Monday, February 16, 2009

Le Tranchant du Miroir

Everyone is making a mistake with Mirror's Edge. Players, critics, and even DICE themselves are trying to believe that ME is a first person shooter. It is impossible to escape genre cliches in a game that so heavily relies on them, with constant firefights erupting around you, helicopters above shooting at you and the ability to use not only melee skills but guns as well to retaliate at your aggressors. It's even more impossible when the game's loading screens seem intent on showing you how to fight enemies with karate-like "flow".

But play the game and you're shown a different focus; holding a weapon eliminates most of your dexterity. Melee is only beneficial to disarm one man and then use his gun to take out others. You keep wanting to fight, you want to refine your melee skills, but in the end you are outnumbered and underpowered. Why? Because you aren't meant to fight. The game was made for you to run.

Mirror's Edge is a racing game. You want to run, and you should. Each level is a course with a few different ways to move through the level and one of those ways is the fastest. It seems harsh when the game is criticized for requiring just the right touch because that is exactly what a racing game is about. Play Trackmania for more than ten minutes and you know that just the right angle around a corner will lose you that Gold medal time. So it is the same for Mirror's Edge. You are trying to make the most efficient use of space and time to manuever your way to the exit. In Story mode it gives you helpful red markers, but finish the story mode or turn away to the Race mode and you see that it really is all about getting that exact right line. Learning the movements, finding the route to propel you the most quickly to your destination.

I am really enjoying the game. I acknowledge random small issues that annoy me, such as sometimes unclear goals or the somewhat common lock-up. But I love the challenge the game has presented. I'm still working through the story, but I've got to give DICE props for making what I think is an incredibly solid Parkour game.

Oh, and it's gorgeous as well.

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