Mirror’s Edge Review Part 1:
Running into Walls

By Josh
on Aug 23, 2010
Filed under:
Game Reviews
For those who don’t read the heading. (i.e. everyone) This post is from Josh, not myself. I went all fanboy on Mirror’s Edge when it was showcased at E3. Then I played the demo. Then I elected to cherish that illusory dream-game hinted at in the trailer rather than spoiling that image of perfection by actually playing the thing. I like to pretend that the perfect game I saw is still out there, just waiting for a release date.

However, if you actually want a review based on facts and first-hand experience, then Josh has you covered.

-Shamus

Steam, at the very least as a digital distribution platform, is great. Now I know Shamus has expressed a number of very valid concerns about the idea (and indeed, strong possibility) of a Steam monopoly and all of the ways that could go wrong – and I am in absolute and total agreement with every one of those concerns – but there is a reason Steam is by and large the PC digital distribution platform. I can, with confidence, say that the sales held regularly on Steam have led me to try dozens of games (if not hundreds – my account has nearly 125(!) games on it) I would never have considered playing otherwise. One such game is an odd little title released back in 2008: Mirror’s Edge.

Or edges for that matter.
I’m not really sure what mirrors have to do with anything…

When Mirror’s Edge came out, I’d been following it with some interest, but I thought the concept was, frankly, rather crazy (First-person acrobatics? Tell me that doesn’t sound like a recipe for frustration and disaster). And the reviews I skimmed after the game was released seemed to reinforce this notion. But when the game is on sale on Steam for $5? Well… It can’t be that bad.

Right?

Actually, it isn’t. I think I can say, in good conscience, that Mirror’s Edge is worth the buy at $5. Heck, I’d probably pay $10 for it. Maybe even $15 or $20. Now don’t take that to imply, in any way, that Mirror’s Edge is a good game. There are a lot of problems that prevent it from ever securing a place in that coveted category. But it’s not a terrible game either; there are some fundamentally good qualities to it, and it does get some things right.

But let me back up for a moment and fill in some background for those of you who haven’t heard much about Mirror’s Edge. The game was developed by EA DICE and is a first-person… well, I’m not exactly sure what to call it, but it isn’t really a shooter. Much of the gameplay is focused around jumping, sliding, rolling, and running across an urban landscape – typically the roofs of buildings – parkour-style. You play as Faith, a “runner,” who – in a city where all communication is monitored – carries illicit messages to and from various clients.

But enough preamble. I mentioned that the game has a lot of problems, so let’s start with a look at the most egregious ones:

The Setting:

I know, I say “let’s start with a look at the most egregious ones” and then I start griping about the setting. So we’ll start with the least most egregious problem.

I’d also like to make an important distinction here: The narrative, overall, actually isn’t too bad. Early on, the player (as Faith) happens upon a prominent mayoral candidate by breaking into his office. He also happens to be dead, and Faith’s sister (who happens to be a cop) is lying unconscious nearby. It’s obvious that someone is trying to frame her for the murder, and the rest of the game involves Faith’s quest to find evidence to acquit her sister and rescue her. Now, as a video game plot, this works pretty well.

What doesn’t work is the setting that is supposed to be supporting the narrative. As I mentioned, the game takes place in a glistening, near utopian city. The apparent cost for this high quality-of-life is a set of heavy restrictions on personal liberties, to the point where, apparently, every form of communication is monitored by the government. As a result, an underground movement has formed (a bit of linguistic irony, considering you spend most of your time high above ground, darting across rooftops) supported by the runners, who carry messages between their various clients.

Or at least, I guess that’s what it’s supposed to be. Don’t expect the game to help you out much there, it barely even mentions what runners actually do. Only in one level (the first one) do you actually have to run a package to someone, but the cops intercept you and you have to pass it off to someone else. Aside from that, there are bags littered in hidden places throughout the levels, but these are completely optional collectible items. I’m not even sure what you get when you collect them because I personally hate trying to collect things in action or platforming games. And that’s it – the packages and messages that are the whole reason for the existence of the runners in the first place are otherwise completely incidental to the plot.

Even more incidental are the unnamed “clients.” I don’t recall any of them ever being directly referred to in-game, not even in passing. You certainly never meet any; and aside from a few news tickers in the elevator rides (sigh) that are scattered throughout the game, you never see any sign of their existence. This left me only with questions – obvious questions that probably should have been answered somewhere – like, say, in the game. Questions like, what do these “clients” even do? What messages are they sending that are so important they’d risk serious legal trouble and the (presumably) large sums of money that the runners must be charging for their services? For all I know, Faith might be smuggling bombs to terrorists. The game surely doesn’t do anything to dissuade the notion, and it certainly would explain the absurdly trigger-happy police that always seem to be hot on her tail.

Or maybe Faith is just delivering ice cream to orphanages. I don’t know because the game never fills in any details!

And even the existence of the runners themselves seems suspect at times. Including herself, Faith only ever encounters four members of the organization over the course of the game. There is never any mention of a hierarchy beyond her immediate handler, and in a particularly key moment of the plot, when Faith sneaks into a private facility and spies a file with all of the important intelligence the mayor has gathered on the runners, it seems to consist of mugshots of about nine people. The whole organization would seem to exist as a framing device so Faith can have a contact ‘back at base’ named Merc (which, for some reason, stands for ‘Mercury’ and not the much more obvious ‘Mercenary’) to direct the player through missions.

Now to be fair, much of the narrative involves Faith’s (not so often) clandestine attempts to find evidence that can clear her sister’s name and lead her to the real culprit behind the murder. So I suppose the lack of supporting setting elements could be excused by the fact that Faith isn’t really interacting with any of those elements. But at the same time, there is a strong undercurrent throughout the narrative about the kind of people who would live in an oppressive, almost Orwellian environment, and the ones who would resist it. And as a storytelling element, this falls completely flat because you have hardly any interaction with either the oppressed or the rebellious beyond your immediate runner friends.

How am I supposed to feel sympathy for the plight of an oppressed people when I never even see any sign of their existence?

