EA Games @ NYC '08: Mirror's Edge (Hands-On)
FOREWORD: You may have noticed that we didn't cover any EA game during this past E3. That was all with good reason. You see, EA invited us to their New York City showcase at the W Hotel, and so we chose to save the best for last. At EA's "Holidays in July" event, we were able to go hands-on with all of the games present at E3, in addition to two that weren't.
One of the many games on display here was Mirror's Edge, the first-person run-and-jump game that has piqued the interest of many gamers, especially those who also have an appreciation for free-running. Mirror's Edge stars Faith, a free-runner who's goal as a messenger is to stop the regulation and control of communications that a totalitarian regime has implemented. All but one form of communication is being monitored by the regime, good ol' fashion pen-and-paper messages.
And so, here is Faith, who essentially a messenger with an amazing set of maneuvers. Faith is part of a network of runners whose ultimate goal is to put an end to this monitoring, even if it has created an extremely safe and clean place to live in. You take control of Faith via first-person perspective and traverse throughout each environment, utilizing practically any wall or grabable (sic) object in order to progress.
Jumping from roof-top to roof-top is one of the first tasks you get to familiarize yourself with, as Faith can pull off some serious leaps of...errr...faith. As you jump, you can time your landings perfectly, allowing you to roll-land upon touching down. You'll be able to jump off walls in succession, slide underneath obstacles, and even perform wall-runs; stuff similar to what you've seen in a Jackie Chan flick.
You'll need decent reflexes to perform some of the maneuvers, but nothing that the average gamer doesn't possess. What's superb about the game is that levels, while linear in progression, allow you to take shortcuts by utilizing more advanced maneuvers in order to continue. For example, you can either take the easy way and do a few jumps here and there to reach the top, or attempt to pull off four successive wall-jumps to do it even quicker. These alternate quick paths will be scattered all around the stages, so you'll have to keep your eyes peeled open for them.
As if the game wasn't already addictive enough, here's where it all gets even more interesting. The game even boasts melee combat, on top of featuring weaponry; so don't even try categorizing this title to one genre - it's extremely diverse. Melee allows you to go beyond just hitting, but also disarming opponents, or even drop-kicking them! Furthermore, shooting feels really solid, adding that extra kick to the game, making it more enjoyable.
But combat isn't something you'll want to concentrate too much on. You're goal is to avoid conflict with the police, and relying on firepower is not a good way to get through the game, because there are no ammo packs to pick-up. Now, what I really applaud DICE for doing is creating an image that is virtually guaranteed to prevent motion-sickness. They've spent time researching the causes of motion-sickness in videogames and have made two simple design choices to prevent it: a focal point in the center of the screen, and a super-wide perspective. I must admit, as someone who cannot stomach playing a number of FPS games, I had not one problem with Mirror's Edge.
Mirror's Edge isn't set to hit until November, but the build we played ran extremely smooth. So smooth, in fact, that I don't even remember any framerate issues.
7/31/2008 Arnold Katayev