Needs More Cowbell

Needs More Cowbell
Stumbling Through Mirror's Edge

Michael Cook | 9 Mar 2010 09:37
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But for all of Mirror's Edge's unique ideas and vibrant atmosphere, it was deeply flawed. Perhaps the game's most enduring black mark is its combat. Though the game's marketing emphasized the "flight, not fight" aspect of its free-running in the run up to its launch, there are a lot of men with guns. Sometimes it's handled elegantly: A particularly beautiful piece of level design in the last mission has you fend off several of the toughest soldiers in the game with nothing more than a few kicks, for instance. But at many other times it locks you into a series of tighter and tighter spots until you're forced to disarm opponents, steal weapons and rely on your twitch-shooter reflexes. Mirror's Edge only works when it's being Mirror's Edge, and many gamers felt understandably let down when it forced them to play something else.

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The less obvious story of Mirror's Edge is it's an uncomfortable game to play. Most gamers are happy to slip into character when they throw in a game, and titles like Mass Effect play up this sensation and use it to their advantage. Players like to believe in the person they're taking control of, but the protagonist of Mirror's Edge, the plucky Faith, is a woman constantly forced into states of contradiction by the developers' scrapbook approach to gameplay. Sometimes vulnerable, sometimes in control; sometimes on the run, sometimes standing to fight - Faith is a hard character to relate to because her actions are impossible to understand. Mirror's Edge could have been truly immersive. Instead, it's disorienting.

The impact of these combat sections is amplified because of the game's length. It plays out over the course of a short six hours or so, and though many great games have lasted less than that, they are rarely sold at such a high price. Because of its short length, Mirror's Edge keeps a pace that many gamers had a hard time matching. It's too keen to switch things up and too eager to kickstart the plot before players even have a chance to get their bearings. Speed things up too fast and the starkness of the environment begins to creep into the gameplay - instead of having your feet firmly planted in the world, you feel disconnected from it.

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