Mirror's Edge review

A hop, skip and a jump away from greatness?

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Recently, when walking past a nearby building site,one editorremarked about how cool it would be to run along the tops of the cranes, like in Casino Royale. Mirror’s Edge has a level where you do exactly that. That made us all very, very happy.We just want to make it clear, though: at no point didwe suggest that it might also be cool to use those same physical talents to run away from a bunch of snipers. That would be rubbish.

Let’s also make it clear that when attempting that moment of crane leapery,we fell toour death half a dozen times. You’re not always going to time those jumps correctly. You’re going to fall and die sometimes, forcing a retry, and there’s no quicksave. This proved occasionally frustrating, particularly when a death happened after a scripted ambush we were then forced to walk into a dozen times. But mostly checkpoints are well placed, quickly re-loading and sending you back to just before your failed leap.

That scripted ambush is one of the situations where the game takes control of your viewpoint for the sake of a brief cutscene. Although the loss of control is abrupt, it’s preferable to the game’s occasional and jarring leaps into 2D animation. Faith is likeable; a rare humble protagonist who’s willing to express something other than detached sarcasm. There’s even some thematic nuance, though much of it is derivative of other work. But when the game is beautiful and steadfast in its commitment to the first-person perspective, suddenly jumping to 2D is bizarre and ugly.

What will annoy some of you far more is the length. The story mode is short –we completed it in around six hours. But this is only slightly less than it tookus to complete Call of Duty 4 and it doesn’t feel unfairly truncated, despite the room left for the inevitable sequel.We must say thatwe appreciated it for not padding the experience needlessly.

Also similar to CoD4, it’s improved on the PC, being easier to make jumps using a mouse and keyboard and with PhysX support, it makes fist-smashing through glass even more satisfying. But then, this is a world wiped so clean thatwe frequently walked into glass walls without realising they were there.

Despite the lack of multiplayer, there are two other modes that extend the life of the game: Speed Run and Time Trial. Speed Run is the story mode levels with an added timer. This forces you to complete each level flawlessly in order to reach the end within the time limit. Time Trial, meanwhile, is set in specific areas of those same levels and is entirely devoid of enemies.

Hey, wait a minute, devoid of enemies? Time Trial essentially turns the game into the aforementioned TrackMania, placing a series of checkpoints on a level that must be hit in order and giving you times to beat to earn either one, two or three stars. Didwe say devoid of enemies? Reach the end once and the next time through you’ll be racing against a ghost of yourself. NO ENEMIES? No enemies at all! The Time Trial mode removes the game’s one major irritation, turning it into a game purely about movement and iteratively improving your performance. Playing the story mode is worthwhile, and you’ll need to complete it to unlock all the Time Trial levels anyway, but there’s an argument to be made for this mode being Mirror’s Edge distilled into its pure form.

Which only serves to underline the key frustrations of the game. It’s ambitious in a multitude of ways, both in making a platformer from a first-person perspective and in its implementation of free running. It succeeds in both these things, creating an essential experience in the process. But it’s stymied by its attempts to combine those new ideas with the traditional first-person shooter model. It’s as if someone told them that people were scared of new things and that they should instead take something familiar and put a clock in it instead. In other words, it’s really, really good and you should play it, but damn, it could have been superb.

Jan 13, 2009

More info

DescriptionIt’s ambitious in a multitude of ways, both in making a platformer from a first-person perspective and in its implementation of free running. It’s really, really good and you should play it, but damn, it could have been superb.
Platform"PC","Xbox 360","PS3"
US censor rating"Teen","Teen","Teen"
UK censor rating"16+","16+","16+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)