No-one’s ever quite cracked the magic formula for the perfect first-person platformer, but Mirror’s Edge takes a good stab at it. Like the survival horror/action game Dead Space, which came out around the same time last year, Mirror’s Edge is an example of the new, non-sequel titles we’ve been told to expect from the reformed EA.
It’s set in a brilliant, white, clean world under totalitarian rule, and the player takes the role of Faith, a messenger (or “runner”) who represents one of the last communication channels not monitored by the state. That sets you up for spending a lot of time running and jumping, navigating rooftops and buildings as quickly and smoothly as possible. There’s combat in this game, but you’ll rarely find yourself carrying a weapon, and when you do, your agility is limited, so it’s often better (or required) to duck and run rather than taking down enemies by force.
When it all comes together, Mirror’s Edge is just fantastic. Faith is extremely agile, and the world is often set up so that you can, with practice, cruise through it at quite a pace, leaping and wall-running over gaps, and ducking and vaulting to avoid obstacles. The game has no UI to speak of — just an almost-imperceptible dot in the middle of the screen that you can focus on to avoid motion-sickness — and Faith’s arms and legs are often in view, so you get a great sense of being in her shoes. When you get in to the rhythm of things, it’s an amazing experience, and there are some clever aids to help you, such as “runner vision”, which highlights potential paths.
Unfortunately, it often degrades in to a frustrating experience. Whether it’s due to problems with the combat, or the sometimes hit-or-miss navigation of the environment, the result is the same: having to replay some sections of the game until you find, or just manage the execute, the proper path through.
Apparently Mirror’s Edge didn’t sell terribly well, so it’s unclear whether or not EA has plans to produce a sequel. I’d really like to see one, though — there’s some real promise in there, and with a bit more time polishing the mechanics and level design, it could just be a great first-person platformer.