[Eddie] Welcome to the second installment of TGR’s second Textcast feature, where Jeffrey I-honestly-forgot-his-last-name-and-I-apologize, and myself, Eddie I-can’t-type-to-save-my-life, will be discussing the recently released Mirror’s Edge from EA’s DICE studio
[Jeffrey] So, Mirror’s Edge… what the hell?
[Eddie] Ha! Are you referring to the title, or the entire game?
[Eddie] What are your impressions after playing through?
[Jeffrey] Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the game or anything, but it reminded me of Assassin’s Creed. Not so much because of the parkour, but because I felt like it was among this year’s greatest missed opportunities. See, I loved the look of the game. The environments looked fantastic, but there’s no explanation as to why this world looks the way it does. Why is it so empty? Did a virus kill almost everyone off? Why is it so clean? Are robots cleaning up after everyone? What’s with all the facial tattoos? Basically, all we know of the world the game takes place in is that it’s illegal to run (though it’s perfectly legal to walk briskly with an assault rifle). The aesthetic hinted at a far more interesting setting than the narrative was able to deliver.
[Eddie] Well, we have a city that was apparently an average place sometime in the past, but under this new political regime, had been changed into a sterile and heavily controlled society. It’s true that the background explanation is sparsely detailed, but I feel that leaving the details to be inferred work just fine for what the game aims to do. The characters and their feelings toward the government and new order also help to explain the situation.
[Jeffrey] They never really go into detail. It’s hardly any more established than that 1984 Apple commercial. I actually like games that have a minimalist plot, like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. But here it just felt at odds with the game, like it never really gelled to create a cohesive environment. Granted, I know story isn’t that important to this game, but as someone who really appreciates a good story in games, and who really liked the aesthetic, I was disappointed that the game fell flat on this level (for me anyway).
[Eddie] I can understand that. It makes you feel a bit lost, but again, I think that works in a positive way for the player.
[Jeffrey] How so?
[Eddie] Well, because this is a game that centers around the solo runner, Faith. Yes, she has her "team," but when she is out there at work, she is all alone, and the empty environment and utter lack of human activity makes that feeling all the more palpable. Doing all of this running from place to place, you are almost in a void–something that’s left after losing the familiarity of the old ways.
…which we know nothing about, haha.
[Jeffrey] Oh, I agree. I almost always prefer games where you go on your quest solo. I thought you meant feeling lost as in not really understanding the plot
[Eddie] Nah, I meant lost in the world, like a little kid in a department store. But then again, a little kid in a dept. store can have lots of fun running around and jumping all over stuff.
[Jeffrey] Yeah, I did like that feeling of isolation. It reminded me a bit of 28 Days Later or I Am Legend
[Eddie] Oh yeah, it WAS kinda like I Am Legend…I mean, minus the whole crazy zombie thing.
[Jeffrey] Perhaps that’s why I wanted the story to be fleshed out more. I think adding more people would have made it feel too common. I liked the otherworldy feeling it created (especially how the interior environments were all white, plus one color) and wanted to understand more about the place. The story that is there is pretty bog standard stuff, but I realize I’m focusing on this one thing way too much and it’s hardly the focus of the game.
[Eddie] I guess you could go through much of the game without even knowing why you were going where, if you didn’t pay attention, and it wouldn’t really feel like you missed much.
[Jeffrey] Yeah. I mean i paid attention to the narrative, but it never engaged me and felt somewhat divorced from the gameplay.
[Eddie] The gameplay itself, though. THAT was good stuff, no? I fell in love with the mechanics. Everything felt so fluid as I ran through the world.
[Jeffrey] I was all over the place with it. I’m a huge fan of platformer/puzzle games (like Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider, for example) and I had to admit that I had my doubts about doing that kind of platforming from a first-person perspective…
[Eddie] As did I.
[Jeffrey] …but after playing the demo, I too, fell in love with the controls. But then I felt like the game wasn’t designed around them as well as it could have been.
[Eddie] How do you mean?
