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Critical Reception: EA DICE's  Mirror's Edge

Critical Reception: EA DICE's Mirror's Edge

November 12, 2008 | By Danny Cowan

November 12, 2008 | By Danny Cowan
More: Console/PC, Columns

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to EA DICE's parkour-inspired action title Mirror's Edge, which reviews describe as "invigorating, infuriating, fulfilling, and confusing."

Mirror's Edge made a strong first impression among the gaming press earlier this year, thanks to its intriguing premise and the quality of initial gameplay footage. Early praise focused on its unique first-person platforming mechanics, immersive gameplay, and bright aesthetic.

Some critics expressed doubt as to whether its mechanics could prove to be interesting enough to last the length of a full game, however, and others wondered if the title's controls would suffer because of its tight first-person focus. The final product releases this week in the United States to a Metacritic-averaged score of 82 out of 100.

Paul Curthoys at OXM Online rates Mirror's Edge at 9.5 out of 10. "The most extraordinary accomplishment of Mirror’s Edge is the way it utterly immerses you in the experience of free-running -- you viscerally feel the thrill of flowing gracefully over rooftops and around obstacles," he explains. "The marvelously designed first-person view makes you feel like you are Faith, the game’s star. And since she’s one mighty badass, this game is a joy to play."

Curthoys claims that Mirror's Edge's setting makes the experience especially appealing. "Set in a totalitarian near-future, Mirror’s Edge imagines a city where oppressive law enforcement means every move is watched and every action judged," he writes. "While most of the population complies like sheep, a renegade organization of runners flits across the rooftops, ducking all that surveillance to deliver private data and packages."

"It’s the perfect framework to hang a parkour game on," Curthoys continues, "and while free running might not seem meaty enough to support an entire game, Mirror’s Edge makes it work beautifully with an inventive blend of platforming, combat, and puzzles."

"Aside from everything else Mirror’s Edge succeeds at, it also has some of the most arresting, original visuals we’ve seen on 360," Curthoys notes. "Its starkly colorful graphics and slick anime cinematics are expressly designed to wire directly into your nerd-joy cortex " and they do. With such raw creativity and built-in speed-run appeal, Mirror’s Edge will transfix you for a long, long time."

Over at Kikizo, reviewer Edwin Evans-Thirlwell gives Mirror's Edge a score of 8.5 out of 10, despite noting that much of the experience recalls the frustration found in many platformers.

"Mirror's Edge brings back a lot of bad memories: sickening, sweat-inducing reminiscences of outstretched fingers scraping air millimetres from a niche, innumerable tumbles into the polygonal abyss," he begins. "Whatever else EA DICE might have tried to achieve with this heavily stylised, starkly-lit jaunt into the realm of urban free running, one objective seems to have been to return players to an age when every save point was dearly attained, every hazard overcome - just - on the fourth or fifth attempt."

Evans-Thirlwell further compares gameplay in Mirror's Edge to a racing title in its execution. "Mirror's Edge sits on the same, checkpoint-to-checkpoint trajectory as Ridge Racer and V-Rally," he says. "If that invisible clock or the satisfaction of swiftly negotiating a perilous rooftop isn't incentive enough to put pedal to metal, there are usually a large number of armed police nipping at your heels."

"Given these two genre precedents," he continues, "the game's nearest forebear is probably Sonic the Hedgehog - likewise a trial-and-error driven platforming experience, in love with the ticking timer."

Mirror's Edge falters slightly in its control scheme, which Evans-Thirlwell describes as intuitive but inconsistent. "Movement and viewpoint are mapped to the left and right sticks, left trigger crouches, and right trigger throws out a range of melee moves should the forces of oppression catch up with you," he describes. "There's a bit of an issue with jumping and wall-running, alas: both are mapped to left bumper - tap to jump, hold near a wall to run along it - and the game isn't always spot on when it comes to differentiating the two."

Despite these frustrations, however, Evans-Thirlwell feels that the title is worth the patience required. "Mirror's Edge is in many ways an anachronism, a punishing homage to arcade principles which will, we're afraid to say, probably deter as many players as it compels," he concludes. "Bow to its intimidating initial demands, however, and you'll discover a pearl of an action-adventure. If EA can continue wheeling out original IPs of this calibre, the future's bright indeed."

GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd scores Mirror's Edge at 7 out of 10. "Like its heroine, Faith, Mirror's Edge tries to hurdle some significant obstacles," he begins, "but unlike Faith, it can't always make the leap."

VanOrd likens the experience to past platformers. "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," he notes. "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," VanOrd warns, "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."

The result is a game that feels satisfying at points and frustrating at others. "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," VanOrd admits. "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."

VanOrd also notes issues with loading times and unsatisfying gunplay, but ultimately finds the experience worthwhile. "Mirror's Edge is many things: invigorating, infuriating, fulfilling, and confusing," he writes. "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."

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