But here I’ve spent over a thousand words griping and I haven’t even gotten to the gameplay. So let me move on to my second point:

The Puzzles:

To the game’s credit, the first-person platforming actually works – somehow. That was, to me, perhaps the most surprising thing about the whole game; my initial concern turned out to be perhaps my most unfounded one going in. DICE somehow found a way to make an acrobatics-heavy first-person game that wasn’t full of utterly frustrating “Damn, I just missed that jump again!” sections. That’s not to say those sections don’t exist, but there are far less of them than I ever expected. This feat was accomplished largely through the game’s rigid linearity. Levels are laid out in such a way that, if there’s a jump you can make, then it will be obvious that you can make it if you try. Conversely, if there’s a jump you can’t make, then you’ll never get anywhere close, no matter how many times you try. And when you do manage to land a sequence of moves and jumps correctly without interruption, the feeling of vertigo and speed is far more exhilarating than you could ever get from a third-person game.

This is not the problem.

The problem is that this action is broken up by frustrating puzzle sequences. Typically it’s of the “You have to find a way to jump up to this ledge here” variety, and some of them aren’t exactly short. There’s one sequence where you have to climb some twenty stories through the insides of a skyscraper that’s still under construction, jumping from scaffolding to concrete support beams and so on, as you make your way to a ventilation duct at the top. Apparently, in this faux-utopian future, budget cuts have led construction workers to forgo the installation of stairs and ladders in their scaffolding, leaving them to build on the power of plot alone. Or maybe everyone in the future is just really good at jumping.

Oh, and yes, Mirror’s Edge – the acrobatic, fast-paced, high-adrenaline not-shooter has air-duct escapes. A lot of them. Please tell me I’m not the only one that sees the problem with this.

Also not pictured: Originality.
Not Pictured: Fun

These puzzles are made frustrating by the vast array of largely context-sensitive moves and jumps that the player can perform at any given time. You can run along a wall for a few seconds if you jump at it at the right angle. You can vault off of piles of boxes to increase your jump’s range. You can swing on various poles and pipes, carrying your momentum from one to the next. And that’s just a small fraction of the moves available. Even when the destination is obvious, it can sometimes be difficult to tell how you’re supposed to get there, and this problem is by far the worst in the many puzzle sections.

But the game has a solution. There is a mode called “runner vision” that can be toggled on and off in the options menu, but defaults to ‘on’ in the normal difficulty mode. What it does is highlight objects in red that you can use to perform jumps or other moves that will get you closer to your goal. The system is also adaptive to the player’s progress; in other words, an object that was highlighted will return to its normal appearance if you manage to get closer to your goal than using that object would take you. In essence; that pile of boxes I just used to jump to another building won’t be red if I look back at it. With this turned on, it becomes easy to see the path the game designer has laid out to complete the level.

Okay, so you have a handy system that highlights useful objects and platforms so you never get lost. Cool. So, you ask, what’s the big problem then?

Well the problem is that runner vision has a remarkable tendency to do an annoying thing that I like to call not work. The system will highlight some objects for you, but other objects – even ones that you absolutely have to use because there’s no alternate path at all – will remain curiously and apparently arbitrarily ignored. This is most notable in the puzzle sequences, where you might get a single, obvious object highlighted in a complex sequence that requires multiple jumps, often leaving you effectively blind, stumbling across the stage wondering just what the hell the designer was thinking when he built this damn puzzle. At one point I spent a good forty-five minutes spread across two play sessions trying different combinations of moves on one puzzle until I figured out exactly what I was supposed to be doing. It was irritating, frustrating, and most certainly not fun.

I suppose the argument could be made that the developers didn’t want to reveal the proper path during the puzzle sequences, because that might “ruin the fun” (whatever that’s supposed to mean in this context). But the runner vision often ignores objects in the acrobatic phases as well. There doesn’t really seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. And the puzzle sequences aren’t exactly avant-garde brain-teasers either. They’re of the “get onto this ledge” or “get into this ventilation duct,” variety, no more cerebral or complex than a particularly frustrating Super Mario Bros level. And regardless of any of these gripes – even if they were fun – there’s just too damn many of them. The puzzle sequences simply break up the pace of the action far too often to be anything more than a nuisance.

…Man, this is turning into more of a rant than I thought. I’m already over 2000 words and I haven’t even finished with my gripes about the bad parts of the game. I’m pretty sure if I write anything more, this post will officially bridge the gap into “novel” territory.

So, tune in next time for Mirror’s Edge Review Part 2: This Game Kinda Sucks But Maybe I Can Talk About Some Good Things This Time.

Guys? Guys…?
No seriously, isn’t this game supposed to have rooftops in it?
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From the Archives:

  1. Eathanu says:

    Oy… I hated the puzzle on the boat, but other than that, I thought it was a very solid game, gameplay-wise. You are right about the setting not being elaborated on. I think making a game about running first, and then releasing a “help my sister clear her name” sequel would have been a much better move, but I’m betting they liked the story of this one and were not counting on getting funding for the follow-up.

    • Sumanai says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the developers were forced to put a story in by higher ups. Although if that’s true, why hire Rhianna Pratchett to do it instead of just gobbling something together?

      • RedClyde says:

        Rhianna Pratchett talked about this in an interview on Gamasutra. Apparently, they brought her in to write the story after the rest of the game was already done.

        • Sumanai says:

          Still reading it, been really good read, thanks.

          The fact that she was brought in late just reinforces the feeling of wonder. Why hire a known name to write for your game, when you don’t give a rat’s ass about the story? And if you care for it, why hire someone after all the maps have been designed?

          • Kell says:

            Why hire a known name to write for your game, when you don’t give a rat’s ass about the story?”

            Because it adds greatly to the hype. Bullet points on the packaging, dude. Bullet points.

            “And if you care for it, why hire someone after all the maps have been designed?”

            Because most game developement is a heady cocktail of genuine enthusiasm, predictable commercialism, and incompetence?

