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PS3 Review: Mirror’s Edge

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In a world whitewashed of freedom of speech, communication, and behavior, underground comms and movements are facilitated by Runners, athletic couriers who leap rooftop to rooftop, skitter up walls, shimmy along narrow ledges, and acrobatically swing from poles to rails to fences to scaffolding.  Their work is critical to undermining oppressive government regimes rife with conspiracy.  You are Faith.  You are a Runner.

Mirror's Edge comes stocked with an excellent and moody soundtrack, unique and stylish dystopian visuals, and first-person flight (as in "flee," not "flying") mechanics that feel fresh, if occasionally clumsy.  It's a bold new world to play around in, but it's not all roses.

It takes a little while to grasp the controls and before you can pull off advanced navigational techniques, you'll definitely fall before learning to fly.  In fact, after playing Altair in Assassin's Creed and the sometimes overly grabby Cole in InFamous, the fussiness of Faith's grabs and jumps can range from learning the importance of momentum to her completely failing to latch onto something right in front of her.  Before long, I'd nicknamed her "dumb b***h" for all the missed grabs and things tried that by all accounts should have worked, but didn't.

The environment is your biggest enemy in the game, offering up complex navigational puzzles that, when your first thought doesn't work at all, can be tricky to figure out.  Sometimes you can hold a button to get pointed in the right direction, though it doesn't always work, and won't imply how exactly to get to where it's pointing you.  Again, sometimes spotty collision recognition can make getting from point A to point B more frustrating than it needs to be.

The storyline involves the murder of a mayoral candidate, and Faith's police officer sister Kate is framed for committing the crime.  Your mission is to get to the bottom of it by tracking down those responsible and clearing her name.

Though the expansive city backdrop looks interesting to explore, despite appearances, you're restricted mainly to a linear path, with occasional slight diversions to find hidden bag collectibles.  And where Assassin's Creed and InFamous often allowed you freedom to approach objectives in different ways, Mirror's Edge basically offers you only the option to fight or flee in a very scripted fashion, with an emphasis on fleeing.  Weapon disarms and a slow motion effect offer some help if you become confrontational, though I always found the disarm timing frustrating and had better luck jump or slide kicking antagonists and finishing a guy off with a punch in the face.  Once he's down, it's easy to grab his weapon and finish off the rest.  However, the first-person shooting controls don't feel nearly as polished or elegant as they should, perhaps deliberately to discourage you from playing that way, and instead sticking to the intended melee and running away formula.

The story and gameplay are engaging and fresh, the ambiance and effects are polished, and the overall experience is worthwhile, especially since hopefully even more polished sequels are expected.  It's not perfect, but worth the ride, more so now that it's dirt cheap.  Your dollar is stretched a bit further by speed run challenges and specific time trial levels, with online leaderboards to keep you trying to shave off another second or two.  Once you get the hang of it, Mirror's Edge is a good ride, and unlike just about anything else out there.

Mirror's Edge is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, Violence. This game can also be found on: PC and Xbox 360.

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About Mark Buckingham