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Mirror's Edge review

AT A GLANCE
  • Incredible chases
  • New way of playing games
  • Fresh, vivid look
  • Slow parts are weak
  • Disarming feels imprecise
  • Gunplay feels awkward and wrong

To say Mirror’s Edge is about running and jumping is a bit like saying that Call of Duty 4 is about shooting bullets: about as subtle as a truck in the face and, while undeniably true, missing out the really important things that make it so great. This game is different. How? Well, it’s a first person title that’s not solely focused on guns, for a start. It’s sort of an anti-shooter – it takes the basic shape and feel of an FPS but then ditches the hammering destruction and fury and instead goes all out for elegance and style. But it still does guns pretty well, if you want them.

The premise here is that you’re Faith, resident of an ominously sanitized near-future city. Political corruption and police brutality are masked by the metropolis’ uncompromising Arctic clean lines and an ice-cube skyline of stark white tower blocks. Troublesome elements have been forced underground – among them criminals, free-thinking intellectuals and, apparently, acrobats. Because as one of the city’s covert network of runners, couriering packages of important information away from the heavily monitored regular channels, Faith is impossibly athletic, sure-footed and fast; picking routes over rooftops, scurrying across walls and sliding secretly through the impeccable metropolis almost effortlessly. Sounds easy, right?

But that’s the first thing to make clear: Mirror’s Edge really works. It actually feels like you’re running – or jumping, or shimmying, or skidding. This game’s closest relations, in terms of ideas, are probably Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider, both of which give you an easy time keeping in touch with the position of your character because you can always see them. The crucial thing with Mirror’s Edge’s leap from third to first person is that you maintain that sense of which bits of you are where, thanks to the motion of the screen and the way arms and legs occasionally cross your vision – and therefore you know what to do with them next.

It helps that the controls are so simple. Based on basic up or down commands, they’re context sensitive (it’s OK, this works too), so pressing the “upward movement” button makes you go up for jumps, wall runs, skipping over fences and the “downward movement” button does the opposite: helping you slide under obstacles, nail smooth landings or drop from ledges. There’s other stuff as well – a button to activate the odd switch or key and another to turn 180 degrees – but it’s the intuition of going over or under that lets you get on with the really important thing: going as fast as possible without stopping.

Mirror’s Edge is all about momentum. Run on the flat for more than a few steps and Faith picks up speed, her slip-slapping footfalls getting closer together, her breath louder and her vision motion-blurred at the periphery. The challenge is preserving this momentum as you duck pipes, scale crates and leap between rooftops. Timing is the key: vaulting for a handhold rather than running flush into a wall, or rolling out of a high jump without a screen-reddening crunch. Nail a few in a row and you’ll begin to see the game’s attraction: speed, agility, grace, immersion. Coupled with the first person perspective, this makes stringing together a flat-out run genuinely exhilarating. The vertigo-spinning heights make you realize how drawn into the game the wide-angle view and clean display allow you to be.

Without a heavy block of metal coughing death and thunder from the center of the screen – which, in conventional shooters, understandably becomes the focus of your attention – it’s amazing how much you can take in. Or more importantly for Mirror’s Edge, how much there is to take in: the echoing rooftop silence, broken only by the hum of distant traffic and an occasional bird’s flutter; or the game’s stern, assured use of color. The city’s dystopian whiteness is broken only by stark, single-tone themed levels – the grimy green of a chasmal storm drain, the deep polished blue of an illegally-entered office. It’s an assured and stylish palette, elaborated by streaks and flashes of red as Faith’s runner vision singles out obstacles and paths for her to dash over and across (which, while strictly speaking a bit of a cheat, adds to rather than spoils the game’s looks, and is used increasingly sparingly as the game goes on).

There are slower bits: puzzling route-finding breathers, cramped creeping through air vents and big, grandstanding jumps that can take a few goes to get right (the repeated sound of Faith’s splintering limbs beating like a macabre tambourine). These lack the thrill of the chase moments, but retain the novelty and uniqueness of the rest of the game. Perhaps the most important thing of all is that the whole package – the controls, the responsiveness, the perspective – works so effectively together that when you mess up, it feels like it’s your own fault. When you fall, it doesn’t feel like you’re struggling with a broken machine, it just feels as if you’re too clumsy to control this beautiful new thing.

Well, that’s true when you’re running, at least. The only real problems with Mirror’s Edge emerge when you slow down. Throughout the game you’re chased constantly by the police or the city’s sinister private security, both on foot and by choppers in the air. They shoot at you relentlessly, which gives everything a genuine sense of danger and pace, but if you start to slow down out in the open they’ll tear you to shreds. Granted, this doesn’t happen often – you can usually run through them and you’re pretty much untouchable at top speed anyway. But on a couple of occasions – one late-game descent of a series of office-block stairways in particular comes – it feels as if you’ve no alternative but to take everyone out, a task which is haphazard and difficult. Faith can disarm opponents when their guns go red during melee attacks, but when the enemies get tougher it feels imprecise and unfair (much like the dog attacks in COD4).

