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Review

Mirror's Edge Review

  • Game release: November 11, 2008
  • Reviewed:
  • X360

Mirror's Edge offers occasional thrills, provided you can get past some awkward stumbles.

Like its heroine, Faith, Mirror's Edge tries to hurdle some significant obstacles, but unlike Faith, it can't always make the leap. No doubt, this fascinating action platformer possesses its share of innovations, from a first-person perspective to a clean and crisp visual style, yet it looks to the past more than you may initially notice. This is a modern-day iteration of an old-fashioned platformer, in which you're meant to play and replay sequences of jumps, grabs, and slides until you get them perfect, or at least perfect enough to continue. But unlike its ancestors, Mirror's Edge is more about speed and momentum, and when you can connect your moves in a flawless stream of silky movement, it's eminently thrilling and satisfying. Unfortunately, Mirror's Edge has a tendency to trip over its own feet, keeping you slipping and sliding blissfully along, only to have a tedious jumping puzzle or hazy objective put the brakes on. Leaderboard chasers looking to set a speedrun record will find Mirror's Edge to be pure gold. Others will give up, alienated by the inherent trial and error of the game's basic design. At the very least, there's nothing quite like it, and it deserves a cautious look by anyone who appreciates games that hew their own path.

Faith and her fellow runners discuss the finer points of antidisestablishmentarianism.

Faith is a runner, in more ways than one. In the oppressed, fictitious society of Mirror's Edge, runners are an underground network of couriers, carrying sensitive information and documents from sender to receiver. The content of these messages is never clear, nor does it matter much; rather, the story's conflict revolves around Faith's sister, a cop who is framed for the murder of a mayoral candidate promising to bring change to the totalitarian government and bring hope to the runners living on the fringe. Soon, Faith is running for a different reason: to uncover the conspiracy at the heart of the murder and clear her sister's name. The story is straightforward, but it's interesting enough to keep you involved, and though it ends with a sequel-hinting cliffhanger, it wraps things up enough to feel fulfilling nonetheless. More intriguingly, the story plays out between missions in stylish animated cutscenes, as well as scenes within the game engine itself, which also look attractive but feature a completely different art style. Both types look good, but the disparity is a little odd.

And so you run--across rooftops, through train stations, and along walls. As you run, you pick up speed and are able to string a number of moves together in rapid succession. You can slide under pipes, bound over railings, and leap across impossible-looking chasms, among other techniques. The most obvious twist in Mirror's Edge, of course, is that you do all of this from a first-person view, rather than with the typical third-person camera we've come to expect. It's an interesting spin, if not wholly new (Montezuma's Return for the PC was blazing this trail in 1998), and it has a way of immersing you as you speed toward your destination. Actions like balancing on a narrow beam, sliding under a ledge at top speed, and tumbling when you land a long jump are fun to execute and look neat, but it may also make you wonder how much fun it would be to see what Faith looks like when she pulls off these neat stunts, which isn't possible in this game.

Nevertheless, Mirror's Edge excels when you hit that snappy stride, and once you've found the best route through a particularly tricky scenario, it's exhilarating to rush through it without a care to weigh you down. But this doesn't happen the first time, or even the fifth time, you do it. You will need to experiment and hone your skills, because a simple mistake can send you plunging down onto the street below, or will at very least interrupt your stride. You're expected to play each level multiple times to learn the routes that best propel you along, which is great the 10th time around but is often an infuriating series of false starts, mistimed jumps, and full stops the first few attempts. If you need a hand, you can hold a button to activate runner vision, which turns the camera toward your destination, but it's an imprecise solution that sometimes points you toward a short-term objective and other times points you toward your long-term goal.

The early going will deliver more spills than thrills.

Another inconsistently helpful tool comes directly from the game's impressive art design. Mirror's Edge is a game of visual contrasts, in which stark white environments contrast with vivid colors. It looks beautiful and clean, and it's a great way of demonstrating both the bleakness of an authoritarian society and the unique manner in which a runner would see the world--as an array of landing points and jumping opportunities. Important ramps, doorways, ladders, and other points of interest are painted in a vibrant red, which is an important visual cue in some of the broader levels. However, this element too is delivered inconsistently; in some cases, the red hue may not fade in until you are close to the pole or vaulting point in question, and in other cases, Mirror's Edge expects you to figure things out without this visual assistance.

