The party EA threw at San Fransisco’s Vessel Lounge was dark, packed, and well-catered, but we didn’t go for the open bar and free sushi. We went to see game footage from three of DICE’s upcoming titles, and while the other two were fairly satisfying to see (and play [link to BF:BC MP]), the highlight of the event was most certainly the in-game demo of Mirror’s Edge.
Never heard of it? Don’t worry, the game’s been a pretty well-kept secret. DICE has been quiet regarding the specifics of the action title, offering little more than a handful of striking screenshots over the previous months and an enigmatic design focus: “change the way that players are able to move in first person.” So the studio that gave us Battlefield is going to change our perception of first person with another shooter, right?
Not quite. Mirror’s Edge has more in common with games like Uncharted and Prince of Persia than with your average shooter. The demo we saw took us through the basics of the game’s extensive platforming mechanics, and one of the first things pointed out to us was the main character’s lack of firearm. Missions orders are barked at you via headset, which shouldn’t blow any minds in this industry, and simple in-game scenes tell the story from the first person.
Only two buttons are needed to move about the rooftops of the City, termed “high” and “low” by the presenter. Pressing the “high” button vaults your character into a jump, while “low” can be paired with a running start to perform a slide. Keeping momentum is key to successful mobility throughout the game, and proper utilization of the “high” and “low” buttons can keep you moving (by, say, rolling after a long jump).
Special platforming items, like ramps, ladders, and narrow pipes, offer additional routes over the City. Items such as these are highlighted in a brilliant red, in stark contrast with the bleached white of the City, and while this color scheme may take any freedom of creative escape from players, it’s not without thought: Faith, the game’s protagonist, has experience in the sky and the developers wish to hand that expertise to the player.
So what is the City and why does it allow its citizens to run rampant on its roof? DICE has taken bits a pieces from our world, its cities and countries, and rolled them into one Brave New World of a town. Information of all kinds is heavily monitored and censored, and so many of its more liberal-minded citizens have resorted to using couriers that work above the law, by moving where it cannot see.
Faith has worked most of her life as one such courier, and while there weren’t many clues as to the game’s overarching plot, one can safely assume she gets caught up in something much bigger than escorting sensitive documents from gantry to skylight. A close friend will probably get caught and/or killed in the fray, Faith will blame herself and go on some super-ninja killing spree using the game’s amazing combat mechanics, and… wait, how do the combat mechanics work?
Honestly? We couldn’t tell much from the demo. Faith spent a lot of time running away from the authorities (and media, oddly enough) and the one instance of combat was incredibly short and deadly, which makes us worried that combat is nothing more than a small number of instant-kill combos initiated by a single button press. The platforming is cool and could very well pull the game above mediocrity, but a lack of combat mechanics could land Mirror’s Edge with too much repetition.
What do we think of Mirror’s Edge? It looks great, and has tons of potential. The ability to platform from the first person intrigues us on a number of levels, but it’s hard to give it a thumbs up with so many pressing questions. We’ll be watching this one closely.
Here are some more screenshots from the game.