            • Sumanai says:

              You forgot “complete disregard for aspects of the game that you aren’t, or don’t want to be, working on”. Although I suppose that falls under ‘incompetence’.
              I haven’t actually played Mirror’s Edge yet, even though I bought it, so my biggest “wtf were they thinking” -gripes aren’t related to the story but basic design flaws. Interestingly no-one seems to have mentioned those precise flaws in the comments, near but not exactly. (Haven’t read Rutskarn’s comments on Chocolate Hammer though.)

  2. somebodys_kid says:

    This game had a LOT of potential, but was squandered by too much shooting, poor use of the main story line, and some poor execution of the puzzles and gameplay mechanics. But, man oh man, when it works and everything comes together, there is NOTHING like it. I’ve heard there’s a sequel in the works, and I like to think they will correct most of these flaws.

    • Sumanai says:

      If you’re very lucky they might tone down shooting. Most likely they’ll just try to “fix” combat.

      • Klay F. says:

        I kept on hearing during the development of this game that it was possible to finish the whole thing without firing a single shot. Did that get turned on its head or what?

        • vukodlak says:

          Isn’t it? I think I more or less did it. There was one (horribly annoying) sequence in a warehouse, where you’re surrounded by a bunch of armed henchmen where I had to shoot someone, but apart from that I can’t remember using the guns at all…

        • Sumanai says:

          Haven’t read interviews, but in a video with commentary (I think it was dev walkthrough) I heard him claim that. Then he said “it’s one of the most challenging achievements in the game” which single-handedly curbed my interests in the game back then.
          Granted, I didn’t consider it game-mechanics wise in my favorites, but I hold a special room in my mind for games that dare to drop off combat completely. Or make it optional, but it doesn’t seem to me that that happened with Mirror’s Edge. It’s not really an option if non-violent approach makes the game notably more difficult.

          Also, vukodlak, just once is once too many.

  3. Rack says:

    I died, oh about 700,000 times in the 360 version because nearly every jump in the game is EXACTLY the same as Faiths leap distance, jump a single pixel too early and plummet to your death. All too easy to do when the camera is placed at the back of Faiths neck for reasons unlikely to be clear at any point in the future. The PC version was much easier, I think the fine control of the mouse coupled with a much smoother framerate and higher resolution helped out. Even then it would have been less annoying if it had been in third person.

  4. Legal Tender says:

    Ah, Mirror’s Edge!

    While I agree there were a few rather frustrating puzzles and action sequences (there was one where you had to sneak aboard a ferry, if memory serves me. Pain in the derriere to get past the first few cops there) this game was pure Valium for my gaming brain.

    Not a particularly good game, like Josh said. And still…I could spend hours and hours just jumping around in the less heavily populated levels or just work on my timed runs.

    That and there was something incredibly alluring to the idea that even though you could, you didn’t have to fire a single shot in the whole game. You could pick up guns and so but your ability to perform suffered accordingly. I liked that. A lot!

  5. Avilan says:

    I remember the extreme hype from non-players (mainly politicians and others with an agenda) about this game when it came out, since the developers are Swedish and I am Swedish. The whole point was basically “Wow! Great! A game almost without violence, and full of innovation!”. And then, of course, the reviews came out and nobody bought it.

  6. Jokerman89 says:

    Great review Josh….hope you do more of them :)

  7. 8th_Pacifist says:

    An idea for a story: the runners are information carriers. In a world in which there is no freedom of speech, unregulated newspapers could be in high demand on the black market. But then it turns out that a group of runners have strayed from the core tenets of nonviolence the runners have (which makes them hopelessly naive to think this was foolproof, but people have done stupider things) and started transporting bombs and weapons to key locations, with the intention of attacking government buildings — surveillance centres and the like — and starting a terror campaign. Now the “peaceful” runners find themselves caught between trigger-happy police who lump them in with the terrorists and the actual terrorists.

    I can see how that could be spun out for twelve hours.

    • eri says:

      See, that is the sort of extremely obvious and yet compelling narrative that I would expect from any competent games company. What’s sad is that I imagine that took you less than five minutes to think of and write up. :|

    • eri says:

      (Sorry, for some reason my new post got tacked onto this one for some reason. Please read down for it.)

    • Kell says:

      “I can see how that could be spun out for twelve hours.”

      I can see how that could be spun out for 2 or 3 hours. As a movie.

      The biggest problem with the story in Mirror’s Edge is that it has one.

      • 8th_Pacifist says:

        If you’re saying that a story is inherently detrimental to a game, I disagree. If I care about the world and the characters, it makes the gameplay more meaningful to me; I pay more attention, I care more. I really like the beginning of Half-Life 2: the introduction to Dr Breen, the underground, and Civil Protection all happen fairly seamlessly as you travel through the city. The raid on the house tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the world you’re living in, without dumping loads of exposition on you.

        But then I’m the kind of guy who wants well-written stories in porn movies, so it’s possible we’re operating from fundamentally different worldviews.

        • Kell says:

          If you’re saying that a story is inherently detrimental to a game, I disagree.

          That is what I’m saying. But let me be more specific: I am saying that plot is inherently inimical to interactivity ( and pardon my aliteration ). There is no such thing as an interactive plot – that is a contradiction in terms.

          I really like the beginning of Half-Life 2

          So do I. But let’s be clear – what’s going on in the early maps of HL2 is not plot. What is being conveyed is setting and premise. There’s a bit of characterisation too, but mostly this is about world building rather than storytelling. That may sound like hair splitting, but it’s a critical distinction to the whole issue. Yes, stories in prose, cinema etc. frequently involve world building. But it’s the plot that’s the real issue we’re discussing, the sticking point. It’s possible to build a world and not tell a story in it.

          I’ve posted several times in the more recent Spolier Warning thread, and I mention Valve a lot. I agree that the way they use writing to enhance the experiences their games provide is great. And that’s exactly the sort of writing in games I’m advocating. That is to say: writing in games that conveys premise, setting, character, and especially humour please, all have something to contribute to what games are for. Writing plot does not.

