Dice have done the impossible. The Swedish developers have taken the fist-person perspective game that has barely evolved fundamentally since the days of Wolfenstein and Doom, and injected new life into it with a quite literal leap of faith.
Despite its first-person perspective this is definitely not a shooter. You play as the aptly named Faith, a rooftop Runner, a courier of sorts. Your aim is generally racing across skyscraper rooftops, through underground train tunnels, office blocks, shopping malls and building sites, usually while evading police and security forces and making death defying leaps between buildings, often requiring a last minute grab onto a ledge or drainpipe. If you’ve been waiting for a game that let’s you play out your fantasies of Parkour and free-running as seen in movies like District 13 and Casino Royale, this is the game for you.
Mirror’s Edge has a simple control system that uses the shoulder buttons to jump, roll, slide and attack. Even the all conquering Half Life 2 suffered because of poorly implemented platforming sections, but Mirror’s Edge has proved that jumping and climbing can be done well from the first-person perspective.
The look of the game is all squeaky clean sharp colours and towering glass buildings, which is a big improvement on the dark and dismal settings of most games today. Some parts of the scenery are coloured red, this ‘Runner Vision’ acts as a hint for where Faith can jump or climb. For those of you wanting an extra challenge this can be turned off.
Throw the gun away; it’ll only slow you down…
Faith can fight single enemies or shoot them but it’s best avoiding conflict where possible. For example, you can disarm someone with well timed counter swipe and knee to the face and pick up his gun as another bad guy approaches. In any other game this would be when you start shooting. Not anymore, drop the gun, run, leap up the railings, flying kick him in the chest and jump over to another building and make a last second grab for the fire escape staircase to avoid plummeting to your death. It’s here that you realise that you’re playing something special and unique.
The way that weapons are discouraged as they slow you down is a refreshing change. After playing through the game without them, using them second time around actually felt like cheating.
The viewpoint can be a little disorientating, especially while doing a wall-run, spinning 90 degrees and jumping again, but overall it all helps add to the huge adrenaline rush of escaping that was missing from games like Assassin’s Creed. Some of the restart points are cruelly spread apart making for some real heart-in-mouth moments.
You’re tasked with clearing your sister’s name who has been framed for murder. To be honest the story is fairly weak and most of it is told through 2D cartoon cutscenes which are at odds with the in-game graphics and smacks of budget constraints if anything. The in-game character models look great and it’s a shame they’re not used for the cutscenes too.
So it’s a good thing then that the gameplay is so good you’ll be playing this over and over again. It’s one of those games that after a late night session you’ll still be seeing it in your sleep. You may also start imagining your own ‘Runner Vision’ routes through your own town. Don’t try it, you’ll break your legs.
The main story mode is quite short once you get to grips with linking up moves, but when finished you unlock the Time Trials and Speedruns. There are three award levels, the highest ones being obscenely difficult requiring you to nail jumps first time, every time and to find the levels shortcuts. To help you here you can race against a ‘ghost’ of the top online times, it’s hard work keeping up with them from the start, never mind seeing where they keep cutting corners later on!
No excuses from now on
So from now on, every annoying jumping section in a first-person game is unforgivable, even the aspect of being able to see your own feet for a change make it easier to line up a jump. More exciting is the potential for games like Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed to start copying the idea of going first-person although preferably with the option of a third-person viewpoint too.
- Succeeds with first-person platforming
- Pure excitement when you nail a perfect run
- You never miss the guns
- A bit short
- Lame story
- Cutscenes use comic book cells
The Short Version: Overall this is a massively important title that should be applauded for not only being brave enough to try something new, but totally nailing it in the process. The first-person platforming and climbing makes for a thrilling game thanks to the tight controls and well-designed levels.