You can draw comparisons to the stealthy action games that came before it: shades of Assassinâs Creed maybeâŚ but itâs like comparing Bluff oysters to âseafood,â or Cristal to other sparkling wines. Yeah, you can make the comparison, but itâs somehow, I donât knowâŚ flavourless.
Mirrorâs Edge is as massively anticipated as any of 2008âs big ones, and after bazillions of downloads of the demo worldwide, itâs so easy to see why: everyoneâs had a little taste. And a little taste isnât enough for this titan of an action adventure game from DICE and Electronic Arts.
Play as Faith, a ârunnerâ who after sustaining a fall and convalescing for a spell, rejoins her delivery crew high above the streets of the city. Runners are responsible to getting things from A to B in a city where the government has gone totalitarian. In the prologue, Faith hooks up with buddy Celeste, who reminds her (and teaches you) a few tricks for getting around the place.
Even in the first chapter, you can see that Mirrorâs Edge is going to be something pretty special. Digressing for just a sec â youâll see a healthy ten points out of ten for graphics slapped on this puppy â thatâs a straight 10 for graphical style. Itâs not necessarily prettiest game ever made (although itâs pretty damn good) but the stark, reflective, boxy style suits the game down to the ground. The size and space of the world is astonishing, and it hits you straight away.
Celeste will show Faith the ropes â one of which sheâs required to flying-fox down, aiming a well timed dismount into a flashing red patch, which turns out to be the canvassed top of a box. As you get about the landscape, made up chiefly of commercial rooftops, youâll notice that there are more than a few things shaded in this fetching colour. Each of these can be used to further your travels along a set path. Pipes can be shimmied up or down, bars can be caught in mid-air and swung on, doors can be kicked or shouldered open at a full run, walls can be used to run across or as springboards to objects opposite them and almost every other ledge, rail, staircase or precipice can be navigated using the gameâs advanced physics engine. When youâre finished hurtling from rooftop-to-rooftop like an urban flying-squirrel, Celeste finishes your training with some combat manoeuvres including kicking, punching and disarming opponents in real time and in handy (and usable in the game, too, at times) slow motion.
Getting a handle on the controls can take a while â plummeting to your death is fun in a morbidly fascinating kind of a way, at first. Thereâs even an unhealthy en-jelly-ning of your body upon impact, which you hear as the screen darkens. But once youâve done it twenty times trying to make the same jump, youâre about as ready as youâll ever be to embark on the game proper.
Faithâs sister, a cop, or âBlueâ is in trouble. Sheâs been framed up for the murder of a high-powered type and old mate of their dadâs. Faithâs not fond of Blues, but she likes this one, and promises to help her sis before having to leave the office building kinda sharpish. Faith is chased out at a run, and makes it back to her home base with a little help from her friends.
The gameâs not combat free, although it tends to be more satisfying escaping the filth without actually killing any of them. This is where your ability to rob them of their firepower comes in, and itâs as much fun to watch as it is to actually do. Itâs a one-button thing, grabbing a pistol from one of the Blues, but it comes down to some pretty flash timing if you have to do it without the benefit of slow motion. Your opponentâs gun turns red when itâs time for you to strike, and once itâs yours, you can choose to shoot it or toss it. Carrying it with you will slow you down, so be warned, and when I got my hands on a sniper rifle the buddies of the hapless chap I had just disarmed soon proved they were much better shots than I was. From close enough, one hit is one kill.
Punching and kicking will only get you so far against your enemies: itâs often easier to run away. When the fuzz is in pursuit, though, donât stop â because they donât stop shooting. Mirrorâs Edge is as adrenaline charged as any game Iâve played. When sprinting from the cops pell-mell, youâre often faced with a split second decision â swing for that rooftop? Head across that beam, using a delicate tilt of the six-axis to keep from going over the edge? Leap across that gap? Any one of them could get you closer to safety or turn you into a puddle. DICE have done a magic job of equipping you with the controls to ensure the action flows.
The story flows too, as Faith unravels her mystery. Between the chapters, which are all go, are artfully animated cut-scenes, which explain whatâs going on. Theyâre nothing special on the animation front, I suppose, but one canât deny that they somehow fit â just like the graphical style â with the overall feel of the game. Theyâre rough, gritty and ultra-modern.
Some of the controls can be a bit pernickety. While at times Faith can perform amazing feats of acrobatic daring, other times she simply flails stupidly against walls or doors, her arms flapping in and out of view. Leaping from a height is apt to damage oneâs knees, so Faith has a handy forward roll or sliding landing you can use. Sometimes, however, the great height from which you leap sends you to a thin ledge, so if you try to temper the landing you slide straight off the edge to your demise. While Iâm sure this is something of an exercise in discipline (read: practice), it makes the game a bit frustrating at the outset.
Another small gripe is that while the red objects that mark your way to victory are great, they become distracting when you rely on them. Not all of the areas you need to leap or scramble to are marked, so if youâre in an all but bare room, with one red line marking a ledge, itâs possible to spend some time wondering where the hell you go next â searching for a red marker that isnât there. A nifty wee tool theyâve added to help you out with this is a kind of homing device. When you hold a certain button, your pointer aims you in the direction you need to travel.
While itâs not really fair to moan about a gameâs difficulty, Mirrorâs Edge is very hard. The main problem is that the action takes place so quickly, with the dead-eye-Dicks of the cityâs police force able to stick you with bullets as soon as youâre in their sights, thereâs no real time to explore your way out. You often have to leap and hope for the best, sending you a-squelch to the streets below probably a lot more than youâd like. And you have to do it over and over again, simply leaping in a new spot each time.
These are relatively tiny hiccups in a very smooth operation. Mirrorâs Edge is being talked about anywhere gamers gather and itâs one of the Holiday season bunch thatâs almost certain not to disappoint. If youâre a PS3 owner, make sure you have your copy all sorted, and if youâre not, and havenât already bought the machine to play Little Big Planet now might be the time to start writing letters to Santa.