With mixed reviews, and an underwhelming demo, Mirrors Edge almost passed me by. DICEs parkour game is actually rather good, and feels like the fledgling steps of an emerging genre. Its certainly a unique experience.
The game could have been disastrous, as platform sections in FPS games are monumentally awful. The controls do much to remedy this, feeling intuitive with a steady learning curve. The shoulder buttons control most of Faiths abilities. She jumps by pressing L1, and ducks with L2. In motion, these moves are chained together to increase her running speed. For example, Faith can coil her body in mid jump to travel greater distances. The animation for busting through doors is suitably dramatic, and maintains the sense of urgency. Other feature include slow motion, especially useful during balance beam sections, and for disarming enemies. Holding circle prompts her to look in the direction of the intended destination, which also proves invaluable.
Sprinting over rooftops is truly exhilarating, being persued by trigger happy cops equally so. The linear stages are disguised well, as multiple routes lead to the same objective. Due to the games sudden death nature, restarts will occur regularly. But logically spaced checkpoints help ensure frustration is kept to a minimum.
Single player is fairly short lived. To extend play, 3 runner packages are located on every level, and a speed run option becomes available upon completion. A large selection of time attack stages are also unlocked once the relevant criteria is met. Time attack is arguably Mirrors Edge at its finest, boiled down to its purest and most enjoyable aspect - free running. In addition, a comprehensive library unlocks concept art, music and videos. Loading screen animations are impressive too, with a silhouette of Faith taking down enemies. The combat sections have received much criticism, and are entirely justified. The trick is to avoid confrontation unless absolutely necessary. Yet later levels ramp up the number of 'blues' to the point where combat is mandatory. Mirrors Edge suffers when forced to fight, as the controls are slow and the gameplay feels choppy. Gunplay is equally weak, lacking an ammo display or reload facility.
Presentation is impressive, but graphics range from minimalist beauty to bland and glitchy. The visual style is unlike anything else, but feels very basic in places. Corridor sections and street levels suffer most. Textures and objects are recycled endlessly, but with different colours. Presumably this is done to keep design aspects similar. However it feels lazy. The paper thin plot does nothing to flesh out the world or its characters either. Yet the premise is fantastic; a big brother city where everything is controlled and monitored has led to the emergence of runners - delivering information and items under the radar.
A unique but hardly essential title - the innovation in Mirrors Edge should be applauded, but the overall experience is flawed with frustrating inconsistencies.