By: Rewa Kumar
In a Nutshell…
-It’s an aesthetically gorgeous game
-The story is so incredibly relevant to the current state of society
-Huge points for originality in gameplay
-Refreshing approach to cutscenes
-Absolutely bangin’ soundtrack
-A seemingly unfinished story
-Strange dissonance in gameplay
-Collectibles seem pointless
I just got done playing Mirror’s Edge for the first time in years. The last time I played it, it must have been…2012? It’s been a very long time. But, I picked it up again, because even after all these years, the story and the soundtrack and the entirety of the game has stuck with me.
As we move forward as a society and the capability of technology exponentially expands, it’s not going to be a surprise when governments and large corporations use this tech to further extend their reach. We can already see it in our every day lives in 2019. Voice recognition tech, fingerprint scanners, facial recognition, and monitoring our every move as we browse the internet are things we’ve just sort of accepted as a part of living in the 21st century.
And that’s exactly what Faith says in the introduction of the game…
“Once the city used to pulse with energy. Dirty and dangerous, but alive and wonderful.
Now, it’s something else…
The changes came slowly at first. Most didn’t realize, or didn’t care, and accepted them. They chose a comfortable life…”
Sure, a lot of people don’t realize or don’t care, but there is a population of us who can understand what’s happening. You can’t use an iPhone without Apple gathering data on you. Same with Google. Same with Microsoft. It’s everywhere. I think we may come to a point where we may have a group of people who choose to live off the grid. Maybe one day we’ll be runners…
But I COMPLETELY digress from my original point.
Let’s get back on track, shall we?
A Gorgeous Game
I cannot possibly overstate how much of a piece of art this game is. It’s just…so incredibly aesthetically pleasing that it’s not even believable. From the rooftops, you see a wonderfully rendered city that sticks to the game’s story. It’s a sterile place, but your eyes are drawn to the bursts of color from billboards and cranes littered throughout the environment.
The sparkling white buildings draw you to them. It’s almost like you’re flying through the city as you free run. Honestly, the feeling is indescribable. I suggest you check out the game for yourself so you can see what I mean. Anyway, color is an extremely important part of Mirror’s Edge. From Faith’s Runner Vision that turns important environmental objects into a blood red to entire environments having a bright color associated with them, there is no lack of vibrancy in this game.
Ropeburn’s level is associated with orange, Jacknife’s is bright blue, and the list goes on. The wonderful saturated colors are a feast for the eyes and they make the game such a treat to play. The aesthetics of the game just keep you in it. You feel like you want to be part of the world. Honestly, every time I play Mirror’s Edge, I think that the game’s city is basically what Singapore would look like 20 years from now. It’s already the cleanest city in the world. I could see the cleanliness sort of extend to society…
A Relevant Story
As I was saying earlier, the story behind Mirror’s Edge is scarily relevant. I’ll give you a quick run down…
Some time in the near future, a vibrant and bustling city is turned into an Orwellian dystopia. Gone is the grit and harshness that makes city living so special and in its place are safety and cleanliness. To maintain the safety and cleanliness, authorities have put invasive policies and technologies in place to spy on the citizens and quell any sort of civil unrest that could overthrow the government.
The protagonist is Faith Connors – a Runner. The Runners are the messengers for the various groups around the city resisting against the totalitarian government. They live their lives off the grid and stick to the rooftops of the city where the cops can’t find them. Free running is how they travel.
The real meat and potatoes of Mirror’s Edge starts with the murder of a mayoral candidate who was challenging the authority of the current oppressive government. He was hoping to be elected in order to dismantle the dystopia and return some sense of liberty and freedom to the lives of its citizens. Well, guess who gets accused for his murder? None other than the only sister of Faith herself, City Police Officer Kate Connors.
So, now it’s on Faith to clear her sister’s name or…y’know at least try to, even though the odds are stacked against her. Obviously, the entire thing is a conspiracy in a city like this. And is that so unheard of these days? No, it isn’t.
