Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mirror’s Edge: What’s So Bad About Taking the Stairs?

In a bland wasteland of sequels and uninspired games I was actually very excited when I played the demo for Mirror’s Edge. While the concept of rooftop platforming certainly isn’t anything new it had the potential to offer a fresh and innovative look on the stagnant genre. I played through the demo on several occasions and honestly enjoyed it. Once I got the full version of the game the realization slowly sunk in that the full game is essentially built on taking the innovative platforming mechanics and control schemes and making you rehearse them for 6 hours. Granted, it’s a fun game, there’s just very little depth to it. Essentially level 1 is get to that roof, here’s some red pipes. Level 2 is get to that roof here’s some red plywood. Level 3, here’s a red pipe over some red plywood now go get on that other roof. I’d hope by now you can piece together what the other levels comprise of.

The first person perspective in a high speed platformer certainly takes some getting used to, not for me obviously because I’m awesome, and anyone prone to motion sickness should probably just avoid this game entirely. Once you’ve gotten the hang of the camera work it actually heightens the experience. In my opinion had this game gone the third person tomb raider route it would have vanished into the already staggeringly large pile of mediocre clones. The camera does force the player to leave a certain amount of the game up to a mixture of chance and the players understanding of how a platformer works. Unfortunately the latter part of that only works if the game is consistent and in that aspect Mirrors Edge misses its landing. I had more than one frustrating moment in this game where I’d wallrun, turn and jump into an object that seemingly appeared identical to every other object I’ve interacted with only to have my poor character fall down to their bustling urban death. One gameplay aspect that I found incredibly refreshing was the encouragement to avoid playing the game like any other first person endeavor. As gamers when we see that first person perspective we’re programmed to look for the nearest gun and shoot until our trigger finger is raw but Mirrors Edge included one of my favorite achievements to date which was to go the entire game without firing a gun but rather, use your somewhat out of character martial arts skills to disarm your police pursuers. I’m still not sure why when these highly trained and often heavily geared cops are chopped by a ninety pound girl do they decide to sit out the rest of the engagement but I’ll just cover my eyes and ears and pretend like I didn’t see that for the sake of moving this review along.

One area where Mirrors Edge leaps before it looks (see what I’m doing with these puns here, clever little writer aren’t I?) is the story. The story is as bland and cliché as they come and could have been cut completely from the game and I don’t think anyone would have minded. For as innovative as they approached their gameplay and style cut scenes the developers apparently decided to rehash the same old ‘framed by the faceless corporation’ story that we’ve seen time and time again. Personally, I find a story based around the concept that mail couriers are the greatest threat to society pretty thin. Now bike messengers on the other hand…

The most frustrating aspect of this high speed game whose focus is on constant movement and seamless stunts is just how much of the game is spent inside. Not only spent inside but trapped within the narrow confines of an elevator traveling 40 stories in agonizing real time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Nobody will ever want real time elevators ever in the history of gaming.

In the end though I did enjoy this game for its conciseness and simplicity and would recommend it for a purchase. But grab it used since it’s playtime is short.


Matt-suzaka said...

I think the games is fun but at times can be a little on the frustrating side. I do like that I get a sense of urgency when being chased though...and that is where the game succeeds the most to me. The shooting aspects of the game are handled poorly and felt a little out of place. I hope they make a sequel with some of the issue addressed because it is a fun game and had some cool ideas.

Epic Fail said...

I agree, my favorite moments where when things where at their most chaotic. The time I got hit by the subway car was truly jarring. But yeah, frantic running and leaps of "faith" (see, another pun) where the games strong points. I never tried the shooting aspects of it to be honest but I can see how they'd drag the game down.

OverlordStrider said...

The Title to this post had me craking up at work this morning...good stuff!