Since it went free on PSN, I went ahead and did a second play through of Mirror’s Edge. And boy does this game try to be “edgy.” The 2008, under-the-radar release about a free-running female in a world where every building has been painted in mono (and every gamer seems to wax nostalgic about on the internet) still has its moments of brilliance. The game is definitely one that made innovative gameplay its first priority. Unfortunately, having a memorable art style was its second priority, and there is no third priority to be spoken of. The game has a few good things going for it. Ultimately however, Mirror’s Edge is like having an awesome dog that can do really cool tricks… that also makes a point to take dumps in your house, humps the leg of every guest you ever have, and occasionally tries to smother you with a pillow as you sleep. This review could get ugly, so it’s best to start with what Mirror’s Edge gets right. The shoulder button control scheme can seem pretty funky at first, but actually functions intuitively with a little play time. Wall running over incredible heights and looking down was the highlight of my time in the game. Playing ME is fun when things are working as they should. That’s a pretty general statement for all videogames, but it’s crucial here. The game feels slick as a pubescent boy’s greasy forehead when the game lets you know what you’re supposed to be doing. And being able to see the path and execute it perfectly had me feeling like a parkour master. But that is something the game rarely does a good job of expressing. The gimmick in the trailers and pre-release coverage about the game’s “Runner Vision,” which would dot the way forward by making certain things in the world an obvious shade of red, was awfully misleading. The game decides to completely forget about this mechanic in many levels, most notably within the frustrating interior areas. Mirror’s Edge often devolves into a not-so-rousing game of “where the fuck do you want me to go?!?” In a game about parkour, a form of movement literally centered around getting from point to point in the fastest manner possible, that’s just unacceptable. Here’s some of the game’s broken logic: “Okay, I’m in a room with 3 different doors. Since none of them are red, I can’t go through them, despite the fact that every time I’ve gone through a door before, I had just kicked it open regardless of locks. So I need to find a way out of this room via vent in the ceiling in the most elaborate and unnecessary way I can think of.” The game’s lack of direction isn’t exclusive to the interiors either. Plenty of rooftop areas, and once in a particularly badly designed scaffolding section, had no clear indication of what to head towards or how. The button that points the camera in a general direction you want to go would often spaz out and point towards radically different locations, none of which were right. Don’t you just love when things don’t work the way they should?At least the game looks good, right? How could it ever go bad with style like that? To be fair, the game does actually look very, very nice. The relatively sterile environments and the use of the pop art color scheme does allow for some surprisingly good looking graphics for its time. The level of detail put into the game’s textures and aesthetics is worthy of praise. The way in which far-off surroundings blur when something is up close to your face was a small detail I appreciated DICE having the attention for. However, the palette swapping levels grew tiresome eventually, and certain areas literally hurt my head looking at them. The hell that was the fiery red-orange warehouse was not only full of the aforementioned feelings of being lost, but started to strain my eyes to the point where I literally had to stop playing. It was taking me an absurdly long time attempting to figure out (yet again!) where the game needed me to go, and I just could not look at the game any more. (Pro tip: the vent you’re looking for is on the floor and only visible when you’re standing right over it!) Mirror’s Edge had me thisclose to a “The Yellow Wallpaper” style breakdown. Turns out that just like everything else in this game, there are sections that are really nice, and others that had me sacrificing goats in the hopes that maybe Satan might rescue me if I sell my soul. I just can’t wrap my head around the need to drench some areas in bold colors, when they’re used as nice accents in others. I highly doubt that fluorescent blue carpeting will ever be considered good interior decorating. I suppose Mirror’s Edge is commendable for having tried something new, even if it is just glorified concept art.So far, the things I’ve described are problems that can kinda-sorta be looked past. They’re the kind of things that make you go, “huh, well it is the first entry in a new series trying some new things. They could probably fix that in a sequel.” Sure, the ultra intense bloom lighting (and the fact that your in-game eyes never seem to adjust to brightness) will fry your retinas. Sure, it’s a little sad that even for someone who has played the game before, knowing where to go and what to do is often a guessing game. But the real stinker here is the convoluted, confusing, poorly addressed, flat, cliche ridden, Esurance commercial-looking excuse for a plot. Not only does this game completely lack any worthwhile narrative motivation for the player throughout the course of its length, but this game might just have one of the worst endings in videogame history. I mean that with a completely straight face. If you’re not willing to just accept that the story is terrible and just laugh at how nonsensical it is, you will be angry when you reach its lackluster, lifeless, incomprehensible conclusion. Be prepared for that going in. I recommend just skipping all the cutscenes (which look dreadful, by the way) as soon as you can, so you can get back to wall-running and getting stuck because you don’t study the game like speedrunners do. I’ve gotten prizes inside boxes of Cracker Jacks that were more engrossing than this.I bet you thought I was done ranting, didn’t you? Well you’re wrong. So, so, so wrong. I just need to point out how poorly utilized the Faith character is in this game. She’s become one of those instantly recognizable videogame characters, and is always looking like a right badass in any artwork she’s in, but she is a woefully empty shell of a human being. This game had a lot of potential to make a relatable (or at least mildly interesting) female lead. Somehow, even as the protagonist of the story, Faith manages to have no arc whatsoever. The game literally puts you in her funny looking ninja shoes, and the most the audience ever gets out of her is a sort of vanilla, tough chick trope. It’s more than just missed opportunity, it’s bad writing. Faith has about as much personality as a slightly damp paper towel, and seems to be impervious to conveying any emotion. On a couple occasions, I think she might have accidentally had feelings, like when the stereotypical guy-in-earpiece-who-tells-you-to-run dies a bloodless death toward the end. But then she’d quickly correct that and go right back to being as one note as the walls she walks on. It turned out that I unintentionally began giving her a persona due to the way I played. Since I took every opportunity I had to gun down almost every optional enemy in the game, Faith actually became a character. Weirdly though, that character was a cold-blooded, sociopathic rebel/terrorist with no qualms about murdering duty-bound security and police forces (probably with families), all without a shred of remorse for her victims… Normally, I laugh at the hipster notion of Ludonarrative Dissonance, but when a character is this bland, it’s much easier to project different connotations in place of a real personality. It made me laugh, so I guess that’s one thing.This is a genuinely difficult game to recommend. Probably more so than it was when this game was actually fresh. Oddly enough, I still feel like the sequel that’s currently under development has potential to make amends for the sins of this game (so long as the rumor of Anita Sarkeesian’s involvement isn’t true), but for now, it really depends on what you’re willing to put up with from a game. The game can be a clunky eye-sore sometimes, but it’s relatively short and the first-person platforming is an intriguing break from the mold. You might find this game easier than I did. You might find it harder, too. To be perfectly honest though. The only thing that will keep you going forward is to see the way the next area is colored. The plot is just unspeakably bad. I’m talking M. Night Shamalamadingdong level trash. (If anyone tells you different, they are lying to you and you should never speak to that liar again.) Before writing this review, I thought about how poetic the game’s title is. Most games have pretty straightforward names concerning what their game is about. Now I realize that just like the game it’s for, “Mirror’s Edge” is just something that’s meant to sound nice and doesn’t mean anything at all. It’s all a lot of gimmicks and cliches. Tentatively, I say go ahead and give it a shot. Maybe just start with a demo of it even. If the gameplay doesn’t grab you somewhere within that span of time, nothing in this game will.
Obligatory Number at the End: 6/10