Using the Unreal engine, Dice created a realistic space for us to free run in. The lack of a HUD and the similarity to reality with the way that Faith looks at her surroundings make it such an unforgettable experience.
Seeing Faith’s arms as she runs without the distraction of a heads up display and the way that the world blurs as she sprints forward is really what makes Mirror’s Edge a gem. Free running wasn’t something that had been tackled before this point. It was a new way to move about a world, and Faith’s moves and the way she climbs are all very realistic. I mean, maybe not realistic to the average person, but it’s at least somewhat plausible.
Combat wasn’t the emphasis, it was free running. And not just free running, it was smooth and quick free running. Pausing for a minute during combat and intense situations to analyze your surroundings was not at all encouraged. During those sections, it was important to just keep running or jumping or rolling to get away from the cops. I’ll come back to this point later, because even though it was really cool to play the game in line with “the flow,” there was some dissonance as to how that worked in a high intensity scene.
Anyway, I can’t say that I’ve ever played a game quite like Mirror’s Edge. The emphasis on motion rather than combat, and barely being indoors or on a ground floor isn’t something you find a whole lot in gaming. Every time I go back to this game, I find myself being absolutely mesmerized by the smoothness of the gameplay.
I’ll be pretty brief here, but it is definitely something I want to point out. The cutscenes in this game are really cool. Instead of taking the 3D realistic approach as they do with the actual game, the cutscenes were rendered like a comic book. They’re smooth and smart and really well done in my opinion. Despite being a little less complicated than the way the 3D ones look, they get the story across and they really showcase that gritty side to the Runners that we’re unable to see from the game itself. Seriously, go check this out.
The BANGIN’ Soundtrack
Okay, I cannot even explain how much the game’s music just adds to the whole experience of it. Solar Fields did such a FANTASTIC job with compiling the soundtrack. Each level has three different tracks of sound based on the moment in the level: ambiance, combat, and puzzle. Each level has its own theme, but the music changes based on the current situation within the level.
For example, the ambiance themes are all very chilled out. You usually hear them at the beginning of the level before Faith actually gets to her destination. It’s always a really nice bit of music that sets the mood for the whole level. I think right after the ambiance is the combat theme which turns into an intense rendition of the track as the cops chase after you. You usually have to fight through a ton of (extremely irritating) gunfire and random officers jumping out at you. The third part of each level consists of the puzzle music, and that is absolutely my favorite part. That’s when you actually get a minute to contemplate your next move and analyze your surroundings.
It’s the most cathartic part of the level and I enjoy it thoroughly. The music is always beautiful and I truly applaud Solar Fields for his work.
Okay so, let’s take moment to talk about the main theme of the game: Lisa Mikovsky’s “Still Alive.” (Obviously not to be confused with dear old GLaDOS’ serenade to us.) So, Lisa Mikovsky’s song is a perfect theme for Mirror’s Edge. It’s got all that build up that just spells out Faith’s death defying jumps, and all of the different renditions for the song on the menu etc. are fantastic.
Man, I really love this game.
So, now we have to discuss the cons of the game…
It’s Too Short
Despite the story having a ton of potential, it’s cut short! I hate that. It’s such an interesting narrative!!! And then THEY JUST WENT AND CUT IT. UGH.
I can absolutely appreciate having a shorter narrative for the sake of time these days. The experience I get with Mirror’s Edge is a bit more fulfilling than a many-hour stint with The Witcher 3 where I really don’t get much done. As I grow older, video games getting shorter isn’t too much of a big deal. I can take a weekend to enjoy the heck out of game.
But, along with the shorter run time, it seems like a lot of content is missing. I feel like they could have made it a longer game to really delve into this super fascinating story!!
An Unfinished Story
This is the worst part of Mirror’s Edge in my opinion. So, fine they sorta just start the story in the middle of Faith’s life. You get to learn about her parents, her sister, how she became a runner, The November Riots, and how the Runners came to be. You do also get to learn how she met Merc. But, with compelling characters like Celeste and Lieutenant Miller, the story leaves so much to be desired.
