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Friday, November 21, 2008

Player's Club: Mirror's Edge reviewed

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2008 at 3:43 PM

Mirror's Edge

Rated T for Teen

Released Nov. 12

Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Developed by Digital Illusions CE

Published by Electronic Arts

Some video game players aren’t especially into violence. Not every gamer is dying to play through graphic recreations of historical and modern warfare. Sometimes there’s a limit to how many aliens, Nazis, and zombies many one can willingly perforate any given day, much less alien Nazi zombies. The industry needs more high-quality nonviolent games, or even just less realistically violent games. But as awesome as Super Mario Galaxy, Animal Crossing, and Viva Piñata are, an adult can't survive entirely on child-friendly games. So thank the maker for EA’s new first-person parkour action-adventure Mirror’s Edge, as now gamers can experience some fast-paced action-packed thrills without either exploding heads or feeling like a 10 year old.

Mirror’s Edge isn’t entirely nonviolent. There are bad guys to punch, and guns to fire, but the game discourages combat, in part by making it difficult to fight or aim precisely. It prioritizes running past and jumping over assailants while stringing together fluid combos of sweet freestyle walking moves. It’s nothing like a Tony Hawk or fighting game, but if you love games that rely on similar combo chains, you'll probably dig Mirror’s Edge. The lumbering he-men of Gears of War 2 are dinosaurs compared to Edge’s protagonist, a lithe young female named Faith. She treats rooftops and office plazas as obstacle courses to rush and somersault through as quickly as possible. It’s a game of physics and velocity, and the designers did a tremendous job of making both factors palpable. Faith’s constant sprinting and leaping are as watching a first-person perspective film of a rollercoaster.

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Faith runs a lot because she’s stuck in some oppressive totalitarian city of the future where true freedom is as much of a façade as the perfectly clean buildings and streets. Faith’s city is immaculate but soulless, full of sleek and sterile urban environments that look like civic engineering via Ikea. Visually, the setting's one of the game’s greatest strengths, but it's slightly uninspired from a story standpoint — another in a long line of nefarious video-game governments secretly subjugating freedom.

The Bush-era civil liberties paranoia would have greater resonance if the setting was more firmly established. The anonymous cityscape is universal, true, and provides countless opportunities for some insane parkour moves, but it’s also so generic that it distances players from the story's political aspect. Yeah, it’s a stand-in for any city, but it doesn’t feel like any real city. There are no crowds, few passers-by, and no visible parks or landmarks anywhere. Granted the whole totalitarianism thing might explain that, but you’d think there’d at least be people living there and occasional signs of how the city used to be when it was still vibrant.

Despite such minor complaints, Mirror’s Edge is a thoroughly satisfying game, and one of the year's best. The storyline might not be as inspired as the game play, but the overall package is an interesting and startlingly visceral experience that looks and plays like nothing else out there.

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