Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mirror's Edge Review (PS3 and Xbox 360)

It has happened to everyone; a game you love but at the same time, can't believe how frustrated you've gotten playing it. On the whole, it is still a great experience, but there are instances when the game just has too many moments that make you wonder if continuing is really worth it. Well, after playing Mirror's Edge, I have yet again felt that way.

The plot behind Mirror's Edge is simple. You play as Faith, a runner in a dystopian future where everything is monitored. She is part of group of 'messengers' who transport information from one side of the city to other using roof-tops and other non-orthodox ways of getting around. While your character is a parkour who relays messages, the game doesn't actually have you doing that.
When you begin playing, you control Faith after an unknown accident has put you out of commission for a while. The game starts you off with a tutorial to give you an idea of the controls. The game is played in First-person, but rather than this being a shooter, you're playing a first-person action game where your movements and actions are done with both your hands and feet.

Controlling Faith is done with the use of the shoulder buttons. The majority of the game has you running and jumping from roof-top to roof top. You will have to wall-run, leap over or slide under beams and figure out creative ways to get from one location to another. The controls when moving are relatively simple, with plenty of variety of moves available to you. The tutorial you go through in the beginning of the game gives you a good idea on how to use them, but it will take you a while before you really master her move-set.

As stated before, Faith is a Messenger, but in the game she never actually is doing any jobs other than the first level in the game. You are brought back into the fray on a simple mission but when police officers just randomly appear, you begin to ask questions. Shortly thereafter you encounter your sister, a cop, but discover that she has been framed for murder and then the real story begins.

Now you will need to help your sister by gathering information to prove her innocence. Mirror's Edge story goes for 9 chapters but there is little variety in them. They all start off the same. You begin a point A, must reach point B but along the way you'll have to run, jump, climb, jump, fight, run some more, avoid being shot and jump all before you get to the end of the level. While the jumping and running mechanics work well, the fighting is where the game suffers a lot. Most of the time, when you encounter a battle, the odds are really stacked against you. The scenarios are always the same, you arrive at a location and a handful of enemies with weapons will be trying to shoot you dead. In the beginning, the cops carry only pistols which are easy to disarm, but as you progress, their weapons become more powerful and it turn out to be increasingly difficult to disarm them.

Your options are simple, you can try to disarm your first enemy and then use his weapon to get by the area, or try to avoid conflict all together and either disarm or incapacitate your enemies. Disarming is difficult, so you'll want to try to defeat them with your melee abilities, but unfortunately they aren't always effective. Attacking becomes a button masher as you just begin to hit the attack button over and over again until the enemy falls over. You can attempt to do a jumping or crouching/sliding attack, but often you will miss the target, land with them facing you from behind and getting a good hit or two. They typically only need to hit you twice in succession before you keel over, so don't be surprised if you happen to die over and over again. The game wants you to avoid using weapons, but at times you'll feel that it is the only way to get by. There will be a few areas where you can run by without ever attacking, but those are few and far between.

The biggest downside to the game is the trial and error that fills the game. There are markers located throughout the levels, signified by objects appearing in red, but it doesn't always mean the best way of getting by. Because of this, you will die a lot. A situation might require you to do a wall-run and leap to grab a ledge to your left or right, but the timing required to do so is so finite that you will often miss the jump and fall to your death. While the falling animation is incredible, it does get boring after you've seen it 30 times.

The game's graphics are pretty incredible with a lot of great looking environments. There is plenty of variety in the locations you encounter, but too much of the game is spent running around indoors, rather than spending it outdoors, doing actually roof jumping. I would have rather preferred more variety in the outdoor environments, but what hurts is that there are rarely bystanders in your way. It would have been cool in some levels, especially those that actually have you running in what should be busy areas of the city, if you had people in your way. It might have been too similar to Assassin's Creed, but it is something you could see them doing in the future.

The game's cut-scenes leave much to be desired. It is disappointing that even the few in-game moments the characters seem too stiff and do not give off any realism. The chapter cut-scenes are done in a weird animation style that again, throws off the experience. They aren't that well done and the characters end up looking really different than how they do in-game.

Outside of the game's story, there are time-trails for those who want to see just how quickly the can complete a section of the game. The times seem to be quite unrealistic to achieve, but that is because, there are actually faster ways to complete each level that are not given away by the game's red hints markers. If you spent time in this mode, you will probably play levels over and over again as you try to shave or a few seconds to perfect your time.

For the most part, if the game was more about exploration with the running and jumping and less of the fighting, it would have been an incredible experience. It's still a good game, but there could have been a bit more polish done. The way the game ends, is another disappointing aspect. The last battle is weak and the ending itself doesn't really offer any closure. The experience isn't long, but considering the amount of dying you will encounter, you should deduct about an hour or so from how long it actually took you to complete it. There is definitely more to come from this series, and hopefully for the next game, they go the more open-world sandbox route with more variety since this game really craves it.

I still suggest you give this game a try since there isn't anything quite like this around. As stated in the beginning, this is a frustrating game that will anger you at times. Because of the amount of dying that will happen, if you are short-tempered, you might want to stay way. The graphics and running mechanics save this game, but the dying and horrible fighting system restrict this from being an excellent experience.

1 comment:

Judd said...

Hello sir! You and I had many of the same thoughts on this game, such as with the cutscenes. I thought they looked like eSurance commercials. And it was uncanny how we both thought the game would be better if it was open-world. See my full review here.