Mirror's Edge - 4 Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - August 21, 2013
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Platforming in many first person shooters really annoys me because it is often not done that well. The first-person camera makes it hard to see where you are going and the jumps occasionally require you stop after each one to align the next. Mirror's Edge, however, is not nearly as irritating or frustrating, even though it uses a first-person camera.
I am not entirely sure what specifically makes first person work for Mirror's Edge so well, but the environments certainly are a major part of it. Instead of being built for people to make the correct jumps in, Mirror's Edge is designed for you to run through the environment, leaping over and sliding under obstacles. No stopping required to align yourself, and in some cases stopping will lead to your death as you lose the momentum you need to make the jump.
While the environment is definitely well designed for this kind of gameplay, it is worth noting how linear it is. This is not a playground set on rooftops. There may be a multiple paths to get from point A to point B, but each one was designed and placed there for you to find. To help you find them, the game will actually color objects a bright red for you. Perhaps this takes away some of the game's challenge at times, as you can plainly see the path you need to take, but the enjoyment comes from the running, and having to test potential paths will stop the running.
Of course there is a fair amount of trial-and-error anyway. Sometimes the path you have to take is hidden away, or just complex enough that you will likely make a mistake on your first try. Situations like these can be frustrating in most games, but largely are not in this game. The red coloring helps you find the less-than-obvious paths, and it rarely takes more than a few tries to figure out how to get where you want to go. Sometimes though, you are left wondering why it was designed like this or why there are no cues to teach you what to do. Thankfully, these areas are not the norm, so failures feel more to be your fault than the game's fault, encouraging you to try again.
Combat, however, is not always so well balanced. Almost all enemies you come across have firearms of one kind or another, and have no issue with shooting at your unarmed character. If you can get close enough to them though, you can disarm your enemy and take their weapon to use on other enemies. Be careful though, because if those other enemies are nearby, they will attack and kill you while you disarm their friend. This will force you to think strategically whenever you encounter enemies you cannot simply run from, and if you die you will almost certainly have to adopt a new strategy or have to repeat yourself, hoping for some better luck.
The most frustrating part of the combat, though, is with certain enemies that seem to be able to counter your attacks, while you cannot counter theirs. While there are not many of these enemies in the game, you can be required to fight them, which is hardly an enjoyable experience. Just grind it out against them and move on.
As Mirror's Edge does not use a HUD, taking damage results in the classic audio-visual cues of a red border to the screen, loss of color saturation, and softening audio. Escape danger long enough and your health will quickly regenerate, allowing you to re-enter the fight or continue on your way.
If you do die however, you will be respawned at a checkpoint, as that is the save system this game uses. Actually it uses a major/minor checkpoint system, as you can choose to replay levels starting at major checkpoints, with minor checkpoints between, keeping you near a dangerous fight or tricky obstacle. Personally I did not experience any poorly placed checkpoints, which is certainly good, and occasionally appeared to take advantage of checkpoints. Sometimes I would miss a jump to the next platform, and fall to my death, but I would be respawned at the checkpoint located on that platform. Not sure if that is intended, but it is useful.
In case you are curious, falling to your death entails loud noises of air rushing by, as well as a screeching sound, along with a shuttering camera. Striking the ground comes with the sound of bones breaking and an undesirable squish. Though a satisfying effect for the situation, it is not very pleasant, especially if it happens to you a lot. Good thing it does not take long to restart at a checkpoint, so you can try again.
It took me roughly three hours and 44 minutes to complete this most recent playthrough, with all of my falls and deaths across the prologue and nine chapters. That time does not include the cinematics, though, because I did not start a brand new game but instead replayed each chapter separately, which does not include the cinematics. The reason I did not start a new game is because I am not sure how much of my progress doing so would wipe. To determine game time, I recorded how long each chapter took me and added it up. Looking at the different times now, I can see that the average length of the chapters is just under 25 minutes, with the prologue taking just five minutes to complete.
To add to that game time, each chapter has messenger-bag collectibles for you to find. Typically there is a red-eye mark, matching the tattoo on Faith's eye and featured on the box art, near the collectibles. Also you are able to run time trials and speed runs of the chapters and other maps, to compete with others and hone your skills.
Altogether, the experience of Mirror's Edge is quite good, though its quality may be subtle at times. High speed platforming is not necessarily something you want to do in first person, and with as tight a field of view as this game has, but you can quickly adapt to it. You naturally learn how to progress in the game, so eventually you forget that you had to learn anything at all (at least until the next challenge). Of course there are some issues, such as combat, but once you escape those, you get to experience a rather well-designed game.