Finished: Mirror’s Edge

May 15th, 2009

I really really wanted to love Mirror’s Edge.

I was sold by the original announcement — the pounding footprint EA logo, Lisa Miskovsky’s beautiful Still Alive, the bright colors and parkour-inspired gameplay… Here it was, EA’s big moment of redemption, part of their let’s make something new campaign, an opportunity to show that they could add to the art of video games, that, alongside Dead Space, they weren’t just sitting creatively idle, churning out sequel after sequel.

Unfortunately, the game is a mess.

Mirror's Edge

There’s a core of greatness buried in Mirror’s Edge, and for that alone it’s worth exploring, but the brief moments of awe are surrounded by tedium and frustration. The setting is fantastic — an urban romp through a colorful dystopian landscape — but the joy of exploration falls apart in the level design itself. I’ll accept the forced trial and error gameplay, but when combined with an imperfect contextual control scheme and widely scattered save points, the results were brutal. Many times I’d find myself elated to have crossed some difficult hurdle, only to screw up down the road and be thrown back to well before the tough bits, destroying the pleasure of progress and ratchetting up the aggravation meter. While some of the level layouts simply felt half-baked, thoughtful checkpoint placement might have lessened some of the duress. Yeah, the price would be a reduction in the overall challenge (and already short game length), but for a title that shines brightest when the player is in the flow, leaping over obstacles and along rooftops, it would’ve been a welcome tradeoff.

As I played through the game, I was hoping that the story, penned by Rhianna Pratchett, would be gripping enough to lure me through points of struggle, but the plot was ultimately another mundane enclosure for gameplay requirements, lacking the characterization, unpredictability, and oomph that a well-crafted tale displays.

Particularly mood-breaking were the cutscenes. With such a lush and beautiful in-game environment, why on earth did DICE resort to using a series of Flash-based segments? I’m guessing a lack of cinematic tools or a time crunch led to the decision, but man, was it a bad one.

Mirror's Edge cutscene

Anyway, after all this bitching, would it be wrong of me to say that I’m looking forward to the sequel?

Plus/Minus:
+ Overall, a beautiful sense of style & art direction.
+ Novel, sometimes elegant control scheme.
+ Ooh, another great soundtrack.

Lousy save point distribution leads to seriously frustrating repeats.
The cut scenes… why?
Argh, I haven’t played a more frustrating game in years.
Solidly mediocre story. I was expecting more.

Final grade: C-


4 Responses to “Finished: Mirror’s Edge”

  1. Boki on June 21, 2009 6:03 am

    That’s a bit harsh. The story was not ultimate excellence, but it was a solid story, and a game that led you through an action-packed adventure in a well designed world. A game that invites you again and again to challenge yourself to achieve perfection. Kind of like Parkour, the sport itself. Overall, I like it.

    By the way, the animated story scenes were a stylistic choice, I think. As you can see from the many in-game 3D moments, and the ending, the developers had all the resources to render the story videos in-game. The problem is, you would then feel that it was a game, and it would snap you out of the first-person experience. The stylized animation lets you enjoy a really wide range of expressions and events, without messing the game-play experience up for you. I don’t know; story separate from gameplay action, kinda works for me.

  2. kris on November 29, 2009 4:34 pm

    dude really who the hell are you to rate games it took these people years to jsut come up with the fricken idea only for one lazy mofo like urself to shoot it down lets ee u come up with something better then this

  3. kris on November 29, 2009 4:35 pm

    and i agreew ith the dude above me hes got the right idea

  4. Chris on January 7, 2010 10:33 am

    kris, I’m working on it. Thanks for the kind words, though!

    Again, Mirror’s Edge was a brilliant idea poorly executed. I have a lot of faith (see what I did there?) that the sequel will be excellent.

    Oh, and read Dr Professor’s review of the game for more of the same.

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