Mirror's Edge

Year: 2008
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: DICE
Genre: Action
Review Date: 1/15/11
Rating: ****

Wow... "Mirror's Edge" is nothing short of stunning, and is quite possibly the best looking video game I've ever played. I typically dislike first person perspective games and I really dislike first person shooters, but everything in this game feels fluid and natural. I never even got queasy from all of the movement and perspective shifting, which is a considerable accomplishment by the game developers.

Sometime in the near future, "the city" lost its freedom and became a totalitarian state. With everyone and everything being monitored by a vast security surveillance network, the only free communication is via pirate radio and specially trained couriers known as "runners." Faith Connors is one such runner, and when her sister in the police force gets framed for murder, Faith becomes a wanted accomplice. In order to save her sister (and clear her own name), Faith must find out the truth, no matter how dangerous or ugly it may be. This typically involves breaking into buildings and being chased by trigger-happy law enforcers.

The game presentation is fabulous and the environments and textures have a stark photo-realistic look. The game is played from a first person view, and Faith is able to see her own hands, feet, and body (which is unusual for most FPS games). There's no HUD or statistics on the screen, which makes the interface completely clean and fully immersive. The only time the display changes is when Faith takes damage, which causes her vision to blur and fade to gray. Faith can run, jump, slide, roll, crouch, shimmy, and engage in hand-to-hand combat to disarm opponents. She's a fun and dynamic character to play, and the fact that she's a hot Asian chick with a bad-ass attitude makes everything that much sweeter. The gameplay alternates between classic platform action, and frantic "fight or flight" segments that involve running away from the police. Faith's "runner vision" allows her to see key pieces of the environment as red, which gives you an idea of where you need to go and how to go about getting there. There's also a built-in hint system that (sometimes) points you in the direction of your goal, but it's not always available or reliable.

The production values are excellent and the game has a superb soundtrack, which is available as an MP3 download. Don't be fooled by the PC version of the game which claims to come with a soundtrack CD! It's simply a collection of remixes of the closing credits song, and NOT the vastly superior music score for the game. I find this to be bizarre and baffling. Jules de Jongh does an excellent job as Faith, and while her handler Merc is a bit annoying, Glenn Wrage gives a fine performance. Unfortunately, the other voices tend to fall a bit flat. Each chapter is bookended by a cinematic cutscene which is rendered with 2D cel-shading. While they look nice, the shift in presentation is jarring and introduces a disruptive and unnecessary break in continuity. While the overall theme of "save your sister who was framed for murder" is solid, the writing is pretty weak and predictable. The game also ends on a bittersweet note, and DICE hinted that this is just the first of a trilogy of games. However, legal issues and lower than expected sales seem to have put any future development on hold. (although there is a 2D Flash based prequel game available)

The difficulty seems to be a bit of a sore spot with a lot of people and the game can be very frustrating at times. But if I can make it all the way through, it can't be that bad, right? Like a lot of old school platformers, there's a lot of trial and error, which forces you to replay the same sections over and over. Thankfully, there are abundant checkpoints and once you figure out "the flow," the segments are pretty short. But don't be surprised if it takes 20+ tries to make a certain series of jumps or get past a particularly tough group of enemies. "Mirror's Edge" is not a shooter and Faith can quickly be overcome by gunfire, so the recommended tactic is evasion. Sometimes that's not possible, which forces you to isolate the hostiles and deal with them one-on-one. Despite its flaws and warts, I found "Mirror's Edge" to be a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable experience that kept me riveted and engaged all the way through. Even if FPS games aren't your thing, it's definitely worth checking out.