've noticed that not only are you starting to get (or already are) used to the controls, but that the soundtrack is pretty damn good. It's mostly electronic music and it always does a good job of suiting what it is you're doing. Fighting or running from blues and ninjas? Expect an upbeat, fast paced sort of tune. Doing something else? Expect some quiet music you can barely hear, with some noise. Sounds good, eh? Well, if you don't like it, just mute the TV.
Voice acting is also done well. Lately, I've played games that had bad-OK voice acting, with the odd few being well worth pointing out, and this is definitely a worthy cast. None of the voice actors sound at all out of character, and you can tell that they're getting into it, as none of the characters sound boring or anything. And hey, it could've really cheesy and stereotypical if it wanted to, but it's mostly the opposite. Oh, it's a bit cheesy here and there, but nothing to complain about.
Now to discuss the time trial aspects – there are two different sorts. There's the one where you do a part of the level, going through all the checkpoints in order and hopefully making it to the end in a certain time limit. Then you have the one where you do an entire level as quickly as possible, but that one has to be unlocked by beating the game on the normal difficulty mode. Both of these allow you to get achievement points for your Xbox profile, and if you need some sort of life out of this game even after beating it on hard mode, this is the way to do it!
As for the achievements themselves, they are kind of varied. Most of them require beating a level either at all or a certain way. Fair amounts require that you mix some stunts up, like wall running with jumping, wall climbing and then jumping again. So basically, there is a variety and it is well worth doing all of. Trust me; you won't be getting all 1000 points quickly. The very best way to squeeze life out of the game!
So to summarize the game:
Taking the old and tired platforming concept which still works, adding some stunts, some shooting and combat in the mix, and that's a pretty good mix, wouldn't you say? Put it all into a first person perspective? Kick ass!
I sometimes forget which control does what, but that's kind of rare and besides, you might not have the same problems. Biggest problem, however, is awkwardness. They will feel awkward at first, and require a fair amount of getting used to. You may well be halfway through the game (or close enough) before you get the feel for them. However, they're not completely broken, so they aren't complete shit.
Eh? Oh, something about a city devoid of crime, a bunch of people delivering information, a murder mystery and a framing? Sounds good enough, and the plot twists really help it work. I'm not even sure how this sucks in the slightest, because I managed to get into it fine and it works for this sort of game. No need to over complicate the story. I guess if there's any problem, it's that it takes a while for it to make sense.
From the buildings, to the character models, to the sky, and even to the color schemes, I will say that Mirror's Edge looks pretty damn good in-game. What of the cartoon-like cutscenes? Pretty nice looking too. I wish I was that good with vector drawings. My only gripes include some slight lag with the in-game cutscenes, and WAY too much white. Looks like somebody spoofed all over the city or something.
The soundtrack is perfect for this game, or as good as it'll get at least. It always finds a way to suit the situation. Well, it is! Voice acting is also pretty good, at least it's not all dull and ear-*bleep* and with some sweet dialogue to go with it (occasional swears here and there, but who cares). The sound effects, at least, make sense and don't hurt your ears.
With a total of 8-10 hours for the main story, you'll probably only consider renting this. Well, that's some good advice, just in case you end up not liking it. After finishing the game, you can do it on hard mode, do the time trials and, of course, get all the achievements. If you didn't like playing through the story, you'll probably see your copy in a bargain bin this time next month.
Aside from the occasional cheap moment, Mirror's Edge is actually fun to play. Who doesn't have fun playing first person platformers? I sure loved playing through this game, I had a lot of fun doing some crazy jumps and such.
Proving that it is possible to expand what's seemingly been perfected in the late 90's, Mirror's Edge is the sort of game that everybody with a 360 or a PS3 should try at least for a week. Although there are some problems, it's possible to overlook them and have a lot of fun with this game!
About the author
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