(EA; Xbox 360, PS3; Teen)
Players coming to titles that hew to the modern-day, open-world model have come to expect certain things since Grand Theft Auto 3 blazed a trail seven years ago, among them: a third-person perspective; gritty urban environments; lotsa random lawlessness That’s why the first thing that jumps out from Mirror’s Edge is its bright and super-clean aesthetic. The game’s heroine Faith operates in a nameless, fully-explorable city that’s markedly different from what gamers are used to seeing. Instead of wandering grimy streets, you now roam the upper reaches of a gleaming skyline. Faith works as a runner, which means she traverses the city on foot to ferry sensitive materials between parties, sticking mainly to skyscraper rooftops. She’s sort of a hyper-coordinated bicycle messenger without the wheels. Faith lives a thrilling but controlled life on the edge of the law — that is, until her sister’s framed for a crime she didn’t commit. As a result, the cargo-pants wearing courier must vault her way into conflict with the city’s power structure, uncovering the secrets of how exactly this metropolis became such an unnaturally ordered oasis.
The controls are reminiscent of the body-puppeteering concept in last year’s Assassin’s Creed, though ME strips down the idea of context-sensitive body part control even further, with one button assigned an ”up/elevate” function and a ”down” button that makes Faith duck. When players add a bit of momentum to either input, Faith will vault or powerslide onto, over or under objects. Creating momentum and maintaining flow emerge as the prime dynamics of the game’s first-person free-running. (On a PS3, the game makes use of the Sixaxis’s motion controls for balancing Faith as she maneuvers across narrow beams.) As you successfully move through the environment you’ll build a store of Reaction Time. This ability slows things down allowing you to disarm the cops who chase you or make jumps and grabs that would otherwise be impossible. Aside from the visual impact it provides, the bright-crayon colors in the gameworld play an important aspect in the gameplay, hinting at paths and delineating enemies or objectives. The camera in Mirror’s Edge mimics your every movement, pulling you into the gameplay in a way that other first-person games don’t. It also may make you violently nauseous, though. One thing that won’t make you ill is the excellent ambient techno soundtrack. The way it ramps up during the more tense sequences is like a reward in and of itself.
ME incorporates some puzzle-solving aspects as well. Figuring out indoor portions of the game frequently involve scanning the environment and figuring out which accessible parts to clamber onto. These ”hey, can I get over there?” bits will remind players of the environmental investigation aspect of Portal, another beloved hit from last year. Still, it some thought to figure out how to best approach certain objectives — though such preparation will come in handy, namely when you are being pursued by the Blues, as the local cops are called. (Combat in this game proves less enthralling than the parkour acrobatics of getting from place to place.) It’s cool that Mirror’s Edge isn’t as blood-soaked as other first-person games out there, but the hand-to-hand still feels comparitively clumsy.
Visually innovative, Mirror’s Edge still suffers from a few stylistic missteps. The art style used in the cut scenes is too much a departure from that of the game graphics — the cartoony aesthetic detracts from what little dramatic weight the already thin plot carries. Also, the voice acting is inconsistent. The most telling impact Mirror’s Edge will have on players who put Faith through the motions will be that they won’t look at their surroundings in quite the same way. —Evan Narcisse
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