Mirror’s Edge Review for Xbox 360

Mirror’s Edge Review for Xbox 360

Taking Chances…
Rolling the DICE

Digital Illusions CE (EA DICE) has rapidly grown as a studio. The Swedish developer began life as a low-key firm creating Pinball titles in the early 90s. By the end of the decade, they had moved on to racers, from rally to NASCAR.

Mirror's Edge screenshot

After the turn of the millennium, the company truly found itself with the release of Battlefield 1942 in 2002. This marked the beginning of the wildly successful series whose latest entry, the cinematic Battlefield: Bad Company, cemented the developer as a marquis company, capable of producing highly entertaining AAA titles for the console market. DICE’s story of evolution has fueled an adventurous spirit within the studio, one that has led to the development of the exceedingly ambitious, first-person platform/adventure Mirror’s Edge.

Unlike any game I’ve ever played, Mirror’s Edge pushes gaming boundaries. It is a very original title that does away with first-person conventions such as gunplay and focuses on revolutionizing the platformer. Players take on the life of Faith, a member of a group of illicit couriers known as Runners, in a city that has been transformed from one of exciting diversity and danger to a barren, hygienic police state. These Runners circumvent the sterile establishment by delivering key bits of information that undermines the iron grip of the powers that be. Taking to the rooftops and utilizing the flow, Runners use their urban environment to turn the cityscape into a playground. Hopping from ledge to ledge and building to building is the only way to deliver the vital information without getting caught. This premise sets the stage for the gameplay of Mirror’s Edge.

Throughout the various levels, players will adeptly navigate through the city by creating their own highway through and on top of the massive hyper-modern buildings. Faith is as agile as a cat and uses her speed, momentum, strength, and athleticism to attain her objectives, all the while, narrowly evading capture from the seemingly ever-present Blues (police).

It’s difficult to describe the feeling of playing as Faith; this title truly is unique. The gaming series’ that is most similar to Mirror’s Edge is Ubisoft’s The Prince of Persia in terms of action platforming and the protagonists’ sheer athleticism. However, the amazing first-person perspective used in Mirror’s Edge is borderline virtual reality, lending a sense of scale and danger unique to this game.

Mirror's Edge screenshot

In fact, the first-person perspective is so dynamic that I found myself getting a little queasy after playing for an hour on my 52′ screen (and I don’t experience motion sickness easily). I had to lug my console upstairs and use my 20′ monitor to finish up. Thankfully, the smaller screen cured what was ailing me. Nausea aside, Mirror’s Edge delivers a visual experience unlike anything I’ve ever known. There were times when I would put my face within a couple feet of my monitor, had Faith look over the edge of a tall building, and I actually experienced a touch of vertigo – talk about exhilarating!

Unfortunately, the visuals aren’t perfect. Initially, I was intrigued by the minimalistic design and presentation of the cityscape. The white buildings, primary colors, and crisp azure sky contrast nicely and were appealing to the eye. However, after going through level after level, you begin to get bored with the surroundings, as it is so uniform and homogenous. Also, I realized that the developers used such stark and plain environments as a function of gameplay mechanics rather than as a preferred aesthetic; it was going to be a lot easier for players to recognize what objects they could interact with. As a result, players will constantly run into the same objects from cranes and A/C units to plywood ramps and zip-line cables.

Mirror's Edge screenshot

After awhile, these standardized features serve as harsh reminders that you are inside a video game; it acts as a foil to the excellent use of first-person perspective. If a second title in the series is made, I hope the developers will make a world that is more vibrant and natural. After a few hours, I longed to see gothic architecture, garbage-laden alleys, and rooftops that didn’t have plywood conveniently positioned. The world of Mirror’s Edge simply isn’t realistic enough to support the engaging perspective. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the Story mode, though the plot itself is somewhat suspect. Again, even the story suffers from the use of vanilla environments, which translate into the narrative itself.

Then there is the issue of controls. For the most part, players will make use of the shoulder buttons and analog sticks almost exclusively. Fighting, high moves (jumping), low moves (sliding), and a 180 degree quick-turn are all mapped to the top of the controller. A time slowing function, action/interact, and disarm actions are occasionally used via the face buttons. I had almost no problem adapting to this control scheme. I quickly found myself wall running, tumbling, scaling, jumping, sliding, etc. like a monkey and it brought a big smile to my face. However, there will be a huge learning curve for those who aren’t particularly proficient in their platforming abilities. Moreover, even savvy gamers will constantly run into tricky sequences that are not only frustrating, but also stridently end your flow.