          Out of all Valve’s games, HL2 has the most writing and the most plot, even though it is merely the bare skeleton of a plot intended to justify each FPS gameplay mechanic as it arrives. And despite the Freeman Franchise being Valve’s flagship title, it has been surpassed by the superlative achievements of their subsequent games: Portal, TF2, and L4D. These are games that have even less plot, but retain brilliant writing. Remeber when the Orange Box was released? HL2:E2 was the least of the 3 components, and certainly the one with the least interesting writing. Of the 3, HL2:E2 was the one with the most plot. See my point?

          But then I’m the kind of guy who wants well-written stories in porn movies, so it’s possible we’re operating from fundamentally different worldviews.

          I understand the sentiment; good writing and good porn should not be mutually exclusive. However, good plot in porn is never going to be a major achievement because the priorites of making porn and telling story are fundamentally different.

          John Carmack once said ( and it is perhaps his most useful insight not involving engineering ) that plot in game is like plot in porn: you kinda expect it to be there, but it isn’t the main thing.

          Exactly right, but gamers continue to insist that Games Are A Legitimate Storytellign Medium etc. Frankly, playing games to experience story is like watching porn for story.

          I’d like to write further because, although this thread is dropping off the bottom of the blog, I think your post lies near the core of the issue. But I have to go out now.

    • Stupidguy12 says:

      Well, if this was tagged onto the main story, it would compliment it nicely as to why the first time you see a police officer, if you run the wrong way, you get intercepted by a bullet to the face while a cop (who I presume is being sarcastic) shouts, “DROP THE BAG (this is the mission with the bag) OR WE WILL SHOOT!”

      Nice details. Good job.

  8. Thirith says:

    It’d be interesting to see whether there’s any correlation between whether players liked or disliked the game and whether they played with KB+M or with a gamepad.

    I played and loved Mirror’s Edge on PC, where I played using the keyboard/mouse combo. Yes, I thought the storytelling was mediocre at best and the shooting passages broke the flow, but when the game worked, it was a beautiful experience. (I got the time trials and enjoyed them a hell of a lot, since they dropped the story and combat sequences.)

    Then, out of curiosity, I downloaded the PS3 demo – and it felt like running into a brick wall. I’m by no means a gamepad maestro, but neither am I horrible; I managed to get a fair percentage of headshots in Uncharted, for instance. But in the case of this game, having analog movement controls in no way made up for the lack of mouselook.

    Perhaps I’m the only one who had this experience, but I know that if I’d first played the PS3 demo, I would never have given the game a chance on PC.

    • eri says:

      I found that the analogue sticks of my 360 controller made running much, much easier, as well as timing certain jumps – with the keyboard I was constantly getting stuck on little pieces of geometry and stuff. However, I went back to the keyboard and mouse for a lot of parts because it made the precise acrobatic sections much, much easier. It’s kind of a shame that neither control system is good enough on its own, and you have to constantly switch between both for the game to play well.

      • Gale says:

        Clearly, someone should build a PC adapter for the Wii nunchuck. Analogue movement and mouse camera control would probably work great for Mirror’s Edge, even if such a control setup would be terrible for most other games in existence.

  9. GuiguiBob says:

    Some parts of this game are amazing when it you start running away from cops dodging one and jumping over to another building. The helicopter sequence was really well made one of the few videogame chase sequence I felt really worked. The part that this game didn’t get where when you weren’t running.

    Fighting the cops felt like it was going away from the gameplay. The fact I found out you could pick up beaten up guards weapon about 2/3 didn’T help thos obligatory combat sequence. Some combat were fun when they gave you the space to run around.

    Good game despite the flaws. Wish more companies where exploring the FPS space a bit more. Espescially games that don’T put guns in your hands as a main feature.

    • eri says:

      I don’t think the problem was the inclusion of guns, so much as it was the fact that the controls for shooting are just awful. I get it, Faith isn’t a Space Marine, but that doesn’t mean you should artificially gimp your gameplay either. However, I’m also afraid that the inevitable sequel will be even more fixated on guns, since some designer somewhere might say “well, we’ve spent all this time improving our combat, why not use it to a greater extent?”

      • GuiguiBob says:

        Yeah the controls for shooting were awful, true. Like I said giving you the space to fight helped a lot. It was a really fun game when you were running away.

        Some part of me is just sad that we’ll likely not see some similar game pushing the good parts and removing the worse for some time.

        Here’s hoping the sequel isn’t what sequels usually are.

  10. Conlaen says:

    My great hate was that there were too many enemies I *had* to fight. And since I was going for not using any guns in the entire game, you quickly notice that the melee isn’t all that good. But I’m sure this will also be mentioned in the next part of your review.

    Had they made more of those scenes like at the start, where you just had to run from the cops, instead of confronting them head-on, the game would have been so much better. Speed was what carried the game, and they did take a lot of that speed out with the puzzle bits with no pointers and the stopping to fight small armies of cops.

    On that note, I did like the “runner-cops”, as they really got on your heels, they only should have made them a lot less strong. It was frustrating to get knocked out with 2 punches.

    Nice review so far, looking forward to the next part!

    • Stupidguy12 says:

      I hated those runner cops, so when I found some cops with smg’s on the second level when the runner cops chased you across the rooftops I went triggerhappy. So satisfying! Also, it takes a moment, but in every area full of goons with guns there is a path through the area that allows a quick, non-violent escape.

  11. Factoid says:

    I actually kind of liked Mirror’s Edge. The gameplay was fun if you’re a little bit OCD and want to find efficient paths and like speed runs and stuff like that.

    The parts I didn’t like were all the stuff you mentioned…the weird setting that has no detail, unintuitive puzzle design, etc…

    But I had so much fun just running fast and jumping off crap I was having a good time despite the other stuff.

    The two things that I hated the most about the game: there were never any people around except cops…you’d run through office buildings in broad daylight and find them completely empty except for armed guards. WTF? And the second is the part where you have no choice but to use a gun even though the game advertised heavily as a game where gunplay was strictly optional.

    There is no way that firing a .50 cal sniper rifle and exploding a truck on the street was a “non-lethal takedown”.

