Saturday, 21 September 2013

Mirror's Edge (PC)

Mirror's Edge logo
Today's game shall be first person parkour platformer Mirror's Edge on the PC, though I imagine it's much the same game on PS3 and Xbox 360. It's not my first run through the game so I can't say I'll be playing it blind, but that's probably for the best because (spoilers) it looks totally fuckin' sweet.

In fact this may end up having a few more images than I'd normally use because, well it's Mirror's Edge; it's my moral duty to show it off.

(Click the images to view them at a practically exorbitant 1280x720 resolution.)

The game begins with a short animated intro to set the scene narrated by our protagonist, Faith Connors, who explains that her city has become a comfortable but sterile and miserable place due to... reasons. She doesn't go into details, but the images of surveillance cameras and protesters being beaten by cops paints a clear enough picture.

Faith is a 'Runner', someone who makes their living through x-treme courier work. They carry info between revolutionary groups across the rooftops to avoid it being intercepted by the totalitarian government. Or as she puts it they "exist on the edge between the gloss and the reality - The Mirror's Edge." Yeeeaaaah...

But first she has to remember how to do her job by completing a helpful (and skippable) tutorial level.

Here her friend is demonstrating how to reach a ledge by doing a 180 spin then leaping out of a wall run. C'mon guys, this is a little advanced for 2 minutes into the game isn't it?

Actually this is really easy to pull off due to smart controls: tap jump at the wall to run along it, tap the 180 turn button to face the other ledge, tap jump again to leap off and grab hold. It's about getting the timing right rather than having to precisely line myself up, so there's no messing around.

Oh right, I'd forgotten about the gun disarms. Sometimes during the game someone with a gun will come along and try ruin my happy skyscraper leaping fun by filling me full of bullets, and to avoid this outcome I may on occasion have to employ violence.

I've a few punches and kicks at my disposal, but the fastest way to get rid of an annoyance for sure is to take their gun right out of their hands. Though to do that I have to get in close, wait for them to smack me, then hit the disarm button at the split second the gun turns red on its way towards my head. I can earn a little slow motion time to make it easier but somehow I doubt I'll be trying this trick too often.


Alright, my training has been completed and now I officially know how to run, duck, jump and slide down cables. Also check this out, I have LEGS! Actual visible legs in a first person game, like I'm a human being with a presence in this world instead of a floating camera, it's a bloody miracle! +500,000 points to Mirror's Edge.

Right my first actual job is to pass a package over to the next Runner at a communications tower. I can hit a button which points my head in the right direction, but then it's up to me to figure out how to get there. The game's far from open world though; there's a few ways to get around on the rooftops but I'm heading down a fixed path of buildings.

Hmm, I wonder where I'm supposed to go from here...

Runners have a fondness for the colour red, subconsciously colouring cables, walls, doors, planks etc. that'll lead them down their best obvious path towards their goal. So basically all I have to do is head for the nearest red object and I'll do well.

Incidentally the game has absolutely no HUD, except for a tiny reticle which is there as much to prevent player dizziness as it is to tell me where I'm going. I've decided to flirt with danger though and have turned it off to make the screenshots look better. If I end up throwing up all over my PC because of motion sickness I'll let you know.

Hang on, this doesn't look like my apartment at all! Well, sorry for interrupting your doughnut break officers, I'll see myself out.

Oh shit, now they're shooting at me; I only came in here to take a shortcut! C'mon guys, even Judge Dredd wouldn't give someone the death sentence for breaking and entering (probably).

The corridor branched and I went left. I realise now that this was a mistake.

Okay okay, stop shooting at me, I'll come down. It's not like I have anywhere left to run to anyway.

They just straight executed her! Faith can take a few bullets and recover thanks to her regenerating health, but even she can't survive a firing squad at point blank range. Man dystopias suck.

Fortunately the game saves at regular checkpoints so I wasn't set back too far. Next time around I took the door on the right and all was well.

Man, how did they get ahead of me? I can take out a lone cop with melee attacks if I get in close, but I'd rather not if I can help it. It's rare to find a first person action game that doesn't focus on violence and I'd like to enjoy not focusing on it as long as I can.