[Jeffrey] For example, when you’re going really fast and being chased by something, it felt a bit like a first-person Sonic and was exhilarating. And when it slowed down, so you had to strategically examine your environment to figure out where to go next, it felt like PoP or Tomb Raider, which I liked as well. My gripe with the game was that the combat really hurt the flow of the game, and there was entirely too much of it. I felt like I was dying more often from bullets than falls. And since combat isn’t really the focus of the game, that felt cheap.
[Eddie] I found that the combat was the biggest obstacle as I played, as well, but I went through without killing any guards. When I went back into hard mode and busted out the guns, combat wasn’t much of a stumbling block.
[Jeffrey] Haha, I tried that as well for about two-thrids of the game. But then there’s a cutscene where Faith quite literally explodes some guards, which completely shattered her image as a non-violent person for me.
[Jeffrey] I was already getting frustrated with the combat, so around that point, I just said screw it, and busted out the guns.
[Eddie] Then did it feel better? Did the flow change?
[Jeffrey] Yes, actually. I liked the game a lot more once I went in all guns blazing. But I still say it ruined the pace more than it should have. And did it ever strike you as odd that Faith is trying to rescue her cop sister, yet never has a problem killing other cops?
[Eddie] I think Faith did what she had to in order to not be killed, herself, but I found it odd that her sister was a cop at all. They were obviously separated as children, because Faith never mentioned her sister in her description of how she met Merc and became a runner.
[Jeffrey] Yeah, they never really went into that, and it bothered me. I didn’t know how runners and cops got along. They never even really bring up the fact that they’re on opposite sides of the law, so I wondered if they were in cahoots or something–like if the police used runners.
[Jeffrey] I think combat in a game like this needs to be used sparingly, just to punch up the action, like the chase scenes. But the parts where you’re merely trying to figure out where to go and you need go past guards, I found to be endlessly frustrating.
[Eddie] I’m not sure I know which parts you mean.
[Jeffrey] Well if the police ambush you in one direction and you’re running away from them, that can be fun, but in a lot of parts they show up in front of you and you need to take them out in order to move on.
[Eddie] Right…and those parts were the frustrating ones?
[Eddie] I see. When I played, I found myself whizzing past them as much as I could, maybe punching someone in the balls and then taking off again. I would disarm a few, throw their guns to the ground, and keep moving. I tried not to linger.
[Jeffrey] I tried that, but it only worked for the first few levels for me. Maybe I just sucked at the combat, but those guys would put me down like that.
[Eddie] Then there were some occasions where all of the guards had to be dispatched to advance. In those cases, I isolated them.
[Jeffrey] Yeah, that’s what I did, too.
[Eddie] I enjoyed the urgency I felt throughout the entire game, and the combat added to it. Bullets could put you down fast, so you had to be on your toes. I appreciated that, and acted accordingly.
[Jeffrey] The combat is hard, I’ll give it that. I guess my main problem with the combat is that it’s so much harder than the rest of the game (I played on normal, btw), and all too frequent. I found myself groaning after a while when I’d see that I’d have to fight past another wave of guards. I did like the parts where they mixed things up a bit, though. Like where you need to take cover from snipers.
[Eddie] I can understand that, but without the guards, why are you running?
[Jeffrey] I dunno. because you’re a RUNNER
[Eddie] Haha, I mean what are you running from? My point being that the guards compel you to act. And I liked the sniper part, too…and the trains.
[Jeffrey] Like I was saying earlier, I had no problem running away from guards chasing me. but I found it frustrating getting shot at so much while trying to figure out where to go. As funny as it may sound, I think I would have preferred zombies to guards.
[Eddie] Zombies would have definitely worked, but they would need to be on speed to make it fun.
[Jeffrey] Seriously. Since you’re a runner and hardly ever (if ever) use projectile weapons, it seems ill-fitting to give your opponent long range weapons. If you were running away from enemies who only had melee attacks, but would dash after you, that would have evened the playing field out a bit.
[Eddie] It probably would have been really intense, too. Think about running to avoid being grappled and eaten, as opposed to dodging bullets.
[Jeffrey] Yes. It would have been equally difficult, but would have felt more fair. Why wasn’t this game made?
[Eddie] Haha, Mirror’s Edge 2…when the government’s secret experiment spills into the city…
[Jeffrey] …and the cops all go to the runners for help. Like the vampires going to the vampire hunters for help in Blade 2.