  12. Peter H. Coffin says:

    It’s got all the hallmarks of ‘Someone comes up with an interesting take on platforming’ and writing most of the game plus the mechanics. Management says ‘It’s not compelling. Why are we doing all this?’

    ‘Because it’s fun?’

    *withering look* ‘Take it back. Give it some story. And make it a little easier to know where to go.’

    Devs add RunnerVision based on they having played every level a hundred times, and bolt in the Mayor storyline. Back to management…

    ‘It’s not personal enough.’

    *sigh*

    Devs rummage in the “personal” box and decide that even though the main character is a girl, most of the audience is still going to be male. So need to save a female somehow. A child would be too maternal for them, so the pick “sister” and get out the story tape to lash her into the plot.

    Management says ‘Now it’s perfect! Ship!’

    • Kell says:

      I doubt it was entirely ‘management’s’ fault; a lot of developers are hacks too. But I agree, your summary certainly captures the mentality that leads to mediocrity such as this.

  13. I loved the concept of the game had, especially as portrayed by the evocative trailers. When I played the game, I was glad to find that getting a smooth “combo” going was completely enthralling and exhilarating.

    However, I mostly agree with Josh here on the convolutedness of the story and awkwardness of the puzzles (although I really enjoyed the Atrium section he was complaining about). Mostly I loved the thrill of motion the game portrayed. It’s a pity that they kept stuttering the action with stupid air ducts, vent-wheel turning, and pipe-climbing sections. And the cop chases (especially the runner cops) were brilliant. In fact most of the sequences that had a lot of “free flow” to them (i.e. areas where you could get some pace going) where outstanding.

    Somehow the time trials bored me, mostly due to the lack of being chased. I really hope the alleged sequel ups the “just behind me” factor.

    It’s still one of my favourite games but you need to forgive a lot of problems.

    There’s an interesting (I haven’t watched the whole clip yet) video done from Jackknife’s (one of the game’s characters) perspective over here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvdMGbOjAaQ

    • Kell says:

      “It’s still one of my favourite games but you need to forgive a lot of problems.”

      May I ask: if you have to forgive so many problems, why is it still one of your favorite games?

      • Raygereio says:

        Í can’t answer for mr. custard, but sometimes a game has this unquantifiable ‘goodness’ factor that makes you like it, despite all of it’s flaws.

        And besides; in my experience, generally the games we bitch about the most are the games we like the most. If it’s a game you don’t like, we would you care enough to even think about it’s flaws?

  14. ***Dave says:

    Presumably “Merc” is “Mercury” after the Roman god of messengers, trade, and thieves …

    • Kell says:

      Dat’s wot profeshonul riters call a “classicle refrunz” so it iz ;)

    • Mewse says:

      Side note: the word “Mercenary” is derived from the same root as Mercury; both are intimately tied up with the exchange of money.

      But yeah, in this particular case, “Mercury” makes a whole lot more literary sense than “Mercenary”, which in modern usage now has military connotations.

  15. Henebry says:

    … a contact ‘back at base’ named Merc (which, for some reason, stands for ‘Mercury’ and not the much more obvious ‘Mercenary’)

    Mercury, the god of messengers (and of FTD’s “Say It with Flowers” campaign).

  16. Jarenth says:

    Yeah, like some of the other commentors here, I’ve had similar experiences to yours. Fun game, interesting mechanic that – despite the odds – manages to work, and which is exhilarating when it does… but a bland, obviously tacked-on story that does nothing with the not-even-that-interesting setting the game takes place in.

    What annoyed me the most is that at the end, the game seems to try and goad you into gunplay, even though that’s not what the game was about and I didn’t really want it anyway. There’s a few guys you encounter with body armor, which you can only really take down by a)Running and gunning or b)Perfectly timed counterattacks. Extremely frustrating.

    Oh, and for the record: I actually played Mirror’s Edge on the 360 and liked it, in deference to earlier suggestions.

  17. Nyaz says:

    I have to say the worst part of the game was a puzzle where you’re inside a skyscraper with ten or so guards, and you’re going to make a really weird jump.

    1. Find an unobvious duct, climb into it. Do not alert guards.
    2. Accidentally alert the guards anyway.
    3. Wallrun on a narrow wall where there is no floor below, using the wallrun button which is THE SAME BUTTON as the jump button (on Xbox 360, anwyay). Half the time, the little gears in Faiths brain would snap, and she would ignore my wallrun commands and instead toss herself hundreds of meters of nothing but air and bullets and plummet to her death. Then you grab on to a pole and swing yourself across.
    4. After wallrunning and swinging (FINALLY!), you must run on a small ledge made of glass, elevated above the interior of the building. Obviously, the guards now know exactly where you are as you cannot possibly sneak up here. They are below you, and shooting at you, and glass does not protect against bullets. Now you must make one final jump over to the next little ledge. But it’s impossible! No matter how fast you run and swing, they will shoot you and you will die. Or you will fall, and you will die.

    I think I spent a good two hours with this. The best solution in the end was to go down and murder all the dumb guards and swing across.
    I do not think this was the way the game creator intended this.

    • Robyrt says:

      I hated that part too. It turns out that if you know exactly what you’re doing, you can run straight through the sequence and the guards will shoot the glass right as you jump off, in a cool suspenseful moment. If you’re not perfect, though, they will just shoot you down unceremoniously.

  18. GuiguiBob says:

    I think the storyline suffered from 2 main problems.

    1) The story themes are separated from the gameplay themes. The story is about fightin oppression but the gameplay is about running away. When I remember that game I think about bullets just missing me. Running to get to a place dodging the cops. When I think of the story I remember obscure government machinations and fighting to stop injustice. The two don’t mesh and the game is worse for it.

