I picked up Mirror's Edge in the recent Steam sales (along with far too many other games, which saw off a little more money than I'd hoped). I didn't get it with any of my own expectations, only the knowledge that people had told me it was a must buy. Unfortunately the game left me wondering what had deluded these people into thinking something like that.
If you care about the story not being spoiled you may want to avert your eyes. The game starts with you being plonked down on a roof somewhere in some city where the graphical bloom goes up to 11 and stays there at all times. You're taught your repertoire of jumping and fighting techniques in one go, god forbid you should forget them, and then launched into the game. The story is set in your regulation future dystopia, where the police are evil, the government are evil and concrete blocks are extremely springy. You're not really given too much motivation to hate the government; you just take the game's word for it and set about acting like a royal prick with a poorly explained briefcase fetish.
Sadly, the game play doesn't even come close to making up for the plot. There is one route, and only one route, and any deviation from it will result in crunchy death as you faceplant into the pavement. Most of the time this route is helpfully painted red, but the game occasionally decides you're more competent than that and lets you decide what to do. Don't be fooled though, there's one path, and any attempt at creativity will be duly rewarded with death.
Linearity aside, the game still manages to produce an unnecessarily frustrating experience. Every time you grab an object or ledge, you’re treated to a face full of concrete and have to stop and move the camera around, breaking the flow of the game. This, teamed up with the loss of momentum every time you jump over anything higher than a cinder block, caused a steady feeling of rage which didn’t really subside at any point in the game.
The lack of choice in paths reared its ugly head more than once during the game, but one incident stuck out more than the others. In a section in chapter 7 the character is running on top of some ventilation shafts and some pipes are highlighted red on the other side of the room. I spent a good half hour wall running along the wall that headed directly to them, only to be left disappointed at the game’s edge detection and plummeting to an inevitable death. It turned out that I was meant to run along a wall parallel to what I was aiming at and make possibly the most hilarious jump ever to reach the bars.
The edge detection was a constant annoyance. At times it seemed like the protagonist simply wasn’t trying, but as soon as a bit of concrete turned red it may as well have been a fucking spring board. The net result is that you only go where the game wants you to go, no matter what incredible leap that may involve. Occasionally it will even help you when you don’t jump far enough, and you’ll end up performing a mid air vault for a pipe or ledge.
Overall, I’m confounded as to why people recommended this game so highly. While it’s a nice concept, it’s totally marred by a lack of polish (no, not bloom, there’s enough of that) in the execution. Bring on the release of Assassin’s Creed II on a real platform.