23 February 2009

Mirror's Edge Review

Potential is a funny thing. Almost everything, invariably, has potential. Every idea, every whim and every fancy - each and every one has potential. And boy, did Mirror's Edge have potential. First person platforming? Good idea in theory. Throw in free-running? Excellent idea. Unfortunately, potential needs to be realised, and DICE have cocked up the execution rather spectacularly.

The thing is that there's actually - and potentially, for that matter - a lot to like about Mirror's Edge. For starters, the environments are absolutely stunning, all bright colours, spectacular skyscrapers and harsh sunlight, with the red of ‘runner vision’-highlighted objects made easy to spot and head for thanks to the starkness of the rest of it. But again, good potential, bad execution – the character models and animations are lacklustre considering the amount of polish that’s on the environments. Enemies are the same three models repeated endlessly, and that detracts from what is otherwise a fantastic-looking game.

There’s even a half-decent story thrown in about an attempt to rid the world of the runners that serve as an underhanded method of communication that suffers from no wire taps or surveillance. Unfortunately, whilst the concept is good, the story itself is half-baked and not fleshed out enough to be satisfactory.

The free-running too - when you are indeed allowed to...y'know...run freely - is excellent, with responsive – albeit slightly counter-intuitive – controls and a real sense of freedom to move and do what you like (within the context of the game, of course).

It’s just such a shame that it fails to capitalise on this earlier potential. The level design is…well, horrific. There’s perhaps too much structure to it, too much order, and thus it almost defeats the purpose of being able to free-run when you’ve more or less got a predetermined path of obstacles to get through. That is, when one of the obstacles isn’t a heavily armed battalion of policemen.

Which brings us onto Mirror’s Edge’s most crippling flaw – the combat. Put simply, the controls are simply not capable of coping with the combat that the level designers want you to be able to deal with. To steal an analogy, it’s like the gameplay designers and the level designers weren’t in communication at all. the gameplay is designed for evasion, with quick takedowns incorporated into a rather clunky combat system that relies on movement over brute force – ideally suited to targeting one man in a wave of enemies, defeating him and breaking through the lines to keep on your path.

To make matters worse, there are frequently moments where you simply cannot avoid the combat, and this is where the frustrations ebb in. Even if you lower yourself to using guns to defeat your foes, they’re frustratingly inaccurate and ineffective, and you’ll find yourself constantly breaking glorious momentum to try to beat the shit out of the wave of baddies who are in your way, to pretty much no avail.

This is repealed somewhat by the eminently playable time attack mode, where by you are simply presented with a goal and allowed to approach it how you like, the aim being to get to it as quickly as possible, and you have the option of playing through a true-blue story level complete with baddies, or specially tweaked time-attack levels with no baddies whatsoever. But seeing as this is purely a single-player game with little to no multiplayer content, you can’t help but have a bad taste in your mouth after the demoralising and frustrating single-player campaign. The concept would've made a fantastic movie - unfortunately, it's wasted on a mediocre game. Worth a rental if anything, but preferably avoidable.

Ross' Rating: 55%

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