    2) We don’t know who Faith is. And don’t get to care for her through the story. The reason Faith is fighting is to prove her sister is innocent. But we don’T get to know her before that happens. It would have been fun to have her be a secondary character helping us in a first chapter then get framed where we feel we want to repay her. Or something like that.

    the first one is what often separate a good story in a videogame with an Ok one. the second is something writers need to learn in videogames. You can’t decide the protagonist motivation without having the player experience it.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Yeah, the game sucks in building any sort of atmosphere that would connect to the situation we’re supposed to be facing. Despite the linearity the rooftop sequences generally work well for this “weee! I’m jumping between buildings! I’m free!” feeling but it fails to create a link with the whole evil government scenario. Normally when games want to represent an oppressive society they’ll use bleak surroundings and lots of propaganda placed everywhere. I think the game would benefit greatly from at least a few stages starting somewhere on the ground level and showing us the actual “oppressed masses” and only then transporting the player into the light and clear sky of the rooftops.

      Also, I’m an SF/Fantasy kind of geek and when I first heard all the hype I thought the story would be fairly standard but would work well for a game. There was all this “oppressive future”, “information is controlled” Orwellian stuff, then they introduced runners. So I was pretty sure we’d have a runner who’s after her own business (i.e: transporting messages for cash), then she’d somehow fall in with some kind of resistance (they’d start by hiring her, or they’d promise to help free some relative, or she’d learn her parent who disappeared years ago was part of it), then they’d learn some kind of great governmental plot to end whatever’s left of civil liberties (supercomputers being likely) and in the final stage we’d end up having to “deliver” some kind of key data/component (in the case of supercomputer probably a virus) through some giant twisted complex. Hooray, world saved.

      I can understand that not all stories have to be epic in scope and at first I enjoyed the game immensely, then the novelty of all the jumping around run out, then the game began to throw an increasing number of enemies at me discreetly hinting that it wants me to shoot stuff… I actually never finished though I think I got quite close to it as I think I was already trailing my imprisoned sister or whatever.

      • Sumanai says:

        Third comment from above has a link to gamasutra on a interview with the writer, which is an interesting read and I recommend it. They brought her in after all the maps had already been done, along with character designs.
        Which, as everyone knows, is perfect for creating a compelling narrative that holds past cutscenes and well into the gameplay.

  19. Meredith says:

    I haven’t played this game (worried about motion sickness), but I wanted to say that I enjoy your writing style, Josh. For some reason, I enjoy reading about games I haven’t tried (does that make me weird?), and of course witty criticism is always welcome. I’ll be looking forward to the rest. :)

  20. eri says:

    I actually recently wrote an article on Mirror’s Edge… not to plug my blog or anything, but you can check it out here if you want: http://criticalmissive.blogspot.com/2010/07/mirrors-edge-and-balancing-subversion.html

    I think the biggest problem with Mirror’s Edge, aside from the stop-start gameplay which you picked up on, is that the world’s design is just half-assed and relies upon abstract themes rather than any actual intrigue. It’s like the game assumes that you’ve read 1984 or experienced some other film or game with a clean-but-oppressive government, and asks you to fill in all the details it’s too lazy to bother fleshing out. Playing Mirror’s Edge, I feel like I’m running through a copy of a bunch of far better stories, with some otherwise totally coincidental parkour-themed gameplay tacked onto it.

    Also, the ending to the game is a pretty big slap in the face. They introduce your sister to be saved, this huge corporation you are supposed to take down, the oppressive government, conspiracies, blah blah blah… and of course, you continue through the game expecting something to happen. But nothing ever does. There’s the extremely obvious treachery in the second-to-last level, followed by Faith saving her sister, and then… nothing. The game ends. What happened to the corporation? The government? What about all those characters that you never bothered to explain the motivations of? Did nobody tell these amateurs that if you’re going to make a game with a strong universe, you can’t just drop it halfway through when your level designers run out of ideas? After just five hours of gameplay, half of which was me dying, I would at least expect some sort of interesting arc or at least resolution beyond “you’re not dead yet.”

    • Simon Buchan says:

      In regards to your questions: Those computers at the end of the last level were running the communication filtering, and you destroying them allowed free communication, hence the governments “warnings” to citizens that communications are not “secure” in the credits – so they’re trying to deal with that. The corporation was just a front/tool for the government to get rid of Pope and the runners. You don’t bother with them one you find out about Icarus (Damn I hate that name). There is some actual meat to the story, it’s just kinda scattered around a bit and hard to follow. Not that it’s necessarily *good* story, but then people seem to think Deus Ex has a brilliant story, and that’s hardly more developed (It was the Terrorists! I mean the Government!, I mean the Illuminati! I mean VersaLife! I mean MJ12! I mean Icarus! (Hello again, you.))

  21. Kdansky says:

    Am I the only one who thinks Shamus got too successfull with this highly profitable blog and is now outsourcing and delegating work to some random shmucks whom we’ve never heard of, for pure corporate greed? Next we know, there’s DRM!

    • eri says:

      Yeah, I almost wanted to say… I wish my work could get featured somewhere successful. Monetise with Google ads? Hahaha, yeah right, I’d make like ten cents a year and the ads would turn away even more people than the content attracts.

      Although Josh writes on The Escapist, so I guess it’s not as big a deal.

    • PurePareidolia says:

      Well Josh does co-host Spoiler warning so it’s not like he’s contributing out of nowhere.

    • Kdansky says:

      Guys! It’s called blatantly obvious Irony! :(

      Highly profitable blog?
      DRM?
      Random shmuck?

      Seriously…

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Oh yes,the puzzle parts.That one with the scaffolding wasnt particularly bad for me,but I hated the one where you were using the scaffolding outside the building to reach a crane.Ugh,I was lost for such a long time there not knowing where to continue.

    Where the game truly shone,was in the parts where you were running away from cops,with bullets zipping past you,jumping franticly over the gaps.Fun!

    • Legal Tender says:

      Exactly!

      I found it incredibly refreshing not being able to take on all the ‘goons’ in the game. Especially because it made sense in the context of the game. Sure, you can see Faith getting some training with firearms but when the bullets start flying it was exhilarating to feel the conflict between the FPS part of my brain telling me ‘grab that SMG and put those forkers down!’ and the part that got invested in Faith’s character (and I can see I’m in the minority here) that kept screaming ‘oh s—, oh s—! Gotta run, gotta run, gotta run!! Quick, that ledge/box/wall will get us outta here, go for it!’

