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Mirror's Edge (Xbox 360) artwork

Mirror's Edge (Xbox 360) review

"Dan McKenney – You might be looking to play a new first-person shooter? If you are, that's cool. There's plenty of options, so take your time. No hurry… Now, a first-person action platform game? Well, there's really only one of those. The one being Mirror's Edge, a surprisingly creative new IP from the Battlefield devs Digital Illusions CE."

Dan McKenney – You might be looking to play a new first-person shooter? If you are, that's cool. There's plenty of options, so take your time. No hurry… Now, a first-person action platform game? Well, there's really only one of those. The one being Mirror's Edge, a surprisingly creative new IP from the Battlefield devs Digital Illusions CE.

Mirror's Edge puts you in the cherry-red, road-worn shoes of Faith, a "Runner", whose job it is to deliver messages to clients while avoiding the spying eye of the totalitarian. Runners are specially trained to see the "Flow" of The City; routes that normal people don't notice. An example being, a few carefully-placed crates, that have the potential to become a make-shift springboard that could help launch you to the edge of a vent above. Some people might assume that Mirror's Edge is really just a Prince of Persia clone... but there's a certain je ne sais quoi to Mirror's Edge that makes it unique.

Mirror's Edge flips the basics of first-person shooters around. Instead of running into a room, guns blazing, Mirror's Edge puts a heavier emphasis on avoiding combat altogether and outrunning enemies, which is where the control scheme is genius: One button focuses more on "Up" movements like climbing, jumping, and grabbing onto things, and one button focuses on "Down" movements like sliding and rolling.

When it works, it works great -- the feeling of exhilaration you'll get from successfully and quickly navigating through a level, or even a single area, is obscenely gratifying. You'll kick open a door and run across a thin catwalk, leaping to an area below as you break your fall with a well-timed roll or slide. Without slowing down, you'll hop up and over a fence, sliding under a vent as you land, right before running horizontally across a wall. All of this, while avoiding a rain of semi-automatic machine gun fire. The fast, kinetic pace of Mirror's Edge provides an amazing, exhilarating feel, and possibly the biggest adrenaline rush a game has ever given you.

And then, just like that...your previous feeling of exhilaration comes to a crashing halt when you miss that ledge. When you misjudge the size of the gap. When you get held up trying to grab onto a pipe and end up getting torn apart by the approaching guards. Often times, you'll find yourself held up by the frequent trial-and-error moments in the game. For example:

"A normal jump doesn't work, so let's try a wallrun---oops, nope, that doesn't work either.. Let's try this--nope. Oh, wait. I was supposed to wallrun up this wall and grab onto that tiny, seemingly impossible ledge. Ooooh"

The game tries to avoid this scenario by implementing Runner Vision. Runner Vision will make grabable, climbable, and just plain usable objects a bright red color that stands out against the environment, helping you to quickly navigate The City. Runner Vision can also point you in the right direction. Simply hold the B Button and your view will quickly point toward the direction you need to go. Often times, the B Button will fail you, especially indoors. It will just point you in what direction the door or ledge is, which could cause you to come face to face with a wall, or prompt you to look straight up at the ceiling.

As I said before, Mirror's Edge places the focus more upon avoiding enemies than confronting them. If you do find yourself in a combat situation, Faith has a few karate-style moves at her disposal. A correctly-timed button press can disarm an enemy, giving you their gun and knocking them out. Plus, Faith has a few kicks and punches she can throw at the resilient enemies. The best (and really the only) way to take out groups of enemies is to target them and pick them off one at a time, a singling out process, so that you can confront them without being torn up by gunfire. At best, a successful disarm will allow you to clear out a room of hostiles. But if you screw up that disarm, you're screwed.

Once you get a weapon though, you'll want to toss it rather than carry it around with you. Shooting feels tacked on, inaccurate, and surprisingly limited. Despite Faith's enemies having a seemingly infinite amount of ammo, the guns you pick up have a small amount of ammo left, with no indicator to tell you just how much ammo is still in the weapon. Once you run out (and you never really know when that is), Faith simply tosses the weapon aside. Also when possessing a weapon, you're unable to perform any of the Jackie Chan-like moves you have at your disposal.

Despite the frustration, I kept wanting to play Mirror's Edge. Hours slipped away, and I couldn't put the controller down, even though I was constantly stopped by awkward game mechanics. Leaping across rooftops, sliding down the sides of buildings, and tightrope-walking on pipes is just pure FUN. It's like Mirror's Edge is a constant adrenaline rush, and once you stop playing, you can't wait till you start playing again.

Lengthwise, playing through the Story mode's 10 missions will take you anywhere from 7-10 hours -- less if you don't get caught up on the tricky jumps. Speaking of Story mode, the game's storyline makes a serious attempt to be interesting and exciting, but ultimately falls flat on its face. Characters you don't care about, a backstory that doesn't get explained and a storyline that feels disjointed, leaves a lot to be desired in the story department. Not to mention the cartoon-style cutscenes that feel out of place when placed alongside the game's beautiful graphics. However, you'll still want to play through Story mode, if only to unlock Time Trials and Speed Runs.

This is where you'll find yourself losing track of time. Speed Runs are timed runs through the game's levels, and make completing the game in less than an hour seem easy. Time Trials are select snippets from existing environments, with checkpoints scattered around everywhere. You're timed between each checkpoint, so it automatically lets you know whether or not you're making good time. Time Trials don't feature any enemies, so the focus is more on Faith vs. The Environment. As you play through the Time Trials, you'll find strange new ways to get from Point A to Point B -- ways you've never seen or thought of before. And with Leaderboards, you'll find yourself replaying near-perfect runs just to shave another two seconds off your time. A quick tip: Turn off Ghosts. Seeing your Ghost beating you will discourage you more than encourage you.

Mirror's Edge is not a game to be dissected. It is to be seen as a whole. Sure, little snags here and there will frustrate you and the storyline is nothing to write home about, but the overall presentation is stunning, combining platforming with an insane adrenaline rush. This is a franchise to be respected, a new IP to be praised and a new genre to be accepted.


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Community review by teradio (May 20, 2011)

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fleinn posted May 23, 2011:

Nice review :) picked up speed towards the end as well. Specially liked the way you explain that actually improving in the game is possible, and therefore a fun challenge. Instead of being something you either suck horribly at, or else brief through, like with many other popular platformers..

A couple of things:
"the spying eye of the totalitarian."... state? ..government? ..or, maybe "out of reach of the surveillance society", or something like that.

"je ne sais quoi" in the middle of a sentence should be forbidden for anyone, including Christopher Hitchens. .. maybe.. "a certain quality that makes it.."..?

"if you screw up, you're screwed". Could do with a rewrite.

You also missed a grand opportunity to write "Trials of Faith", "Test of Faith", "Leap of Faith", and "Faith against the world". Full marks.

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