Friday, April 5, 2013

VGR Mirror's Edge

A game that combined two gameplays I was particularly fond of - namely platform/parkour and first person action?
Running free around rooftops really makes you feel "Still Alive"~

VGR: Mirror's Edge
From DICE/Electronic Arts
Played on Xbox 360
Also available on PC & PS3

Type First person platformer
Year 2008

Developed by EA's Swedish developer team Digital Illusions CE (aka "DICE"), mostly behind most of the Battlefield series, Mirror's Edge came like a breath of fresh air in 2008, in a gaming market overrun by military-type First Person Shooter games - including DICE's own previous titles.

Since the success of Goldeneye back on N64 to the mainstream establishment of the Halo frenchise on the original Xbox, the FPS genre has slowly implemented itself as one of the biggest genres exploited on video game consoles.

The sad reality is, FPS games sell. And quite a lot. Their success is only comparable to the way "mascot" platformers ran the 16-bit era.

Specially with the increased direction taken with modern games, trying to make graphic photo-realistic more and more each day. Thing is, the first person point of view is perfect for the immersion of the player, and what easier to sell to the public and the most directly impressive to look at than making realistic war games?

Mirror's Edge is a first person "action platformer".

It takes the realistic parkour-influenced modern platform games such as Prince of Persia or Assassin's Creed popularized and combines it with gorgeous first person controls.

It's an original evolution of the platform genre. With the way modern games simplified, streamlined and polished FPSes(?) the mix is simply a nice new direction for platformers as whole. It's also a logical update. From the early cinematic platformer such as Another World or Flashback, passing through the Prince of Persia games to Assassin's Creed, it looks and feels like the next logical step.

As such, the game isn't a "sandbox" free open world kind of affair, but a more scripted level-based cinematic experience.

Mirror's Edge takes place in a dystopian future. The game follows Faith Connors, she's a "Runner". She acts as a courier around the city, delivering messages and packages for rebel groups or people that just want to avoid the highly monitored regular phones and emails.

While her sister Kate has completely embraced this world and has become an officer of the law after their parents' death, Faith runs across rooftops, running away from the authorities and hiding up there.

During the course of the game you will meet other runners such as Celeste and Kreeg, and clash against the authorities and other villains.

There's some combat in Mirror's Edge, and you can even pick up guns as in other FPS, but it's not the focus of the game. You can't blast your way through, weapons run out of ammo fast and aren't as reliable as a good jump over another roof.

It's a game about freedom. And what better way to represent it than running freely over the top of a city, on "the mirror's edge".

The city might not have any crime any more, but this regime totalitarian is an oppressive force that needs stopping. In a world were the media are highly controlled and the police has become a privatized force, should peace come at the price of our freedom?

Mirror's Edge is actually partially inspired by the Firefly series. Which featured a near-future also controlled by the government. The bad guys weren't your typical evil empire, but society was apparently just as much monitored. And it was about the little guy fighting back for his freedom.

The way this game represents it? Free running!

In a way, the controls are pretty basic, but you can still execute a lot of movements. With your simplest actions being jumping, crouching and turning back you can basically do anything!

The game is all about momentum, the more you run, the faster you move.

You can slide, wall-run, jump over cliffs. You are free of your own movements.

While the levels are courier routes (in the beginning), you can trying finding your own best path in the level's defined areas. It's not as straightforward as modern shooters, but not exactly free either. Like I said, you're free of your own movements, that alone will decide the time you take through the game.

Because Mirror's Edge is part-arcade game. Once the story beaten you can aim for the best time records, try finding the shortest and quickest way to reach the end.

Mirror's Edge runs on the Unreal Engine 3 but updated for the title, with a new lighting system that gives the city a highly stylized look. While everything does look "next gen", with great realistic HD graphics, the buildings are covered in a highly contrasted white tone. Giving the world of Mirror's Edge a brightly colored style.

The interactive areas, which consists of every platform in your path, object you can grab, jump over or use to propel yourself from are highlighted in red.

With no HUD informations on screen, it all contributes to the highly immersive sensation of the game.

Platform games have never given this impression of immersion.

The game is stylish. It has a great distinct tone.

I really like the challenging aspect of running around from this perspective. It's the perfect mix of arcade games of old and modern platformers. You can go back to earlier levels, try finding your own best optimal runs and beat the high scores.

The music is not on rest either, Mirror's Edge has a great soundtrack composed by Magnus Birgersson.

And a memorable ending theme titled "Still Alive" by Swedish singer Lisa Miskovsky. (don't mistake it with the other memorable ending theme "Still Alive" from that other original First Person game developed by Valve...)

Overall, a day one purchase, personally!

The game is really unique. Really fun. The evolution of the platform genre.

Sure, the game is not without some faults of his own. The later combat-heavy areas are a bit laborious since it's best to avoid confrontation rather than face directly your enemies. And the game falls a bit short, leaving things unresolved at the end (it was originally planned as a trilogy).

But I still say it's a recommended experience. Despite its flaws, Mirror's Edge turned out extremely fun.

There was some additional puzzle challenges as downloadable content. If you really like the game, want a little more out of it and are willing to pay for it, it's worth a look. These DLC challenges take place in even more stylized environments and it takes the game into further challenging directions.

While a proper Mirror's Edge 2 has been awaited for fans for a long while already (supposedly in development at the moment), there was a sort of semi-adaptation/spinoff game released on iOS and Windows Phone. In which the game became more of  a sidescroller/endless runner-type.
I give it:
2.5 / 3 Quacks!

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