Let me preface this by saying there are very few games in this world that make me want to throw my controller or induce an incredible rage that requires me to stop playing immediately and go do something to blow off some steam. Street Fighter II, ironically one of my favorite games, can turn me into a wild beast. Lately, no game has really angered me to this extreme, but here we are again with one of the most stress-inducing and frustrating games I’ve ever played, Mirror’s Edge.
DICE, the developers of the Battlefield series, has decided to develop this new and original IP, and Mirror’s Edge is certainly a departure from the large-scale FPS they are known for. Instead of fighting, the main purpose is to run away from the Blues, a nickname for the police in the ultra-modern city the game takes place in. While you can fight with your fists or feet, and you are able to pick up guns, the main objective of a Runner, which is the occupation of the main character, Faith, is to deliver packages like a ninja, never being seen or caught. So, for the most part, don’t expect to have some incredible fights despite the game being first-person; there are parts where you need to fight to proceed, but they are few and far between.
As you’re running and jumping around town, you’ll find different places you need to proceed to using the default Runner Vision, which sort of highlights where you need to go by making the objective area red. However, this doesn’t work most of the time, since you’ll see a red area and not know how the hell you’re supposed to actually get there, and I suppose DICE wants you to figure that out. Dying multiple times just to figure out if I’m even going the right way is not what I call enjoyable, and it gets even worse when you’re inside buildings, where the obstacles get bunched together and you are unable to comprehend what you’re supposed to be doing. There is a hint button, but this thing only works when it wants to. And again, it usually only shows you the red area that Runner Vision already shows you, and doesn’t give you a clue where to start your journey to the objective. Why can’t you let me have arrows or something? This seems to be a trend in other games recently, and I’d rather have the option to be force-fed where to go rather than just be lost and angry.
To make matters even more irritating, the controls in Mirror’s Edge are some of the most awkward I’ve used in a recent current-gen game. Why is L1 jump? Why is there even a button (R1) that does a 180 so that you can accidentally hit it in the middle of a jump, causing failure? You are unable to map controls, and the other sets are so similar that you might as well just use the default. Another issue with the actual gameplay itself is that even if you get the controls down, you’ll still miss jumps purely because the game thinks you didn’t go where you did. For example, you see a red pipe you need to jump onto. Even if you line everything up perfectly, you still might miss it because the game decides that you weren’t close enough.
How is a game like this supposed to be fun if the collision detection is so random? Being chased by Blues AND having to go through a ridiculously challenging area are also the worst experiences in the game, and it happens more than enough. Why would you make something that is already difficult even more so by having bullets fired at you and enemies chasing you? It would have made more sense to have this in the easier areas, where the player is more comfortable with the controls and mechanics of the game, but this isn’t always the case.
Fight or flight?In almost all situations when you’re being converged on by multiple Blues, make sure you just ignore them and keep running. It can be distracting, and if you mess up a jump you’ll likely die, but fighting the enemy is only going to lead to your death if you’re surrounded.Those times when you nail everything perfectly and you whiz through the level are when Mirror’s Edge is at its best. It gets discouraging after you die quite a bit, but many times you’ll keep on trying despite the frustration in hopes that you’ll be able to come through in the end, and when you do, it really is a great feeling. But because of the inconsistent difficulty and level design, that won’t be happening very often. Some of the later levels feel easier and shorter than the earlier ones, and some of the enemies are equipped with little more than a taser towards the end, which is a stark contrast to areas where you can die in one shot by a shotgun. When you take down an enemy and pick up their weapon, it feels incredibly unfitting, and the gunplay is just strange. You can’t reload, so you just have to toss the gun when the bullets run out and pick up another. I would have rather not have had to use guns at all, but as I said before, there are areas where you must fight and use weapons, unfortunately.
Outside of running on rooftops and jumping into vents, there’s not much in the way of exploration in the levels themselves. There are 30 hidden bags that you can collect for unlocking sketches and stuff, but otherwise there’s nothing else to find other than some voice messages or other random bits of information that pertain to the plot. It’s a shame, too, because it would have been interesting to interact more with the environments, which are generally static and void of any real life. You can’t even move boxes or any of the objects, really, and you can’t always use things to grab onto that you would expect, which is even more bizarre in a game that is supposedly open. All of the paths are pre-determined; there’s really no freedom to try different ways to approach jumps or obstacles.
The highest points of Mirror’s Edge are the graphics and sound. The visuals are very impressive for a game with such a big environment to play through, even if you only use about 30% of it. The style is interesting and fresh; a change of pace for DICE. The music is also quite different than what you’d expect, and it’s great to see that a game based on high-speed running and jumping doesn’t consist of just techno music; there are quite a few slow and balladic songs as well as energetic chase music. The voice acting isn’t bad at all, either, though it’s nothing to write home about. You generally hear most of the dialogue in cut scenes, though some of it occurs as you play as well.
Speaking of the cut scenes, they are presented in a more animated style than the actual in-game graphics, and they take place before and after each chapter. The story itself is based around Faith’s sister being framed, her trying to figure out what happened and how to save her. Due to the length of the game, there really isn’t much of a chance for the characters to develop, and everything seemed predictable by the end.
Outside of beating the game over and over again, there are time trials of each chapter as well. However, being timed only adds to the stress of playing an already infuriating game, so I would advise against it unless you really enjoy getting mad at a video game. Multiplayer would have been a great addition to the game, especially co-op. Mirror’s Edge is so short that it’s hard to really justify the price tag. It makes me wonder what’s taking up all that space on the disc, since the environments all look the same and the movies are fairly short.
In the end, I can only recommend renting Mirror’s Edge to see if it’s worth the price. It has some great moments in gaming, but most of the time there is only frustration awaiting you at every turn. While it could have been a great start for a new franchise, DICE should have made the game more friendly and open. There’s no reason a linear game should be so vague as to where the player needs to go to proceed, especially when there’s only one general direction you need to follow. I would love to see a sequel that fixes many of the problems of this entry, as it could be one of the better series on a current-gen platform with a lot of retooling.