It’s amazing to think that Mirror’s Edge was released way last decade, 8 years ago in 2008. With the age of Mirror’s Edge, when jumping back into the game I expected it to make me feel old and wonder how the years passed. Instead, it feels like it could have been released last week. Running, sliding, climbing, and jumping all feel fresh, new, and smooth. Now I’m not saying the game is perfect — the combat is still awful, and the voice acting can feel a little dated. But those are small prices to pay for everything else.
With an 8 year old game, I can’t expect younger readers to have played it or even know about it. If you are one of those people, I urge you to grab it. If you don’t have an Xbox 360, it’s backwards compatible with Xbox One, and works perfectly on Windows.
I’m starting with pretty much the only negative point of Mirror’s Edge, so don’t feel put off by it, but…
Let’s get the combat over with then
With the above in mind, I will explain how the combat works — I say ‘works’, but it doesn’t really work sometimes. That’s an issue which looks to be fixed in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst.
Luckily combat arenas are few and far between, with many allowing you to run past them.
Depending on your stance, speed, and what you are doing, your attacks change. If you are sliding, you will kick up to the crotch, if jumping you will do a flying kick to the face. Attacks can even work when wall running, but it’s very fiddly to actually land said attack. (Which, coincidentally is the rest of the combat system.)
Where just punching and kicking feels good, and flowing from running to combat is smooth, as soon as you complete that initial attack everything just stops. You start the slow process of disarming, where you have to wait for your enemies — the Blues — to swing their guns at you. At a very specific point the guns will glow red. This is essentially a QTE where you simply press the grab button and Faith with disarm her adversary. Any sense of flow has been destroyed at this point.
It’s frustrating and unnecessary for Mirror’s Edge to have done this. The easiest way to complete the combat arena at this point is pick up a gun, and shoot your way out — so much for parkour. Mirror’s Edge is simply not built to be a robust shooter, with AI that sometimes does intelligent things, but mostly just waits. Luckily, combat arenas are few and far between, with many allowing you to run past them.
Thankfully, combat is the only thing which doesn’t work, and Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst has done away with shooting to focus on fusing running with combat so it flows.
By Jorge did I forget how much I enjoy Mirror’s Edge. The world, the story, even the characters, everything.
Faith alone won’t get you where you’re going, but…She will
…awesome eye and arm tattoos, while also taking lessons from the Michael Jackson school of the single glove…
Mirror’s Edge follows the story of Faith, a Runner in a dystopian future city — the City of Glass — as she and other runners try to take down the evil dictators who are controlling the city. On the outside, the City of Glass looks perfect. Everything is pristine at all times, it’s modern, sleek, beautiful, and ordered. All of this came at the cost of freedom. Every action you take, every move you make, the government will be watching you. They control everything through fear and lies.
The Runners are trying to bring freedom back, none more so than Faith. With awesome eye and arm tattoos, (plus lessons from the Michael Jackson school of the single glove), Faith is one of the most badass women in video games. Faith isn’t just any Runner, she is the Runner.
Gameplay is interjected with first person cutscenes, which are also interspersed with cartoon cutscenes. The animated sections feature limited action, and are mostly story and character building. While these are likely due to the small budget of Mirror’s Edge, restrictions always breed creativity, and with great animation comes great character interaction. Some of the voice acting and writing isn’t what we all expect from modern games, but it does just enough to make everything believable — another probable consequence of the lower budget.
Traversal, toe shoes, flow, bliss
Much like with any of the best action films, character is revealed through action. This is the case with Faith — the way she moves through the city gives you an idea of how she thinks. By being able to flow from one thing to another, it tells you she is forward thinking. By being nimble and fast, it tells you she is quick thinking and intelligent. By being able to disarm any enemy, it tells you she is strong willed. By being able to quickly change direction and tactics at will, shows that she is ready for anything. That said, maybe I am just reading too far into it all.
You just never want to fall due to the horrible bone crunching sound of death. Amazing, yet horrifying.
Either way, just moving through the City of Glass is all about momentum. The feeling you get from smoothly transitioning from one rooftop to another, going from platform to platform, the fear of jumping and satisfaction of landing a giant leap, when you have a sense of flow everything is pure movement bliss. You just never want to fall due to the horrible bone crunching sound of death. Amazing, yet horrifying.
Even the slow, methodical, thoughtful platforming is fun. Finding the route of your choice through a technical obstacle looks like a maze at first. Working your way up or down this maze is…Well, amazing. Transitioning from the flowing open roof tops, to the platforming of complicated networks of ledges, pipes, and horizontal poles, and back again feels wonderful.
There are sections where you are being chased, or chasing someone. When being pursued you feel the pursuers breathing down your neck. You want to look back to know where they are, but you can’t. If you look back, you will have to stop (or at least slow down), but what if they are right there? You stop, you’re dead. The tension is a testament to how smooth the movement is. You might make a mistake, but you never need to think “what if the game doesn’t let me go there.” You can get there using the abilities at your disposal — you just need to work out find how.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is cutting away the chaff
By refining, and redefining the core of what Mirror’s Edge is…
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is coming out June 7th for North America, and June 9th for everyone else, releasing on Xbox One, PS4, and Windows. Are you excited? I have faith it will be good. Revisiting Mirror’s Edge reminded me of how special a game it really is, and for the first time in a long time I’m excited for a game from EA. From a publisher who constantly disappoints me with their business model, Catalyst looks to be once again breaking the mold.
By refining, and redefining the core of what Mirror’s Edge is, the team at DICE really do look like they are doing the original proud. By cutting away the bullshit combat and really focusing on making combat and movement stitch together seamlessly, Catalyst looks to be the true vision of what Mirror’s Edge wanted to be.
It’s just a testament to how good the original game is, that even after 8 years, it still feels fresh and new. Other games have come close to the highs of Mirror’s Edge. Lemma came closest, but even with the ability to create your own walls to run along, Lemma still doesn’t feel as freeing as Mirror’s Edge. (Even if the game is set in a city being run by corporate greed, where doing anything other than your prescribed route in life is a felony and all freedoms are replaced with convenience.) That tells you a lot about the game.
Here’s to finally getting another Mirror’s Edge.