Mirror’s Edge had me from the moment I first saw a glimpse of it. It was a game made just for me. Platforming, racing, a unique art style, and innovation all wrapped up into one tidy package that I knew on first sight I just had to own.
It’s really a shame that the developers weren’t as confident in their concept as I was. In their defense, I suppose it is hard for the creator of a gun-obsessed series like Battlefield to quit weapons cold turkey with a drastic change in tone like Mirror’s Edge. Old habits die hard, right?
Well, yeah, apparently.
The combat in Mirror’s Edge is so clearly the weakest link here that it’s really hard to understand how they could justify it being included at all. With a little tweaking it would not have been hard to make running the only option when faced with foes. Running is certainly the most fun option.
There are numerous sections in the game where Faith is being chased by a group of enemies who are constantly on her tail. One wrong move and she’s toast. She must rely on her reflexes, her skills, and her runner’s instinct to get out alive and outrun her pursuers.
Moments like those are where the game really shines. The tension hums in the air. Your heart beats faster, fingers gripping the controller in white-knuckled suspense. Inevitably, a few minutes later, this epic chase scene will be followed by running right into the waiting laser sights of far too many armored goons with impeccable aim and nothing even resembling mercy.
Of course. It makes perfect sense that my unarmored, fragile, female protagonist who’s profession relies on her to run everywhere should stop cold and take the enemies down in combat.
Yeah, perfectly logical, that.
Combat is not the only stumble in Mirror’s Edge. There are a number of other nitpicks that could be brought up to drag it kicking and screaming even further away from that ever-elusive goal line of perfection. But among all the things that went slightly awry with this game, the forced combat sections stand out by far as the clearest failure. A clear signal, at least to me, that the developers didn’t quite realize just how awesome their game already was sans fisticuffs.
Perhaps those clever, devil-horned marketing types who couldn’t fathom selling a first-person game without a gun made the decision. Perhaps the developers realized perfectly well what was going on but just didn’t have time to fix it before the ship date. Perhaps the creators were simply afraid of a lack of variety and couldn’t come up with any other way to change things up.
In any case, the damage has been done.
I can deal with most of Mirror’s Edge’s other stumbles. Overly frequent deaths at missed jumps and failed attempts are a small price to pay for not having another completely needless time-manipulation mechanic slapped on the game like so many other spineless platformers these days. A short length is disappointing but hardly signals a death knell in this age of shiny-but-short that we seem to have careened into headfirst thanks to our high-maintenance, testosterone-fueled game consoles of choice. Hell, the time trial mode included in this game might well be the most fun part of the package and it’s highly replayable and, dare I say it, more than a little addictive.
What it all comes down to is that Mirror’s Edge is quite clearly a valiant stab in the dark at a genre many, including myself, wouldn’t have thought possible before its release. If you had asked me half a year ago whether a first-person platformer would be fun I would have had violent flashbacks to horrible Half Life 2 jumping puzzles and then ran screaming away in the other direction screaming, “Oh, God, no!”
But here we are and Mirror’s Edge isn’t half bad. Color me surprised. I hope to look back on Mirror’s Edge in the future and say that the best thing about it was that it taught the developers how to make a good game in this style and the sequel ended up being the better game by leaps and bounds. That may well be exactly my thoughts a year or two from now. I look forward to the day.
In the meantime, Mirror’s Edge as it stands isn’t a total loss. You just have to go in with a mindset of forgiveness. Know ahead of time that it’s not perfect, that it requires patience, and that you’ll probably want to change the difficulty to easy to keep yourself sane.
But if you do all of those things, Mirror’s Edge has moments unlike any other game out there. It has thrills like a roller coaster and the most amazingly visceral player-protagonist connection yet seen in gaming, not to mention a gorgeous art style and a story world that at least has promise.
Not bad for taking a blind run at a genre that didn’t exist.