The 00s was the decade of Electronic Arts' dominance across multiple generations, for various reasons. It found magic in Black Box's impressive run with the Need For Speed series, from Hot Pursuit 2, the Underground series, and Most Wanted. Towards the end of the decade, Black Box took a chance in their latest project, Skate, and single-handedly reformed the extreme sports genre for over a decade. DICE, as if cut from the same cloth, took a risk with Mirror's Edge.
While it did not reform the "first-person action genre," it became one of the most polarizing games released in 2008. The genius of Mirror's Edge wouldn't be realized until much later, but objectively speaking, it was too late. After a long silence, DICE released a reboot titled Mirror's Edge Catalyst to a greater lukewarm response than the original.
Released in 2016, many felt that it was a far cry from what made the original memorable. I understood the sentiment as I own the game for the PS4 yet I hadn't touched it as it failed to rope me in. It was also because I, like many other fans of the original, was left on a sequel hook that never happened. But I'm getting ahead of myself. For now, let's look at Mirror's Edge in 2022 much like we looked at Mr. Driller Online, another fellow 2008 title.
Corruption Never Looked Prettier
Since I already brought up Catalyst, I wanted to very briefly give a quick synopsis of Mirror's Edge's story as I remember it. The protagonist, Faith Connors, is a part of a network of couriers known as Runners. The Runners deliver parcels, information, and other objects of importance to various clients, some of which are enough to expose the corruption of the city. Everything is routine until Faith's sister Kate gets framed for the death of the newly elected Mayor Pope. Faith must dive into the fire headfirst, dealing with betrayal and the police force, while trying to save her sister.
While I won't spoil the ending, Faith does save Kate, yet there's a lot of work to be done as they are now both hunted. Ending on a cliffhanger, the original story is forever stuck in limbo due to the game's poor sales. Its "cult classic" standing was enough for EA to give Faith another chance yet with a new start. It always annoyed me that EA and DICE took this route. While the story wasn't the "best," it was engaging enough for me to care about Faith and Kate.
The major focus of Mirror's Edge art style is its bright and vibrant colors. The city feels like an overly contrasted playground where details are simplified to primary colors. Important pieces of information are highlighted by the color red, noted as the "Runner's Vision." These are ideal routes that Faith can take to get to her destination, however, it's not the only route. On harder difficulties, the "Runner's Vision" is turned off, leaving the players to their wits on how to overcome obstacles.
Saving You Car Insurance By Leaping Through Rooftops
At the time, the cutscenes were often compared to the popular "Esurance" commercials at the time. It's an animated "clip-art" style of graphics that does make itself look like the commercials, but it's unique to the style of Mirror's Edge. The voice acting is enough to get the job done, with Faith's partner, Mercury, always on comms in a wise-cracking manner.
The sound effects were some of the best at the time as well. Faith's labored breathing can be heard the harder she pushes herself. Landing on hard surfaces offered a different punch than landing cleanly into a roll. Of course, there are camera tricks when the game shows the player plummeting to their death, complete with a bone-crunching sound. Add all of this with an original interactive soundtrack by Solar Fields and you have a very immersive title.
Say 'No' To Gun Violence (Pistol-Whipping Is A-OK)
Mirror's Edge was released during an interesting time for DICE as it was known for its Battlefield series, making them the greater candidates for a first-person action title. Unlike Battlefield, Mirror's Edge abhors the usage of firearms in an attempt to keep the gameplay rooted in its parkour element. Faith is not built like a soldier meant to handle large weaponry, like a sniper rifle or a shotgun for example, but she can utilize them to some capacity. Basic things like using the scope can be used, but Faith will always hip fire with varying accuracy. There is no HUD, no life bar, or ammo count. Players will need to be mindful of all these things at once.
What Mirror's Edge intends the player to do is disarm their opponents, taking the weapons for themselves, and discarding it without breaking their flow. Flow is everything and the faster Faith moves, the less of a chance she will get hit by bullets. Disarming a weapon from an enemy will immobilize them, giving the same results as shooting someone with lesser risk. The timing to disarm is incredibly lenient and it will be your go-to when engaging stronger enemies as well.
Mirror's Edge Was A Trendsetter Years In The Making
The gist of Mirror's Edge is to get from point A to B while a hail of bullets and officers chase you down. Leaping and grabbing ledges are important to travel across rooftops, but also through tricky metro stations and hazards. There are levels that will place Faith in an open area with the intent of completing a "jumping puzzle" to get her out of the room. One of my favorite stages later on in the game requires her to scale through a complex tower, using everything she learned to the test.
While Mirror's Edge is a short game that can be cleared in one sitting, as well as having controls that require some time to get used to, it's a fun experience. It would set the stage for other titles that would build upon the "first-person parkour gameplay," such as Dying Light. To a lesser extent, Prototype is a third-person open-world game with many parkour elements included. Mirror's Edge may not have been around to reap the benefits of the blueprint it helped develop, but it's still a fun title anyone should try even in 2022.
Mirror's Edge is available on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. It is available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S through backward compatibility.