Mirror's Edge First Look

DICE's new first-person action game won't offer any guns, but you'll be able to run up walls. Sounds like a fair trade.

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Though it's widely known for its acclaimed Battlefield games, the Swedish studio DICE does have a proud history of developing for a wide variety of genres. DICE has made racing games, pinball games, and even an equestrian game called Legacy of Rosemond Hill. With that said, Mirror's Edge is unlike anything DICE has made before. Indeed, it's almost unlike anything that we've ever seen before, but it nevertheless looks cool. If you had to describe it in a sentence, it's almost like a first-person parkour game. And if you haven't heard of parkour, then do a search for it on YouTube.

Hope you're not afraid of heights.
Hope you're not afraid of heights.

Begun in France, parkour is the practice of maneuvering fluidly around an urban environment, moving almost like a gymnast at times. That's at the heart of Mirror's Edge. You'll play as Faith, a courier in a city where the police state eavesdrops on all electronic communications. This dystopia is utopian in appearance, full of gleaming skyscrapers and roads so clean that you might be able to conduct surgery on them. The price for this orderly world is high, though, and noncomformists are shunned. That's where Faith steps in. She and other couriers navigate around the rooftops of this pristine, sun-drenched metropolis, delivering messages and other items that need to remain secret.

Mirror's Edge is a game about running for your life when the police, security guards, and even news helicopters are shadowing you. In the demonstration that DICE gave, the action included leaping from one rooftop to another, vaulting over fences and other obstacles, sliding under pipes and overhangs, and even engaging in some martial arts combat. (Faith reportedly will not use a firearm, so you won't be shooting in this game.)

Momentum is a key idea in the game. It's not enough that you're jumping around this environment. To perform some moves, you'll need to string together a bunch of maneuvers to build up speed. For instance, you can climb over a fence, which takes a few seconds. But what happens if you jump off a neighboring rooftop, do a parachute roll upon landing (so you don't lose precious momentum), and use the ensuing momentum to vault over the fence in a heartbeat?

If you've played games such as Tomb Raider, you know that you can stop after you maneuver around an obstacle, take a minute to figure out what you have to do next, and then go for it. Judging from the demo of Mirror's Edge, you'll have only seconds to analyze your terrain, partly because of the guys chasing you, but more because of the bullets they'll be sending your way. So the game is meant to be played at full speed, and to help, there's a special "Faith vision" that color-codes the environment, giving you clues about what you need to do. If you're atop a tall skyscraper and seem trapped, look across the street and you might see that the fire escape on the neighboring building is red. Run for it and jump, and hope you grab it on the other side.

Think you can outrun a bullet?
Think you can outrun a bullet?

The graphics engine for Mirror's Edge looks sharp, and the game really captures the feeling of a built-up urban area. But even more impressive is the drenching sunlight that almost bleaches out the omnipresent concrete in the city. It's so bright and warm that it seems as though you're in Los Angeles at the height of summer, and there's not a single cloud or smog bank in the sky. It's also a contrast to the current fad in gaming, which is to create gritty, run-down urban settings. The fictional city at the heart of Mirror's Edge has a distinctive look and feel, even while it tries to capture the soullessness of a city and a society. It all looks very cool, and also very fresh. Mirror's Edge is planned for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 for sometime this year.

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