Oh by the way there's another red object up ahead. If I run towards it and hit jump at the right moment Faith will automatically use it to spring up and vault over the railing, keeping the momentum going. I'm thinking I'll just walk around the long way though and put a nice thick wall in between me and Mr Shooty up there.

Crap, now where am I supposed to go, I've ran out of red. I've ran out of skyscraper too and the police are moving in behind me. That's the trouble with taking screenshots of a first person running game, it's hard to get across just how many people are shooting at my ass right now when all I'm showing is a news chopper.

Hey, that helicopter sure does have some pretty red landing skids doesn't it?

Look, it's me! Here's an interesting and relevant fact for you: jumping onto a helicopter skid and pulling yourself up in real life is a totally doable thing, but hanging off it one handed is a really really dumb.

It seems like there aren't many mirrors in games these days for whatever reason, so it's a nice surprise to see one making an appearance here. Especially considering that the game's called Mirror's Edge.

Between levels I get these cutscenes to tell a bit of the story and to be honest I'm finding the animation kind of distracting. It's like it's the characters have been traced over 3D models, with anime faces drawn on afterwards. It's all very fluid, but it reminds me so much of the cell shaded polygon graphics in the old PlayStation game Fear Effect. In a bad way.

I didn't quite get what happened in this cutscene at all first time I played the game. She's listening in on police radio, hears about shots being fired inside a skyscraper, yells her sister's name, and runs straight out while yelling at her radio guy to get on comms and track her. I figured it must have been her sister's apartment or something and was left even more confused when it turned out that it's really not.

But watching it a second time I realised that I'd missed a line earlier in the scene where she's listening to police chatter and hears Officer Connors (her sister) reporting in to say she's heading out to that address. So now everything all makes sense and I'm happy.

It's kind of difficult to demonstrate the actual gameplay in pictures, as the first person view means that when I'm getting around obstacles they're either going to be off screen or right up in my face.

Here I'm planning on using that red pipe to jump up and clear the fence, sprint forward onto that plank you can barely see and leap across to the next building, then maybe I'll swing across a pole, jump up to a ledge, then get turned around and end up standing up on the billboard by mistake. Then I'll misjudge the distance to the next building along, hurtle a terrifying 30 meters to the solid concrete pavement below, then reappear back at the start and try it all over again. 

This is a very important screenshot as it demonstrates that I sometimes use elevators in the game. I didn't just include it because it looks cool or anything.

I should really run up those stairs and check to see if Faith's sister is alright, but I think I'll just stand here for a bit longer.

By the way, there are no innocent bystanders in this game. Just Runners, cops, and bad people.

Oh, well okay there was one innocent, but he's dead now. It seems that the shots fired came from Faith's sister's own gun and the bullets all ended up inside this guy. She claims she didn't do it though, so it's up to me to clear her name the only way I know how: by running across buildings.

Hey, the room looks just as awesome from the other side. It's a real shame it'll need redecorating after that SWAT team spots me and opens fire. I really should've been long gone by now, but I stuck around to watch them come in just so I could grab this shot for you.

I took quite a few shots actually: to the arm, the leg, the abdomen... it's a miracle I can still walk really. Though I have to admit that it's getting harder to see exactly where I'm going as the colour bleeds out of the world along with my blood.

Aha! With this game if you're ever in doubt where to go next, it never hurts to look up. Well okay I suppose that depends on how many people are shooting at you, but right now I've bought myself some time to safely gaze at the ceiling.

Okay then, to the ventilation shaft! Somehow. Maybe I can jump up to grab that beam, then pull myself up. Failing that I'll have to think about trying a wall jump.

Another group of armed cops blocking another exit! It's like they've planned this or something. Fortunately though I can lure them over to me by existing in their line of sight, then use my advanced parkour fence climbing techniques to run down the hallway on the right and sneak into the lift behind them.

Combat really isn't an option when I'm facing a group like this, if I tried running up to them I wouldn't last a second.