      Makes me wonder if this game could have used the ‘heart rate’ mechanic from Fear Effect (anybody remembers that one, I think it was Playstation…maybe PS2?). I think it would’ve been more inmersive to feel you are about to have a nervous breakdown from all the danger you are constantly exposed to, then finally lose your marbles if you take too much ‘damage’ (gameover screen) rather than the usual mechanics of blurring and screen-shaking from getting shot and then having your wounds magically disappear after a little while.

      Somehow combine that with the cell-shade Prince of Persia no-death meachanic – where Faith would recover from a failed jump by holding onto a ledge or some such at the last possible moment or perhaps do an automatic adrenaline-fueled dash to safety when just about to go into nervous breakdown AND this game would be pure and utter gaming bliss for me.

    • Ian says:

      I got stuck for far to long on one secion of the jumping puzzle. What was particuarly frustrating was I was slamming into the ledge but I kept hitting it chest high. Most such ledges elsewhere in the game would let you catch them and pull yourself up. This one required you to do a wall run and jump to hit it a little higher because this ledge apparently can’t be grabbed.

      Inconsistent jumping puzzles. That’s my overriding memory of the game.

  23. Vendrin says:

    Loved the game, and never seemed to have any of the problems others seemed to have with it.

  24. Josh Vaughn says:

    My biggest problem when playing the puzzle and acrobatic parts was the lack of peripheral vision. Any game that’s tried to do “True First Person” has run into this problem, because the vast majority of screens are not concave and therefore can’t show anything beyond what’s directly in front of your eyes. In the case of Mirror’s Edge, not being able to see or feel your feet means not knowing when you’re about to hit the edge of that board and should jump. Not being able to see what’s to the left and right means missing enemies who will kill you and not noticing that there’s a much easier path ten feet to your right.

    • Sumanai says:

      The biggest problem isn’t really the lack of vision, but the fact that the developers don’t acknowledge it in design. After all, you can look around to get a grasp of the surroundings only if you have the time to do so, the game has proper contrast between background and important objects and the player is given a proper view.
      If the player is supposed to rush through a section of game you need to guide their attention. If the player runs out the door and scouts the surroundings, but the route is behind something else, you’ll need to draw the player to a point where it’s possible to see the route and then draw their attention towards the route (or encourage looking around).
      Runner vision is presumably supposed to do this, but doesn’t seem to be successful.

      • SomeUnregPunk says:

        what about crackdown 1?

        The ability to use that city like the biggest jungle gym ever made was pretty cool.

        Imagine that with Mirror’s Edge gameplay or even imagine a mix of Jet Set Radio and Mirror’s edge and crackdown.

        A world where you actually are a runner… the person that is running packages from one place to another. Populated with large amounts of people and traffic on the streets.

        A game where you have the choice to run packages for cops or the mob, gaining money that you can spend to acquire new gear that can increase certain stats or just funky costumes…. Like a Batman costume in a pink fedora.

        An ability to swap to third person POV for a limited time would certainly fix the lack of peripheral vision.

  25. Danath says:

    Funny enough I enjoyed the puzzles, I liked the break in the action, and generally enjoyed coming up with interesting ways to fling myself at things. ALthough some could get annoyingly frustrating, as I was once stuck in a room for over half an hour wondering where the hell I was supposed to go.

    Amusingly the parts where you were running from the cops got annoying to me, they just happened TOO frequently and in some instances could be extremely frustrating. Especially when the enemies were runners, or that STUPID MALL with the cops, I kept getting confused and unsure where to go, and SURPRISE dead. A certain section in an office building threw me off too, where I kept bouncing around in circles until I finally figured out where to go, after I died about 10+ times to the unkillable guards who would pour in and attack you after a short time.

  26. Von Krieger says:

    I gave it a try, and gave up after about 45 minutes, as the game made it clear it didn’t want me to learn how to play without an Xbox controller. I went and mapped buttons to my keyboard and used my mouse, but the tutorial kept telling me what to do in terms of Xbox buttons, and with over a dozen of them, I couldn’t keep straight which Xbox button corresponded to which keyboard key.

    It was just a nexercise in frustration, so I went back to Team Fortress 2 and City of Heroes. :P

  27. Lalaland says:

    I honestly gave up on this game after I believe the second level, perhaps it’s an artifact of having played on the PS3 but the ‘multi-jumping’ between two close walls never felt natural or intuitive. It seemed to match the worst of parts of first person games (rail gun accurate cops) with the worst bits of pixel perfect platforming. Hey two levels though, maybe it got a lot better but unless it shows up in a €5 Steam sale I’ll never know.

    It’s a shame as I loved the stark aesthetic, a terrifying vison of how our future IKEA overlords will remake the world

  28. Rutskarn says:

    My biggest problem about the game, and the thing that made me write a 5-entry series about it (my first-ever LP, come to think of it), was that the storyline was a bunch of slapdash cliches that don’t have a lot to do with the player’s goals, and that the stuff that’s supposed to motivate you isn’t well enough established.

    My sister’s in trouble? Uh, great, fine. If I had any investment in that character–like, if I had ever met her before, or even knew her name before this segment–I’d probably care about that, a little. And then if I ever, like, talked to her again, that’d also be good.

  29. Stupidguy12 says:

    You know, after reading some of the other comments, I realized the thing that makes the game fun is having a more realistic level design. With the scaffolding to get to a crane and the interior construction in the skyscraper, both of which were disliked, were very artificial feeling. There was only one way to get through the area, and it seemed planned out obviously. But when running across rooftops with many random items laid out, the game shone brightly. The feeling of having choice and deciding your own path feels great, even if it’s just the same set of rooftops.

  30. Nick says:

    Questions like, what do these “clients” even do? What messages are they sending that are so important they’d risk serious legal trouble and the (presumably) large sums of money that the runners must be charging for their services?