There’s actually enough of a narrative to kind of sort of figure out the relationship that Faith and Jacknife once had. In my opinion, it kind of seemed like they were dating? Maybe? And then he sort of went insane and decided to not be a Runner anymore.
Anyway, so Celeste…she ends up betraying the Runners because she would rather “live” than just “survive.” What does that even mean? Under a totalitarian government, exactly how is being part of their weird paramilitary squad “living?” You’re still working for them and the city is far more corrupt than ever. And why is she even a Runner if she doesn’t want to be one anymore? Just…I don’t know…quit? If she was afraid of quitting and then the police knowing who she was, that was never spelled out in the game. She just betrays the Runners and Faith for “reasons.” I think they did a great disservice by not telling us what her deal was.
Now, Lieutenant Miller…he’s a really interesting character as well. Why was he the one like actually good cop? Why did he want to help Kate so badly, at the risk of being jailed himself? He’s just a good guy? Did he die at the end? Just…he ends up being kind of a hero, but they barely gave him the time of day.
Also one thing: HOW AND WHY THE HELL WAS JACKNIFE EVEN INVOLVED IN POPE’S MURDER? FOR WHAT FREAKING REASON?
And then let’s get to the repercussions of what Faith did. So, Project Icarus still exists. The city is still corrupt. Celeste is still out there. Kate and Faith are now on the run. The government has all of the information on the Runners so they’re probably going to end up getting killed and then Faith and Kate will be the only ones left.
OH AND THEN THEY JUST COMPLETELY IGNORE THE NEED FOR A SEQUEL. GREAT. CATALYST IS GARBAGE. DON’T @ ME. (Jk, pls do @ me if you want to.)
A Weird Dissonance
There is a bit of a weird conflict between the intense parts of the game and the flow you’re supposed to keep as you run through it. I will admit that this entire point might just be because I’m bad at the game, but hear me out, okay?
So, the game encourages “the flow” – that is, not stopping as you run through the level because Faith’s reactions and timing should be reflective of her status as a really great Runner. Maybe this is just my analytical mind disliking the thought of jumping towards an area where I’m not sure I’m supposed to go toward, but the game tells you to just keep sprinting to what you think is the right way.
Sometimes, it’s totally NOT the right way to go. But you’ll throw yourself off of a building and just hope for the best. It’s not exactly clear if the world is open or not. There seems to be multiple ways to get through a level, but all of the pathways kind of filter you onto parallel rails, so you just end up going the same direction just on this pipe instead of that one 10 feet away.
There are times where you HAVE to look at the surrounding area before you leap, but the game punishes you for doing so. I think it’s rather annoying because Faith’s view is head on. There’s no peripheral vision. And even though Faith might know the city like the back of her hand, I don’t. So, there’s a bit of a disconnect between the information that Faith can take in and the information that I can because my view of the world is limited to a very first person camera.
There might be an area that Faith can see out of the corner of HER eye, but in order for ME to see it, I have to turn the camera all the way there. And because there are thousands of bullets raining down upon you, you have to keep moving as you turn your head. You don’t get a chance to look at your surroundings to see where to go.
There’s a conflicting feeling I get when I play the game, and it ultimately causes me to get angry and questioning why I’m playing this crap in the first place. (I mean “crap” in the nicest way possible.)
There are Runners’ bags littered throughout the world. I think each level has three of them. So firstly, some of them are really annoying to find because you’ll find the Runner’s symbol literally in the middle of running away from the police. The last thing you’re thinking of is collecting some stupid thing that has some sort of nebulous importance in the context of the game.
They don’t actually tell you why the bags are important or what they’re even for. They sort of seem like having a collectible for the sake of having a collectible. The completionist in me is screaming, because why don’t I just go find all the damn bags? But um, no because I don’t even know what they’re for.
And with a quick Google search, yep they’re useless.
All in all, I’d give Mirror’s Edge a 4 out 5.
It’s a great story with really amazing gameplay that does have some flaws. But honestly, I’d recommend this game to anyone.
So please go ahead and play it and tell me what you think!!! I hope you enjoyed my review of Mirror’s Edge.