For a game that relies on so much forward momentum, Mirror's Edge has a way of bringing the pace to a halt. Sometimes this is because of the nature of trial-and-error gameplay: fall, die, reload checkpoint. At other times, it's because you're faced with an intricate jumping puzzle that eschews the sense of speed entirely, such as one that has you descending into the depths of the water supply system and then up again. These aren't bad, but they're not particularly engaging either; you're more likely to feel relieved when you reach your destination, rather than fulfilled. Or you'll be zooming along, only to find yourself in an elevator, reading the news crawl on the wall's electronic panel while the level apparently loads in the background. In all of these cases, you're torn from the experience and reminded that this is, after all, just a game.

Armed enemies further complicate matters. It's best to run right past them when possible, but their bullets have a way of bringing you to your knees as you rush around looking for the best escape route. Some foe-heavy scenarios are particularly annoying, such as a sniper-loaded sequence in the final level. You can confront the threat head-on in some cases, but it requires careful planning and excellent timing. You can perform some close-combat moves like jumpkicks and punches, but these are best when used as hit-and-run tactics; trying to engage in melees with more than one or two enemies at a time is a quick path to the most recent checkpoint. Conversely, you can disarm an enemy with a quick-time event, pressing the disarm button when your foe's weapon flashes red. If you want to hold on to it, you can fire off a few shots until the clip runs out. Faith is ultravulnerable to gunfire, however, and the gunplay is loose and unfulfilling. If you have trouble keeping things in check (it takes some split-second timing to land a pitch-perfect disarm), you can enter a limited-use slow-motion mode, which comes in handy and makes some of these action-focused moves look cool but ultimately doesn't add much to the gameplay.

If you can overlook the array of quirks long enough to find your stride, you'll want to check out the beat-your-record races and level speedruns. Both modes feature online leaderboards, and both cater to the players most likely to get the most out of Mirror's Edge. In a sense, the single-player story is simply a practice run for being a virtual show-off, yet the players repeating these levels, because they'll learn them to perfection, are also the ones likely to see Mirror's Edge at its most thrilling. But even casual players will take to the unusual controls, though the trigger-centric jumping and crouching may take some getting used to. For what it's worth, the PlayStation 3's Sixaxis and Dual Shock 3 controllers offer a slightly more comfortable experience in this regard; the clicky shoulder buttons on the Xbox 360 pad are fine but are a little less enjoyable to use.

The world of tomorrow--today!

While the visuals deserve kudos for their unusually crisp style, the audio deserves its own high praise. Sound effects like Faith's breathy heaves and plodding footsteps are authentic touches that heighten the sense of speed and tension. The voice acting is equally terrific, but it's the pulsing, driving soundtrack that impresses most. Its rhythmic flow augments Faith's most fluid runs, while subtle notes fill in the silence during downtimes. The superb musical journey culminates in a fantastic vocal track that plays during the game's final credits.

Mirror's Edge is many things: invigorating, infuriating, fulfilling, and confusing. It isn't for everybody, and it stumbles often for a game that holds velocity in such high esteem. But even with all its foibles and frustrations, it makes some impressive leaps; it just doesn't nail the landing.

The Good
Flawless runs provide a total rush
Clean and striking visual design
Fantastic sound effects and music
The Bad
Frustrating amount of trial and error
Cramped jumping puzzles trip up the momentum
Combat and gunplay are weak
7
Good
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Discussion

8 comments
Rheinmetal
Rheinmetal

Mirror's Edge has an incomparable visual style and addictive score attack premise, but it's punishingly difficult near the end, which in my opinion takes all the fun away. Kevin is right, when you solve some difficult platforming puzzle you end up feeling relieved rather than satisfied. Despite the frustration at certain points, I thought that Mirror's Edge is a very interesting game with a unique look.

KorhalKk
KorhalKk

7 is just a rate too low for a game so good. I always find myself playing this game even after have beated it twenty times. I like Kevin's rigorous and logical analisys, but some of what he said its not true.

 

1- Maybe the amount of trial and error is related to some console problem. The only trial and error I've encountered was because I was not looking towards a pipe or a ledge, so it was my fault.

2- Cramped jumping puzzles are part of the game someway. At the subway or inside the vents of the last building is a stuck up, clanky part and there's no momentum because its not the time to run. A game has to be 100% momentumrunning ?