[Eddie] …wait…what could the runners do? Kick them to death?
[Jeffrey] Run…and hop. They could, um, send out information about how to stop the zombies.
[Eddie] It could work.
[Jeffrey] But we’re getting off the point, I’m just saying that quick-moving enemies without guns would have complimented this idea of scurrying around even better.
[Eddie] The overall message I’m getting from this Textcast is that Mirror’s Edge can strike people in a few ways. I hear what you’re saying about avoiding guards while trying to navigate being frustrating, but to me, that was fun.
[Jeffrey] Yeah, if that part doesn’t bother you, then that’ll add to your enjoyment of the game a lot.
[Eddie] It got my blood pumping, haha.
[Jeffrey] There you go with the zombies again.
[Eddie] And how about the game’s race mode–time trials and such–were you into that?
[Jeffrey] Not really, though I’m sure people who go for that sort of thing would really appreciate it. I’ve just never been a fan of time trials in my platformers. They’re fun to watch though. Did you try them?
[Eddie] I did try them, even though I’m usually not much of a time trial guy, myself. I got hooked.
[Jeffrey] How was it?
[Eddie] The areas were designed so that you could navigate in a number of ways, and it felt great to figure out ways to reach the goal beacons faster each time.
[Jeffrey] Really? I think running fast is fun, but what happens when the guards kill you? Doesn’t it take off a big chunk of time?
[Eddie] The time trials have no enemies (that’s the place for you).
[Jeffrey] How do the checkpoints work? Do you have to do whole levels, or can you do bite-sized chunks?
[Eddie] Well, let’s be clear: there are speedruns of the game’s chapters, which are pretty much identical to the story mode, and then there are these areas where you run from marker to marker scattered across the rooftops. That was the more fun part; speedruns were…speedruns.
[Jeffrey] I’m going to have to give those Time Trials a try.
[Eddie] Yeah, it sounds like you might enjoy that part more.
[Jeffrey] So would you say you enjoyed the time trials more than the story mode?
[Eddie] No, the Time Trials were fun and addicting, but couldn’t beat the rush of the chases.
[Jeffrey] Yeah. I’m usually not a fan of bonus modes that remove context from my actions.
[Eddie] …just the fights.
[Eddie] You know, I’d be curious to ask members of DICE about the general background and possible meaning of this game. You say there was little to the story, but I felt like there was much to be interpreted from the game in its entirety. I wonder if they had messages in mind. After all, the game is about a messenger.
[Jeffrey] I bet it had something to do with parkour, perhaps. I wished it was deeper than that, but I feel after playing the whole game that the story was just an afterthought. Maybe they did have more in mind and just weren’t able to convey it very well. I’d be very curious about their inspirations as well.
[Eddie] Sounds like it’s interview time. Otherwise, I think we’ve covered most of the content
[Jeffrey] It is an insprational game though, despite its flaws
[Eddie] Definitely. A bold move.
[Jeffrey] So I know you wrote the review, but here, for the Textcast, give us your final thoughts and why you scored it the way you did.
[Eddie] Well, I felt that the game delivered on the potential of a new and innovative design concept, and used the setting as what I guess would be a somewhat mysterious canvas on which the player could perform their art. Faith’s maneuvers felt very smooth to me, and I felt one with her throughout the game, despite slight imbalance between platforming and shooting. The overall feeling from the game world fit the parkour theme for me–running hard and fast and in the most efficient way you could figure out in a limited amount of time…with people shooting at you. It was just a lot of fun…and impressive.
But the flip side to that is…
[Jeffrey] I know i come across as being hard on the game, but I didn’t especially hate it. I just thought it was a mixed bag in every respect. It had a really unique look, but the story felt shallow and contrived. The first-person parkour was wonderful much of the time, but the combat got in the way all too often. Almost every area felt more or less the same with only a few standout set pieces. It ultimately felt like a demo of a much better game that could be made. Now Mirror’s Edge 2: Day of the Zombie could be a masterpiece.
[Eddie] Haha, well I hope they make it.
[Jeffrey] Also, Joe just showed up. He needs to work on his free-running.
[Eddie] Sucks to be him, ’cause this is a WRAP.