More importantly, even though the gun play effects themselves are totally fine (and sound brilliantly brash and loud), it just feels awkward and wrong alongside what else is here. This game isn’t built for guns; it’s built on the graceful premise of throwing them away – and when you’re forced into using them, the results can be painful. These few moments aside, though, Mirror’s Edge is an extraordinary and special game. It’s beautiful and stylish like nothing else on consoles, and skews the over-worked mechanic of first person shooting in a new, daring and – when it clicks – brilliant direction. It’s inventive, gorgeous and cool. You’d be mad not to give it a go.

Nov 10, 2008

More Info

Release date: Jan 13 2009 - PC
Nov 11 2008 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Nov 14 2008 - Xbox 360, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: EA GAMES
Developed by: DICE
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood, Language, Violence
PEGI Rating:
16+

25 comments

  • Darkhawk - October 6, 2011 9:03 a.m.

    The combat in this game is so unequivocally awful, I strongly suggest setting the difficulty to easy. It has no effect on the good stuff - platforming remains platforming, after all - but you can take a few more hits and it's quicker to dispatch the bloody annoying enemies.
  • barrage7667 - December 6, 2008 7 p.m.

    omg if u dont want to play a game cause ur a girl u got issues...thts sexist and messed up... wouldnt u be pissed of a girl wouldnt play a good game cause u were the star? exactly
  • radioedit420 - November 27, 2008 10:12 p.m.

    Why are people hating on playing as girls in games? Although if it was a barbie or brittany spears kind of girl, i wouldn't even be playing it.
  • crazyqazqaz - November 23, 2008 5:54 p.m.

    This looks pretty cool. I might give it a shot.
  • Defguru7777 - November 16, 2008 11:45 p.m.

    I wish my Internet was faster so that I could at least download the demo!
  • Z-man427 - November 14, 2008 5:29 a.m.

    so glad to see that this is good
  • HotSht95 - November 12, 2008 11:05 p.m.

    id play if u didnt have to be a chick and if i didnt have gears 2 and if i was on crack
  • purpleshirt - November 11, 2008 9:20 p.m.

    so it sounds like the better you are at the game the more fun it is... that sounds good to me
  • dorrick - December 1, 2008 10:58 p.m.

    crazyhaz; let me guess you're the type of guy that plays games because of gore and to feel better about the life you live outside of gaming. This game is amazing anyone that has any kind of artistic or really just not into gore and a good story line will like this game. It is a rental because of no multiplayer but this game is genre bending and the first of its kind. The music is great and the controls work perfectly. Anyone that is mad about playing as a girl really needs to get out more i mean seriously. Games weren't just made for men and i like this because it gets my girlfriend into it more and ive been trying to get my girl into gaming for awhile.
  • crazyhaz - November 20, 2008 9:08 p.m.

    Hey Guys and Gals.. I have just registered to GamesRadar to tell you all how TERRIBLE Mirrors Edge is!!! It has to be one of the most boring games i have ever played. I recommend anyone seriously wanting to buy this game, RENT it FIRST!! Looks can be deceiving and in this case THEY ARE! I have just traded in FarCry2 which was awesome but i completed it and this game caught my eye... mainly for the looks and the idea of free running, which sounded great. GamesRadar gave this an 8 out 10. i'd give it 5.. if that. Terribly disappointed!!!!!!!
  • Nitemarish - November 18, 2008 8:18 p.m.

    I'd get it, but WTF?! £46.93 on Amazon?!?! EA piss me off so much
  • R38P3R - November 13, 2008 12:50 a.m.

    this game is ok, could have been better.
  • doug-e-fresh - November 12, 2008 10:33 p.m.

    I'm soo glad that this game is good. It's so often that a game that seems promising or more importantly a game i wanna play turns out bad.
  • bron1417 - November 11, 2008 9:08 p.m.

    well well the hype for this game has been lived im going to get this really soon.
  • lnksmartt - November 11, 2008 5:24 p.m.

    I thought this game would be good, not great but good
  • lnksmartt - November 11, 2008 5:23 p.m.

    I'm going to play this game for free and I'm glad for it.
  • BertTheTurtle - August 27, 2009 10:27 p.m.

    If for whatever reason you don't have the DLC yet, I recommend it, some real great fun there.
  • sk8tingninjainda206 - July 4, 2009 1:11 a.m.

    i free run and i love it so much and then i saw this game and i didn't even know that there was a game like this. it looks super sweet.
  • legodude666 - March 30, 2009 3:24 a.m.

    To all the people that refuse to play this because your a girl, honestly grow up. Not every game has to be about a meathead wearing half of your mom's SUV as body armor and preforming amputations via shotgun. I'm not hating on Gears or the like, but doesn't it bore you after a while?
  • NiftyNinja - March 28, 2009 6:46 p.m.

    to keep it plain and simple i think the game is gonna be tha shiz...chick and all.

Showing 1-20 of 25 comments

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