Hey I've ended up in the City Eye building somehow. It's impressive how they're managing to broadcast breaking news about the murder despite the fact that no one seems to be working here.

There's hidden packages around the game, three in every level, so there is some reason to stray off the path a little and investigate all the corners. But I'm not really interested so I'm just following the corridors wherever they take me.

They took me out to the street! It's so nice to catch another glance of the ground without immediately impacting on it at 122 mph. There's no way that the game's going to let me out onto that road though, so I'll stay on course and hopefully get back inside a building without acquiring too many fresh bullet holes along the way.

By the way, check out those absolutely colourless trees. All the plant life in this game seems to be white, so that it doesn't distract or mess up the area's colour scheme.

The level's still going? There's only ten levels in the story mode besides the tutorial, but it turns out that they can last a fair amount of time on the first run. I've been on this chapter for over quarter of an hour so far! Okay that doesn't actually sound so long, but it feels longer.

The game has a chapter select to let you start on any level you've cleared and even goes one step further and lets you chose the specific checkpoint, for which I award it substantial kudos. Games shouldn't bury their levels so deep that you have to finish the entire game over again just to replay a cool stage, especially ones with bonus time challenges like this one.

I finally got to safety and earned the next cutscene, where Faith makes it back to base to check in with her radio guy and chat about the evidence she lifted from the crime scene. He tells her that she's going to have to go ask... man I'm starting to wonder if I should put subtitles on for these scenes, because I keep missing bits and pieces of what they're saying and it's making it hard for me to follow the plot.

Fortunately the game lets me re-watch the movies to my heart's content from the menu. I can listen to the soundtrack there as well, which is cool. Incidentally the game's got a nice theme tune (complete with vocals) but it's a little weird that they went with a track called Still Alive so soon after Portal and its famous ending tune of the same name.


Who'd have thought the Mirror's Edge, a game with a title that practically describes the act of running across skyscrapers, would have bloody sewer level? Though to be honest the place look more like a secret research base. It's reminding me of my time spent escaping Black Mesa.


This is the greatest sewer level in history.

Well it looks awesome anyway. Shame I can't hang around and enjoy the view, as snipers are currently getting into position all around me.


Oh crap, now where do I go? It'd be cool if I was able to figure out this 3D maze in my own time, but I've got a SWAT team right behind me and I'll be pretty vulnerable if they catch me hanging from a ledge when they get here.

It's funny how vibrant and colourful this game looks, when there's usually only one or two colours on screen at a time besides my Runner-vision red. It's nice to find a modern first person game that isn't afraid to use the full range of saturation values.

Alright I really hope I can jump through glass in this, because I need to leap across this gap and I'm pretty sure there's a window in front of me. Well, 90% sure.

I dived through safely but the guys with guns are moving in on the ground floor and I'm not sure where to go next from here. Plus it's a bit tricky to get around and keep my momentum going when I never know if I'm going to smack into an invisible pane of glass.

Oh shit! I guess that bullet from downstairs just proved this was a window. Though it also solved the problem, letting me walk right through instead of wasting precious time punching it.

You assholes, stop making me waste my precious time! I should really try disarming them but to be honest it's been so long since the tutorial that I've forgotten what the button is. Would've been nice to have a handy pop-up reminder at some point, I'm sure my immersion can survive it.


Oh great, I should've known that the only reason that helicopter wasn't shooting at me was because it was dropping more people off to shoot at me.

I ignored them as usual, ran through, and started climbing up the pipes on that wall in the background. It was a brilliant plan, apart from the bit where I left myself an easy target for three corrupt cops with machine guns. I guess I really do have to knock them all out this time. Mandatory violence against superior numbers..


This is for making me pause the game and look up what the disarm button was you asshole.

The window for pulling off a successful disarm move is pretty narrow, but the guards are kind enough at least to hold fire and switch to melee attacks when I run up close to them. Plus it seems that pressing the disarm button the second they go to smack me with their rifle consistently gets the job done, so it's a trick I can repeat consistently once I've practised the timing. 

