Let me get something straight. I'm excited about EA's upcoming title Mirror's Edge, but I'm a little embarrassed to say that. Because this is a game that wants you to know that it's Important. From the Epic Score to the Dramatic Monologues, Mirror's Edge is not a game to be taken Lightly. It stinks of that heavy-handedness you see from Hollywood when the studio starts thinking "Oscar." But the fact of the matter is, in the dark recesses of a movie theater or the lonely recesses of your living room, nobody has to know that you are celebrating the melodrama.
In Mirror's Edge, you are a parkour prodigy (you know, one of those super humans who treats a city landscape like a giant jungle gym). To make parkour relevant as a game's protagonist that's set in a not-so-distant future, developers came up with a Storyline. You are a bikeless messenger, the underground's only hope in a world when digital transmissions cannot be trusted to be secure.
And while I'm pretty snarky about the whole backstory, when all the gameplay stuff starts, I bite my tongue pretty hard. (Note: these impressions are from watching a realtime demo of the game, not my own hands-on).
Mirror's Edge is set in what you might call a hyperrealistic world. Every building is snow white and odored with glossy, mirror-finished windows. It's hyperbolic—the buildings are more buildingy than normal buildings—as if all creative/quirky architecture has been sapped in the interest of militaristic city planning precision. (Ed note: unfortunately, the graphics are disappointingly not quite as razor sharp as these screens would otherwise suggest).
The world feels cold despite sunny skies and, if my memory serves me correctly, sounds surprisingly quiet.
What you do hear very well are the sounds of yourself. Treading on the rooftops, you notice your feet hit the ground and the air enter your lungs. And it makes sense because the perspective is not like a normal FPS view—instead of a standard convention in which you might see a floating gun at all times, Mirror's Edge celebrates the corporeal. There's no hud. When you look down, you see your sad legs and feet. When you somersault, the world will spin.
And expect to somersault a lot. Because once you are handed a package to deliver, the game is all about momentum. Take a few steps back...then run as fast as you can, jump to the next building, roll out of the landing, slide over an obstacle, hop a fence, surf down a crane, leap for the next rooftop (in bullet time) and...fall short, grasping onto a drain pipe...until you climb up to safety.
The demonstration never showed someone plummet to the streets below, but my guess is that you don't want to.
This is the game. Sure, you'll encounter cops along the way (who will chase you, shoot at you, etc) along with news choppers (who just think you look pretty or something), but other than some jarringly vicious hand-to-hand combat and the occasional gun power-up (damn, somebody gave in on that element), you will be running. A lot.
What I'm not so certain about is this: to better illuminate your potential path, key objects glow red so they're noticed. The mechanic seems to work, as the large environment can become daunting (and with no guidance you could find yourself running around a maze). But I can't help but wonder if these epic sequences will suffer from such stark environmental contrasts clearly intended for gameplay alone.
However, until I get a chance to actually play the game, I'll give Mirror's Edge the benefit of the doubt. This one has some potential.