Mirror's Edge makes an incredible first impression. From the moment you start the prologue to the second you end it, you will swear that it's the most viscerally exciting ten minutes in all of video game history. You'll call up your friends and regale them with musings about running and jumping and dodging bullets. You will be in love. But a funny thing happens on the way to beating EA's newest 3D action game, some of that love turns into admirations, and the fun can occasionally turn into frustration. You'll still enjoy the game, but it won't take long before you start to see the game's faults for what they really are.
In case you have somehow missed all of the noise and excitement surrounding the game, Mirror's Edge is a first-person platformer. Instead of taking on the bad guys with guns and knives, your object is to run past them, jump over them and avoid them any way you can. You can do this because you play Faith, an anti-establishment runner. Her super power (if you want to call it that) is her ability to parkour, the extremely physical extreme sport that has you jumping off of walls, climbing up things with incredible speed and a cat-like ability to jump huge distances without getting hurt. In real life parkour is one of the most exciting sports you can watch, so it shouldn't surprise you that Mirror's Edge is just as exciting to play.
From a distance the game looks like every other first-person shooter on the Xbox 360. It's easy for an outsider to look at the game and think that it's nothing more than the platforming elements of Half-Life 2 or Halo 3. But that's not the case. Faith's play mechanics feel nothing like those of Halo or Half-Life, she has a flow and a grace that is all her own. What's more, the moves she can pull off give her a lot more control over her surroundings. In some ways the game should be compared more to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater than Halo. Although there aren't as many moves for Faith to pull off, it's just as important for you to master her jumps and abilities in order to beat the game. Once this all comes together you'll be on the edge of your seat with your eyes glued to the TV set.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. There is actually a story to Mirror's Edge, one told through a bunch of stylish cinemas. You play Faith, a government-hating runner who gets caught up in what looks like a giant conspiracy. Within the first two levels you are introduced to Faith's sister, a law abiding police officer who has been framed in the murder of a politician. Does Faith have what it takes to get to the bottom of this mystery? Of course she does, but it's going to take a lot of running up walls, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, swinging from objects and ascending (and descending) pipes.
You do all of this in stark futuristic city that seems to be controlled by the police ("the blues") and a scary place for those who live outside the norms of society. These days it seems like we're getting one brown-colored first-person shooter after another, so to finally see color used in a brand new way is refreshing. The city you run in is mostly white, sometimes to the point of being blinded by its reflection. In contrast, red is the color that aides you on your quest. Need to find the right pole to climb? It's always going to be the red one. Need to find the right door for the building? Trust me; it's going to be the red one. Need to shimmy along the building? Well, you get the point. The game's look is giving a sudden splash of bright colors whenever you enter one of the game's many buildings. In all, color plays a very important part in this game, beyond that of just looking great.
The action goes down over ten different chapters, each revealing more about the story and giving you some slightly different platform puzzles to solve. Unfortunately none of these levels are extremely long, so you're looking at a game that can be finished in anywhere from a few hours to eight hours. Although the action is constant and the story is interesting (for the most part), the game's length definitely works against it. The game is so much fun to play through that I can see a lot of gamers going from beginning to end in only one or two sittings, leaving some people with the impression that there wasn't enough of a campaign there. This is made worse when you consider that this is a single player-only game, one that doesn't have a whole lot of replay when you've made it to the end. This may be the kind of thing you want to show your friends once you've completed it, but you'll quickly discover that a second play through goes by even faster.
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