BitSnark

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Mirror’s Edge Demo Impressions

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Once the demo has loaded and the game is started, the player is (quite literally) put into the shoes of Faith, a ‘runner’ whose job is to get information to interested parties quickly, and without drawing attention to herself. The cut-scene that heralds the start of the game, appears largely inconsequential at this stage, as it is merely a flash-esque animation that briefly details Faith and her motivations. Moving on to the meat of the demo, the player is greeted with the training tutorial, whereby fellow runner Celeste takes the player through all the skills that they will need to succeed in the game.

It’s here that after you take your first initial few unsure steps in this new world that it becomes apparent that where Mirror’s Edge very much succeeds is in providing the player with a palpable sense of connection to the world that they are in. Looking down, the player no longer appears to be floating off the ground as is seemingly the norm in games utilising the first person perspective, instead red sneakered feet, attached to a set of tracksuited legs bridge the gap between the player and the ground.

Thankfully, Mirror’s Edge succeeds in taking this concept further with the parkour style platforming that protagonist Faith, has been famed for since that first trailer released. Faith reaches out her arms to grip onto ledges, fences and other surfaces to pull herself up, and as she does so, the view point shifts to her hands as she concentrates on pulling herself up (as opposed to just staring forward while you seemingly just levitate straight up).

The range of acrobatics that Faith commands is suitably staggering, encompassing wall runs, 180 degree turns in mid-air, baseball slides and many more besides. While all of these kinds of manoeuvres may have been showcased previously in third person games such as Assassins Creed, such comparisons are perhaps churlish, as its the perspective which proves to be difference maker, and it’s the perspective (more so than perhaps any other game to use it) that forces you to hold your breath as you make that death defying leap across buildings after executing a perfect wall-run.

Compounding the inappropriateness of the likening of Mirrors Edge as first person equivalent to Creed’s own medieval acrobatics, is the fact that most of movements in the latter require very little skill or timing to pull off successfully. Yet in Mirrors Edge it is the skill to pull off these moves from the first person that proves as difficult as it is rewarding – perhaps finally bringing the skill testing of pixel-perfect jumping (previously exclusive to the realm of 2D and 3D third person platformers) into the first person perspective without ever frustrating.

An integral mechanic to these acrobatics is momentum. Again, being in line with its parkour stylings, Faith needs to perpetually generate momentum to ensure that each manoeuvre is made comfortably so that one set of movements joins into a combination with another set without any loss of speed. This in itself provides the player with a real test of skill and nerve as both are required to keep the unrelenting pace required to make the goal of getting the quickest times in the time trial mode sustainable.

Prior to actually playing the game, you would be forgiven for bringing into question the issue of navigation around the cityscapes in which Faith’s kinetic shenanigans take place, but thankfully DICE has included something called ‘runner vision’, a useful visual indicator that douses potential runways and climbable routes in a shade of red so that they can be spotted in good time.

Combat too, while not particularly complex or deep, benefits from this also with punches and kicks connecting nicely, and disarming moves looking suitable realistic with arms being bent behind backs and knees being brought up into the players view just as they are being slammed into the face of an unfortunate adversary.

Visually, the title calls up the clinical ‘tech clean’ of the first matrix film, with vivid and stark primary colours being washed across the innumerable skyscrapers and buildings that make up Faith’s acrobatic playground. Further compounding this comparison, are the characters and the opposing ‘authorities’ that Faith encounters, with the mixture of alternative cool and clinical authority tipping it’s hat at the visual stylings Wachoski Brothers dystopian sci-fi opus.

So now it is that we arrive at a sense of irony. Faith, what she can do, the world she lives in and the characters that inhabit her world give the player the sort of breathlessly exciting experience that they wished the Matrix licensed games could have been.

Mirrors Edge has perhaps got it right – this is how you give legs to the first person perspective genre, you just have to make it believable.

Post your impressions people 🙂

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Written by bitsnark

October 31, 2008 at 12:59 pm

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