Mirror’s Edge was probably one of the more argued over console releases of 2008 thanks to its simplistic gameplay and origins at EA, and we know we spent ages discussing if two-button gameplay could really work or if EA really had turned over a new leaf.
To put it bluntly, the mysterious and lengthy delays for the PC version didn’t help either. Rumours abounded that Electronic Arts was simply trying to give the console versions a sales lead for fear of PC piracy and, for all we know, they may have been correct.
Now though we can shove all that aside and be content in the knowledge that Mirror’s Edge has finally jumped, dived and rolled on to the PC with the level of flair and grace that you’d expect from a parkour practitioner.
Parkour itself is never explicitly mentioned, but no matter how obliquely the characters refer to it, that’s what the game is all about right down to the core. Running, leaping, diving and rolling – anything you can to get through the city quickly.
The eponymous City is the backdrop for all Mirror’s Edge’s action and free-runnery and, like The City in the Thief series, is apparently endless and ruled by complex, unseen and bureaucratic forces that have made life difficult for those on the fringes of normal society. While in Thief the populous was controlled by scripture, steel and secret knowledge the government in Mirror’s Edge relies on CCTV and constant surveillance.
Not everybody wants to be regulated by this omniscient pseudo-democracy though and it’s here that you, the player, step in; as a for-hire courier of unregulated information and items. If someone wants to get some documents across town without raising eyebrows then they come to you; Faith.
As a runner you’re used to living on the edge and playing loose with the normal rules of society and gravity; darting across the unwatched rooftops and pouncing from one skyscraper to another is your bread and butter. Suddenly though, when your only surviving family is framed for murder then you find you’re teetering uncomfortably close to the edge…and in danger of losing your balance.
All this sounds pretty well and good then and while the actual personal plot of Mirror’s Edge is a bit weak (it’s obvious who the bad guys are from the start and the relationship between certain characters feels very forced) the broad strokes are actually very well done. The characters may feel shallow and disinterested, but the world as a whole is both believable and beguiling.
A lot of the story in Mirror’s Edge is cunningly told through this world too and the visual clues that litter it. The glaring white buildings and starkly covered insides that are rippled with red and green are a gentle nod to the unseen people that must populate the city – calm and content on the outside, but silently furious for how their freedoms have been stripped from them.
What’s especially clever though is that this graphical style doesn’t just allude to unspoken portions of the plot, but actually have a useful function for the player. As you run through the levels and those white walls fade into red, highlighting the path you should follow, it’s as not just a way of guiding the player, but of making you feel rebellious. Wall-running over those colours that have been suppressed by the government puts you more closely in touch with those feelings of bottled anger and frustration.
The difference between you and the usual citizens of the city though is that for you that anger doesn’t have to stay bottled.