Thursday, October 11, 2012

Games You Might Not Have Tried Yet: Mirror's Edge By Matthew W-A

Screen Shot by Author
There are two types of failures in the games industry: games that fail because they are simply generic and mediocre, and games that try something interesting that don’t quite work. Some of the latter can even be brilliant in their own limited ways. Mirror's Edge definitely falls into the second category. There is really nothing quite like it. Mirror's Edge is a first person game that discards most of the tropes of first person games for something entirely different. Are there enemies? Yes. Do you have to kill them? No. Are there guns? Yes. Do you ever have to use one? Aside from a single sniping section near the end of the game, no.

Screen Shot by Author
At this point you may be asking, “So what do you do in Mirror's Edge?” Mirror's Edge is a platformer—like the Mario games, you jump and run across platforms. You run across rooftops, and jump to avoid hazards and lethal drops to city streets hundreds of feet below. The first person element also leads to much more three dimensional gameplay, and you often need to slide under ducts or scale pipes. All of this generally takes place while people are shooting at you. However, that does not mean that you cannot fight back. You have a basic set of high and low punches and kicks (the low ones tend to land in an..... uncomfortable region on the male enemies you face). You also have an instant knockout drop attack and a variety of gun disarms. The first person fist fighting on this game is the best since the under-appreciated space prison murder fest known as Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.

If all of this sounds perfect so far, now it's time to talk about the problems the game has. While the first person platforming works surprisingly well, and the field of view is wide enough for you to see your own feet when you look down, the fact that you cannot actually see your own feet at all times means that it can be very hard to tell when to jump, even if you know exactly what you are supposed to do. Falling off of the same point and having to go back five minutes to the last checkpoint gets old very fast. Also, while the combat works well against one or two enemies, any more then that and you are toast. In the early levels, this is not much of a problem, as you can simply run past guards. About midway through the game however, you have to stand and fight. About three hours in, the game becomes extremely frustrating and begins to feel more like luck then skill. You can try twenty times to nail a difficult jump, succeed, replay the level again and fail miserably because knowing exactly when to jump becomes an exercise in random guessing. Compound this with a section where you must fight a large number of snipers in an area where you must constantly make difficult jumps, and the game just stops being fun.

Screen Shot by Author
That being said, the art design of the game is excellent, the core mechanics work well for the first few hours of a six hour long game, the levels can induce a sense of vertigo at times, and for all of it's head-bashingly frustrating sections the game did manage to keep me engaged for most of it's length before pulling some truly intolerable sections that made me give up in the second to last level. If you want something different, pick up Mirror's Edge. It came out in 2007 so it's dirt cheap, and it feels much fresher then most of the cookie-cutter tripe that major publishers *cough Activision cough* release today.

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