Well it looks like I'm the one with the rifle now! This is now officially a first person shooter (at least until the bullets run out).

Man look at that guy at the back running towards my crosshair as I open fire on the stairs next to him. He understands the miraculous defensive power of railings. Well I wasn't trying to kill either of them anyway. I'm a courier, not a murderer; I just wanted to make the screenshot look more interesting.

I throw the gun aside, run straight up through their hilariously inaccurate gunfire and disarm them both with a good knee to the jaw each.


It's actually possible to run right up to one of these cops, right into their gunfire, and not take a single hit of damage. Though that'd mean slowing down, so I'm going to try ignoring him this time and accept that I'll probably get shot in the ass a few times. It'll be fine, she heals quickly.

Also with this chapter Mirror's Edge ascends to join games like Half-Life 2, Soldier of Fortune and uh, The World is Not Enough in the elite upper echelon of first person shooters, as it features a train station level with lots of shiny tiled surfaces. Truly an essential prerequisite to be considered for FPS greatness.

Diploma Janitor of the Month
It also gets bonus points for having this on the wall inside the janitor's office. Who is this mysterious monster going around destroying red doors across the city and what sinister scheme could they have in mind?

Of course I can't just walk out of the station like a normal person, as I'd be entirely exposed and immediately cornered. Everyone else in the city apparently decided to stay in bed today so the only crowd around here I could try to blend in with is the one that's shooting at me.

So I'm onto plan b: run down the tracks like a lunatic, dodging oncoming trains as necessary. Actually screw this plan, this is a terrible plan and I've got a better idea.

Oh yeah this is working out a lot better. It's so rare these days that I get to do any train surfing. Though I think I'll turn this off now, before the number of screenshots goes from absurd to ridiculous.

Well you probably won't be too shocked to hear that I really liked Mirror's Edge. So many first person games focus on shooting or sneaking, with very few of them concentrating on negotiating terrain, and it's not hard to guess why. For one thing it seems obvious that first person platforming shouldn't work as the player isn't going to be able to see their character's feet as they run around. How are you suppose to jump on things when you can't see where you're landing? Well the answer seems to be to make a game that's less about precise landings and more about knowing where to leap to and timing the jump correctly, so the player is always reacting to things that they can see from the first person perspective. It's about looking ahead, planning a route, and then chaining together the correct moves needed to negotiate it while sustaining momentum.

On the downside though, the game does force you to stop and fight it out every now and again, you could finish it in 6-7 hours, and the story is a bit... unengaging. Though to be honest I personally don't consider the short game length to be a negative, as it means it doesn't drag on past its welcome and you can always return to earlier levels to beat your best time. I was more than satisfied with what I got, so I have no choice but to give it some badges.


Well I'm done inflicting my point of view upon the internet again for another day. But what do YOU think about Mirror's Edge, or all those words I just wrote about it? Your feedback is welcome.


  1. Great site! A post about Braid might be fun. How does one become a contributor?

    1. Thanks, Braid's a good idea for sure. In fact I half expected to find it on the site already somehow. It's just that kind of game.

      Everyone who's contributed to the site so far has been a friend of mine for years, so that's basically the way to become a contributor I guess. I'm not very good at saying no to a friend's face when it turns out they've written up a few thousand words for me, especially when they're better words than the ones I've been putting down each week.

  2. My sister had a copy on PS3. She made it to Chapter 3 or so before she lost interest. I liked the visual design, so I picked up the PC version, which promptly refused to work with my X360 controller, so I promptly refused to play it.

    From what I saw on the PS3, though, it was a game hamstrung by strange design decisions at various points. It reminded me of Assassin's Creed in that respect - you want to see the potential in the game, but the actual implementation is flawed, often deeply.

    I think Mirror's Edge had more of an impact people would care to admit, though. First person cameras are now more dynamic; the weight of characters more apparent; there is clearer, more defined interaction with the environment... Prior to Mirror's Edge you could run really fast, jump really high, and generally be superhuman. Afterwards... not so much.


Semi-Random Game Box