What’s funny about these sticky portions is that they are often rather mundane skills that you have encountered time and again, but for some inexplicable reason, you just can’t seem to make that wall-run. It seems as though the game may have some detection issues. I think the devs wanted to make the experience a bit more challenging in order to reinforce and heighten the sense of danger and precariousness of Faith’s actions, but, as a gamer, I don’t want to repeat the same gymkhana five times or more. All the same, if players stick with the game, there is a lot of rewarding gameplay to experience – gameplay that really shouldn’t be missed.

Mirror's Edge screenshot

Thankfully, the combat sequences in Mirror’s Edge are very infrequent. I say ‘thankfully’ because using guns is not Faith’s strong suit; she’s a Runner, not a fighter. Moreover, I found even her disarming techniques and attack combos to be tricky. Pulling off sliding groin and flying face-kicks is very easy, but having to wait for your foes’ weapon to glow red before you can disarm them is both difficult and time consuming. Hopefully, a sequel will make hand-to-hand encounters more user-friendly.

As far as sounds are concerned, Mirror’s Edge draws from an original score that does a masterful job of setting the tone and mood of the game. The soothing Euro instrumentals heighten the intensity of gameplay with just the right amount of crescendo at appropriate moments. Also, ambient sounds such as sprinting footsteps, doors getting bashed open, the screeching of skin sliding on glass, etc. nicely capture the action onscreen. Voice acting is also very professional, but somewhat less engaging. This is mostly due to lackluster lip-syncing and somewhat pedestrian writing.

Outside of the Story mode, players can also challenge the Time Trial feature. I found Time Trials to be even more engaging and addictive than the campaign. Players will unlock levels within the Time Trial as they progress in the main mode. Tackling sections of the chapters like a race course, perfecting your skills, and truly feeling the flow was a joy. Plus, there are multiple paths you can take that will add or shave time off your score. What’s more, Time Trial mode is backed by online leaderboard support. In other words, players will compete against folks around the world for the best times on a given course. This lends an addictive arcade quality to the game that is hard to beat. Finally, if you find yourself struggling to match (or even come close to) the top times, you can always load up the ghost of one of the leaders and learn their tricks. The Time Trial feature is as close to platforming perfection as I’ve found.

Mirror's Edge screenshot

All in all, Mirror’s Edge is a valiant effort to revolutionize gaming by a courageous studio. Largely, DICE pulled it off. But, there are several nagging spots that hamper the experience; repetitive environments and interactive elements, touchy controls and occasionally poor detection, and an uninspired story leave a significant amount to be desired. Even so, I found Mirror’s Edge to be a truly unique and rewarding experience that I feel fortunate to have played.

The use of first-person perspective is second to none. But, the stark, repetitive environments serve as a real bone of contention. 4.0 Control
Controls are immensely enjoyable nearly all the time. However, certain sections of the game seem to be plagued by poor detection. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music and sound effects are top-notch. The voice work, while professional, is far less engaging than the themes and ambient noises. 4.2 Play Value
If you can get over some of the control issues, recurring environments, and lackluster storytelling, there is a very worthwhile game to be found. Plus, Time Trial mode adds legs to the experience. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Move yourself: String together an amazing arsenal of wall-runs, leaps, vaults and more, in fluid, acrobatic movements that turns every level of the urban environment to your advantage and salvation.
  • Immerse yourself: In first person every breath, every collision, every impact is acutely felt. Heights create real vertigo, movements flow naturally, collisions and bullet impacts create genuine fear and adrenaline.
  • Challenge yourself: Fight or flight. Your speed and agility allow you not only to evade, capture and perform daring escapes, but also to disable and disarm unwary opponents, in a mix of chase, puzzles, strategy and intense combat.
  • Free Yourself: Runner vision allows you to see the city as they do. See the flow. Rooftops become pathways and conduits, opportunities and escape routes. The flow is what keeps you running – what keeps you alive.
  • Screen Resolution: Up to 1080p (Full HDTV).

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