Mirror's Edge places you in the role of the runner Faith, a parkouring courier that delivers messages for those that oppose the big brother society where everything looks nice and people have given up their freedom for a nice and comfortable life of complacency. The game is a nice blend of old and new. It mixes old-school game design with some of the better improvements of later years and a striking art-style. These lyrics from the title track Still Alive by Lisa Miskovsky sum the game up pretty well:
I've learned to lose
There is admittedly a lot of trial and error in Mirror's Edge, but I never found it to be unfounded or due to broken game design. Yes, death comes often and fast, but the checkpoints are well placed and the controls feel precise yet forgiving enough that you don't need pixel-perfection to succeed. A large part of the challenge lies in learning to successfully time and string together a series of moves and if death was never a threat a lot of the atmosphere and excitement would fade away. Nothing's more satisfying than when you've mastered a section and fly through it with a series of jumps, slides, roles, wall-runs, kicks and disarms and then go flying through a door or into an elevator that takes you to safety, your racing heart slowly calming in time to Faith's and the music. There is something refreshingly retro about this, bringing back memories of gaming in the nineties, when men where men (I was a boy though) and games where meant to challenge and not just entertain.
I've learned to win
Perfect platforming in first-person has long been a holy grail which we are slowly inching towards. Metroid Prime showed us that it was possible and Mirror's Edge hits even closer to the mark. It's not perfect and obviously it can never be as easy as it is in 2D, but then what do you expect when you have 50% more dimensions to take in to consideration? Viewing the world through the window that is your TV or monitor of course also increases the difficulty since there is next to no peripheral vision, however Mirror's Edge manages to handle these restrictions very well and I very seldom felt that I was unsure of where my feet where or when to make a jump, or slide.
I've turned my face against the wind
Mirror's Edge dares to be different. Dares to be a first-person game that isn't about shooting and killing. Taking out a bunch of armed assailants with non-lethal force is difficult but very satisfying once you get the hang of it. Dares to be a first-person game with a bright and vibrant world devoid of rust, grime and dust - the usual greys, browns and muted color pallet are no where to be found. Dares to veer it's focus away from shooting and killing in first-person games. Combat is simple but no walk-in-the-park and will keep you on your toes. Although you are often advised to avoid combat when possible, and you are seldom kept in an area until you've defeated all enemies, in practice some areas still require that you clear out all or most of the opponents before moving on and in later stages this can require quite a bit of skill and strategy that is quite rewarding once you've mastered your attack-run.
I will move fast, I will move slow
To help you find your way DICE have implemented what they call Runners Vision, which drapes key objects in the environment in a clear red, contrasting the dominating whites and blues of the world. This allows you to keep an eye on where you are suppose to be going even at full speed. Reaction Time allows you to slowdown time (that FPS-staple bullet-time) to make disarming or attacking opponents a bit easier. Disarming opponents and/or knocking out opponents is preferable to killing, both from an Achievement/Trophy standpoint but it is also much more rewarding than the firefights, as Faith is noticeably slower and weighed down while carrying a weapon and you have a limited amount of ammo so if you have to take to using heat, drop it as soon as you're done and move on. Personally I chose to play the pacifist, although a stray bullet due to butterfingers snubbed me of that achievement all the same...
Take me away I have to go.
You'll usually fly through the environments pretty fast but the prologue and 9 chapters add up to a fairly lengthy action game just the same. Depending on how much you get stuck, I would guess that it will take you somewhere between 8-12 hours. But the experience is a high-speed adrenaline rush and 2-hour sittings felt like enough for me before it was time to let my heart-rate return to normal and allow for my palms to dry. No one should miss the opportunity to play Mirror's Edge. It's not perfect, there are some things I'd like to seem them do for a sequel. Populate the world with more people for instance. As it stands the only people you interact with are enemies and your friends, others can only be seen at a safe distance where there is no chance of interaction. This does enhance the atmosphere of the totalitarian society, however if they can pull it off, some crowd interaction like that in Assassin's Creed or what has been shown from Splinter Cell: Conviction could be a cool addition. Now run, run like the wind and bag your copy of Mirror's Edge!
My Score: 8 of 10