Mirror's Edge (2008) Review
The concept behind Mirror's Edge is fantastic. It takes the action and perspective of a first-person shooter, the jumping puzzles of a platform game, and the acrobatics of the Prince of Persia series and places them all among the rooftops of a large city in a near-future totalitarian state. The game sounds cool, it looks cool, and at times is really cool to play, but in the end it can't quite pull it all off. Mirror's Edge is certainly unique and innovative, but when it comes to gameplay it's more frustrating than it is fun.
In Mirror's Edge you play as Faith, a 'runner' whose job it is to act as a courier for the underground resistance working in opposition to the police state-like government. It's far too dangerous for you to do your work on the city streets, so you and your fellow runners have taken to the rooftops. Up there, getting from Point A to Point B requires a good deal of athletic and gymnastic skills as you'll need to leap from building to building, vault air conditioning units and other obstructions, and scurry up poles, among other things. String a few moves together and you'll transition into a sprint, which will really have you racing across the rooftops. This is when the game is at its finest, and you'll feel a real adrenaline rush when you pull off a series of moves. Unfortunately, those moments don't occur very often and most of the game amounts to a long exercise in trial and error.
The main problem with the game is that the appearance of an open world environment is only an illusion. As you stand on top of a skyscraper looking at the seemingly endless sea of buildings that surround you, it appears that you are free to go anywhere. However, in reality the situation is quite the opposite. There's a set path through each level and you'll spend most of the time trying to figure out where you're supposed to go next. It's hard to build any momentum and experience the best part of the game when you're spending so much time standing and looking around, doubling back, or falling to your death. Making matters worse, you'll often have the police shooting at you and it only takes a bullet or two to kill you. Often you'll reach a point at which you're not sure where to go next and be gunned down when you pause. You'll have to replay the sequence, make it back to the same point, and then try to quickly scan a different part of the area before you're gunned down again. You'll have to put up with multiple deaths before you even know what you're supposed to do next, and then you'll need to try and survive long enough to do it. The game's developers seem to be aware of some of these issues because they included a 'runner vision' feature. A press of the button highlights the next object you should use in bright red or points you in the direction that you need to go. This isn't a perfect solution, though. First, it takes your mind out of the game when you must often stop and ask the game what to do next. Second, it's impossible to build any momentum when you have to stop to find where to go next and then determine how you're to use the highlighted object to get passed the next obstacle. You won't get to experience the game as intended - as a runner fluidly and athletically moving from one building to the next until you've played through a level numerous times. Even then you're still in constant danger of dying because the game can be pretty unforgiving of slightly mistimed or misaligned actions.