3- Hand2hand combat is better than most games today and guns do their job, which is: Use all the rounds you got and drop it because you should run.

 

Everything else should align to a 9 rating. Minimal 8.5.

 

ps: Finished the game one hour ago, lol

shaharpazpaz
shaharpazpaz

Just played this due to the steam christmas sale. It was on my sights for a while but since Kevin gave it a 7 i hesitated.And now that I finished it, well, it may really be a 7, but it's the best 7 i ever played. Short game, weak gunplay and lots of trial and error, but i enjoyed every second of it. Never got frustrated, cause when i died it just ment i get to do all those epic jumps all over again.Wish they'd make more games like this. Can't wait for Mirror's Edge 2 

abbasazam
abbasazam

Of course the combat and gunplay is weak, it isn't really the main focus of the game, you reviewer's whine about the stupidest things, focus on the real flaws

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

Can't believe you gave this a 7.0, Kevin...once you get the hang of it, Mirror's Edge is easily one of the best games ever made. To those that complain of the game's poor combat system (which is only a problem in the Shard level), the game is about free-running, not COD-style FPS gameplay that hogs up game consoles these days.

ThePowerOfHAT
ThePowerOfHAT

@Rheinmetal 

Agreed.  I think the sequel could easily solve some of the original's biggest problems by going for an open world setting, giving players more freedom in the routes they take to a given objective, thus making it easier to avoid things like combat and particularly punishing platforming sections until one feels that he or she is a more capable runner.  DICE should give players more opportunity to train themselves, essentially.  Keep the fantastic art style and clever visual cues to draw the player's attention to specific objects or routes that might benefit them, but by letting players tackle things in their own way and at their own pace, they'll have much more room to experiment and practice.


That doesn't mean you can't put them to the test once in a while; foot chases and escapes in Mirror's Edge were some of the most exhilarating moments of this generation of games, and I'd love to see them return in this title, albeit perhaps with a bit more leniency regarding what happens when you don't succeed.  Optional objectives that can actually be failed without sending the player to a game over screen gives players opportunity to learn from their mistakes without forcing them to replay the same section over and over again.  I don't think it'd be so bad to have more enemies that are interested in CATCHING the player instead of killing them, either, and having a package you're supposed to deliver get snatched away by another runner or confiscated by the police sounds like it'd be a much better way of having the player fail a mission than sending them back to a checkpoint.


An open world presents its own problems, of course, particularly when it comes to story.  Despite the arguably ugly anime cutscenes and some poorly written and acted dialogue, I really enjoyed the story in Mirror's Edge, especially when it showed hints of a greater overarching mystery.  Giving the next game a thoughtful plot focused on espionage and perhaps expanding upon Faith's own questions regarding what happened to her parents could give players more reason to tackle things at their own pace, allowing the game's sensation of speed to keep things moving.  Somewhat randomized optional objectives and scenarios that subtly guide the player in the direction of their primary goal would be a great way of maintaining a fairly brisk pace for the game as well, with quiet moments in between used largely to let the player run around as they see fit and admire the scenery.


Aaaaand now I've gone and written three paragraphs about how I'd make Mirror's Edge 2.  Excellent...

Rickystickyman
Rickystickyman

 @Bayonetta2013 His point wasn't that the game needed to be like COD, what he was trying to say was that the gunplay was simplistic and boring. I love Mirror's Edge but the gun elements of the game weren't made correctly and were very shallow. Now imagine if Mirror's Edge were the same, but the moments when you need a gun were more in depth. Even if the part of the game is short, it might as well be done right than wrong.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

 @Rickystickyman I never said that. I said "Those that complain..." meaning the majority of complaints from Mirror's Edge come from people that disliked the lack of FPS-style combat. I didn't mind the combat since it was a game about free-running. The controls were intuitive enough to make up for any lack of gunplay.

Mirror's Edge (2008) More Info

  • Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    EA DICE's new first-person action adventure game will allow you to move in ways never before seen in a first-person game.
    8.1
    Average User RatingOut of 9533 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Mirror's Edge (2008)
    Developed by:
    EA DICE
    Published by:
    EA Games, ak tronic
    Genres:
    Action, 3D, Open-World, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Language, Violence