Next-gen platforming – Mirror’s Edge

posted by on 10th December 2008, at 11:02pm | 1 Comment

Platformers have been around since the birth of videogames. Jumping, swinging, and rolling around grouped games such as Pitfall, Super Mario, and Sonic the Hedgehog into the “platformer” category. As the 3D generation of videogames approached, we saw less and less platformers arising on the market. The genre that popularized gaming was slowly dying. Recently, new platformers have surfaced, bringing a sleek new look and some amazing game mechanics to the franchise. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time introduced time control, such as rewinding and slowing down, into the game engine, which renewed the interest in platformers. Mirror’s Edge introduces us to one of the strangest combinations possible: a first-person platformer.

In terms of storyline, Mirror’s Edge is actually quite disappointing. Really, Mirror’s Edge plays out like a bad murder mystery movie. We’re introduced to many different characters whose only purpose seems to be in the one scene they appear in, the clues given just lead us in circles until the developer wishes to end the game, and the ending is very clichéd. Our heroine, Faith, is a runner. Since the government controls all forms of communication, runners must traverse the roofs of buildings and skyscrapers in order to deliver urgent messages to further their resistance. After a mayoral candidate is murdered and the blame is placed on Faith’s sister, a policewoman, Faith must go to one person after another trying to find the answers to the murder. Along the way you’ll meet a bunch of people, whose name’s you won’t remember 5 minutes after watching the cutscene, and who you’ll never see again. Each person will lead you somewhere else, which goes on until you reach the anti-climactic end. I was really hoping that Mirror’s Edge would have a good story, since I always enjoy stories of resistance against government, but it was just too predictable and boring. But where the game lacks in story, it makes up for in the other areas.

Mirror’s Edge is probably the most innovative game of this generation of videogaming. It doesn’t introduce any new game mechanics that haven’t been seen before, but it merges two very different styles of videogames together. It’s really hard to explain how a first-person platformer would play out, but it just makes everything seem to flow together. As you stream together different combinations of moves (such as sliding under a barricade followed by hopping over a fence) you’ll gain momentum and pick up speed. You can then use that speed to run up a wall and grab onto a far away ledge. Momentum is intricately woven into the gameplay. You won’t be able to run across a wall if you haven’t built up some speed first. A lot of trial and error is needed to complete some parts of the game, while at other parts you can just keep running and find a direct route to you objective. It isn’t so hard that you’ll be throwing your controller in anger, and checkpoints are very abundant. Combat is rather dull, with 4 or 5 different weapons that all play out the same. Most combat situations can be handled with hand-to-hand combat or by simply running away, which is very easy (enemies can’t follow you if you jump 20 feet across to another roof). Along with the Story mode, there is Time Trial and Speed Run modes. Time Trial allows you to replay each chapter, trying to beat the Bronze, Silver, and Gold times. Speed Run splits each level into mini obstacle courses and times your runs through the course. Both of these award achievements and a nice change of pace.

The graphics and sound are top notch. While the game does indeed have amazing graphics, it was the art style that drew me in. The art style is very impressive in Mirror’s Edge, with only a small variety of colours present throughout the game. I haven’t really figured out what each colour means (if they do mean something), but red represents your “Runner’s Vision”. Red objects are objects that you can interact with, such as a pipe that you can climb or a board that you can jump off. While most of the game’s environments are white, some areas include orange, yellow, blue, and green colours. It really makes you feel like the world has been stripped of all colour and creativity, it’s very dull. The voice acting is very well done, it’s just sad that the story wasn’t compelling enough to attach me to the characters. Half of the mix is there, but the story just brings the rest of the characters down. I didn’t really notice any music until about halfway through the game. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t paying attention or if it really wasn’t present for the first half. But once I heard the music playing in the background, I was so impressed. It matches the whole idea of a world controlled by government, it’s depressing but there’s a hint of hope in the music. The graphics may well be the best on the 360 to date.

All in all, the gameplay is very relaxed and calm. Mirror’s Edge is all about having a fun time, not stressing you out. While there are a couple parts that make you actually think about what to do next, nothing should be too complex, especially with your Runner’s Vision on. Now, Hard Mode, on the other hand (which automatically turns off Runner’s Vision), is a different story. If you aren’t into platformers, you won’t like it, this isn’t a game for FPS players. But anyone that just wants to have a good time and do a little thinking should definitely give Mirror’s Edge a try.