Thanks to three Best Buy gift cards, I was able to buy three games: the Game of the Year Edition of Oblivion, the Enhanced Edition of The Witcher, and Mirror’s Edge. I started with Mirror’s Edge. The sense of movement is incredible – the way you can run across rooftops, vault fences, slide under pipes, and roll after a fall are amazingly believable and well-realized. This is clear even as the GeForce 6800 in my weaker rig struggles to run the game. The concept is an amazing one. That said, the controls, while usually responsive, sometimes feel inconsistent. For instance, the roll move after a long fall is executed by holding the low movement key when you’re about to hit the ground. It took me many, many frustrating times in the tutorial to pull off this move, and when I did, it didn’t seem like my input had changed at all. Even after completing the game I can’t manage to pull it off all the time. I found some of the puzzles difficult to finish because I could not get my character to perform the correct moves. My first thought was that the strange control scheme was due to the game being designed for consoles, where buttons are limited, but upon reflection it seems they are oversimplified. There’s a jump button, a lower action button, a rarely used walk button, WSAD for movement, mouse for looking around, and mouse buttons for combat. That’s it. This makes the game figure out what you want to do, whereas I might prefer dedicated buttons. Although this abstract control scheme has its benefits, it can be frustrating if the game does not correctly interpret your intent.
From a higher-level standpoint, while I understand that DICE are telling a story, I felt they often let it get in the way of the amazing freerunning concept. The story itself is not very well defined, with a vague to nonexistent background. I didn’t care about the characters much, to the extent that when things happened to them, I either didn’t feel much of anything or just laughed at the story’s absurdity. (To be fair, I only laughed once, and that was a misunderstanding on my part.) I was many times forced into loosely story-related combat situations where I had to either perform disarming quicktime events, (which are especially frustrating with some of the tougher units later on) melee people, or attempt to find my objective under fire. While health regenerates, much like Portal, it seems like you can only take two shots before going down. This really breaks the flow of things as you are forced to either run into the line of fire, and thus risk a quick death, or cautiously dart between bits of cover. To be fair, the sequences where I had to avoid sniper fire were fun, but having to face five or so armed guards in a room wasn’t so great. You cannot save at will, and instead must depend on checkpoints. This leads you to replay entire sequences instead of starting from a point where you might have saved if you could. It makes me appreciate the Source engine even more. I now understand why Valve does not generally have someone on a radio in your ear, and instead might give a few directions and step back. The tech on the radio talks rather frequently, sometimes with helpful information, sometimes pointing out the obvious, and other times nagging if you don’t solve a puzzle fast enough.
It seems whenever it gets frustrating, I find something awesome and forget about the problems until they once again surface. The concept is amazing. Although oversimplified controls and frustrating combat get in the way, and can be pretty aggravating, in the end it’s still worth it for the running.
I should mention that the music is nice, too.
EDIT: Unfortunately, now that I’ve started the time trial portion of the game, I’m finding the control scheme to be much more of a problem.