    I would presume the kind of messages that they do not want people asking these types of questions about. To quote The Transporter: “Never look in the package”

  31. PurePareidolia says:

    I found it woefully ironic that in a game where you play a courier, you never get given a single fetch quest. As much as I love the game for what it is, or at least what it aspires to be, I honestly think it would have been greatly improved by being an open-world, procedurally generated sandbox with you being given side quests by the nameless clients for money which can be used to bribe cops, buy equipment like ropes and supplies.
    I say procedurally generated because when it comes down to it, Mirror’s edge is a game based on nodes – you have to get from the “boxes” node to the “horizontal bar” node to the “ledge” node etc. You could create the city and surround it by walls or ocean to emphasis the “quarantined” aesthetic and split it into a bunch of districts – say “construction”, “docks”, “storm drains”, “mall”, “office building” or whatever, each of which have a certain flavour of obstacles which form a branching network for Faith to traverse.
    So for the dockyard area a level is built out of shipping containers, crates etc and the construction area is scaffolding, construction materials and ladders. From there you can block off paths, add in set pieces and make it all nice and shiny in order to have a huge world with a relatively dense series of pakour obstacles. You could even make things denser as you get higher or closer to the inner city to create difficulty curve as you move through different levels.

    Then just house a faction HQ in every area or so who you can report back to for new missions. THEN put the personal story on, and have it kick off about half an hour in once you’re rehabilitated and you’re used to how things work. Have a few early missions to establish what Faith does and take her around the apartments, giving us lovely City 17 style views of the oppressive city-state. This could include a few moments of maybe watching Faith’s sister at work with scripted sequences to establish her character or contrast her to the rest of the police force, basically using environmental details to get us engaged with the setting, characters and story.

    At that point, just bring in the current story, have us make our way to the mission location and begin. Obviously we might want a fast travel system in the form of buses (Faith must come down from the rooftops sometime – no way can she get pizza delivered to Merc’s hideout).

    OK, I think where I’m going with this is basically make it into Assassin’s creed 2, but in First person. That game did freerunning, secret brotherhoods, parkour chase scenes and immersive cities with uncaring authorities perfectly

    • Miral says:

      It sounds like you want to play FreeJack.

      • Robyrt says:

        Or perhaps Prince of Persia ’08, which had a bunch of themed hubs with missions and platforming spokes between them, and a real storyline. Unfortunately, they thought giving you story missions in nonlinear order was a good idea, so it’s possible to make the story anything from touching to unintelligible.

        • PurePareidolia says:

          I did play that game. I also finished it. I don’t want to play it any more.
          That is to say, I REALLY don’t want to have anything to do with it after what it pulled in that ending.

          And I don’t think the hub/branch structure would work as well as a proper sandbox. If you’re doing that, why not just do a linear game?

      • PurePareidolia says:

        Doesn’t appear to be First person so it would kind of defeat the purpose. I’ll have a look though, can’t have too many parkour platformers.

  32. Grag says:

    Wait.. I thought we were getting a review of Mirrors: A Game by EDGE

  33. Gndwyn says:

    I absolutely love this game.

    The story sucks. The combat sucks. But the first-person free-running acrobatics work so well and are so much fun that I didn’t care about bad story and bad combat hardly at all. (I’m talking about the PC version here, played with mouse and keyboard.)

    I wish it were much longer. I wish the levels were bigger, with more options, more exploration, more alternate routes. I wish other games like the Thief series or the new Deus Ex would incorporate this kind of movement.

    To me, this is one of the best FPS innovations in years — they took a style of gameplay (first-person jumping puzzles) that proverbially always sucks and made it work, made it fun. That is a triumph, if you ask me.

    I enjoyed the puzzles. They were good in much the same way that the movement puzzles in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time were good.

    Also, the game looks fantastic. And I love the use of color, the way they would subtly suggest routes to you, even if you have the bright red GO THIS WAY hints turned off. I can’t count the number of times I ran into an open area and instinctively went the right way without really knowing why, I think because the colors were giving me subtle cues.

    • Sumanai says:

      From what I understood from the other comments you must be about 1/10 who had the suggestions work for you. Of course, it could be that the “Runner vision” is actually detrimental to finding correct routes. Wouldn’t be the first time something that’s supposed to help actually hinders.

      Or it could be the inconsistency. What bugged me right from the tutorial (haven’t actually played past that) is that the attention drawing colors were apparently also used for flavour. They should’ve just used green for example. And then the video with the commentary I watched pre-launch.
      First enemies who you’re supposed to run away from, then enemies who you’re supposed to approach (either to combat or to run past. Thanks School for Stormtrooper-Marksmanship). And probably only because you have to have combat in a game.
      Would’ve worked much better if enemies only appeared as a hint for “not here” (and “run!”). Afterall, the players have limited view because of the lack of peripheral vision, so they should be able mark certain directions automatically as “no go”. Especially in dangerous situations to avoid frustration.
      Not to mention that in order to be able to survive running towards (or near) enemies they either need to have long reaction times or bad aim.

      And if the publisher (or developers) are really worried that players will get bored without combat how about having enemies mark a branching path? The player could decide to either go with: a safer, but more acrobatically challenging route; or a more dangerous, combat/sneak heavy, but less acrobatically challenging and shorter/faster route.
      Well done the designers could please three groups: sneaky bastards, violent fuckwits and cowards.

  34. purf says:

    The irony is how much the DLC shows what this game maybe – initially? – was about. What it could have been like, should have been like:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo2NAQ7-DFc

    oh yeah, needless to say, I agree with everything so far. Excapt for not liking the Runner’s Vision since I did not use it. My hatred for the ventilation shafts in a game that is supposed to evolve around the dynamics of running comes up for that.

    • Gndwyn says:

      No, the bitter irony is that the awesomely fun-looking DLC doesn’t work with the Steam version of the game that I bought. GRRR!

      • SomeUnregPunk says:

        It doesn’t work with any other digital distribution seller other than EA.

        I find it highly irresponsible of EA to sell a product without telling your customers of a potential problem to your product.

  35. Sydney says:

    Anyone here read Free Radical? Because that did a far better job of taking the “runner” concept and fleshing it out into something believable.

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