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Bennu Reflects on "Mirror's Edge"

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Bennu is a 28-year-old writer, gamer and philosopher from sunny Queensland, Australia.

The title logo for "Mirror's Edge".

The title logo for "Mirror's Edge".

In much a similar fashion as my original article on Final Fantasy VII, Mirror's Edge is a game that holds a special place in my heart. It was early 2009 when I first got my hands on a PlayStation 3. I had a job at the local cinema at the time and I had been saving up money to buy a laptop for university. However, through some convoluted twist of personal fate, circumstances changed and I had some leftover funds to get a PlayStation 3.

I remember at the time that there was a special promotional deal at my local store; a PlayStation 3 with a copy of Assassin's Creed for about $500. As I was browsing through some other games on the shelf, I stumbled across some I was interested in; Grand Theft Auto IV was an automatic purchase for me given my recent exploration of the series. However, there was another game on the shelf that I had never seen before. This was my first introduction to Mirror's Edge. At the time, the price for the game had been reduced a bit; which, combined with its appealing artwork and explanation on the blurb, convinced me to buy it and try it out.

I've never really been much of an EA fan. That being said, however, I did take a chance on an EA-published game back then; and I'm glad that I did. The Mirror's Edge series is arguably EA's best diamond in the rough when it comes to the gaming juggernaut's massive catalogue of games. It's certainly a bit of a niche series, to be sure, but it does have the potential to garner some serious mass appeal if handled correctly.

Although, to be fair, I do rather enjoy its status as a semi-niche game. It feels appropriate given its story lore about a group of outcasts hiding just out of sight in a sprawling metropolis. Us fans are the outcasts holed up and celebrating the series just out of sight of the sprawling marketplace that is the AAA and indie game sphere.

Celeste, one of the supporting characters in the game, assists Faith in learning the basics of combat.

Celeste, one of the supporting characters in the game, assists Faith in learning the basics of combat.

Briefing

The first entry in the series, Mirror's Edge, was developed by Swedish game studio DICE (known formally as Digital Illusions CE) and published by Electronic Arts in November 2008. Despite its middling financial success, Mirror's Edge was a well-designed game. It wasn't without some mild glitches and flaws at times but it was, for the most part, a solidly constructed and highly enjoyable experience.

The gameplay aspect of Mirror's Edge has to be commended. I've never played a first-person game which made my adrenaline race as much as what this game did on my first playthrough. Even today, all these years later, I still have brief moments like that whenever I revisit the game. The opening demo, the prologue chapter introduction, the crane ascension segment in the game's third chapter; all of these scenes are particular moments in which I found myself caught up in the moment and reflect on these breathtaking scenes.

For someone who has an avid fear of heights, it does seem quite contradictory to love a series that constantly deals with making death-defying jumps on a regular basis. That's the beauty of video games. They allow you to explore your dreams and conquer your fears without real-life repercussions.

Runner bags are a form of collectible available throughout the game. There are a total of thirty bags to collect.

Runner bags are a form of collectible available throughout the game. There are a total of thirty bags to collect.

Character Analysis

Faith Connors

Mirror's Edge has a fairly interesting cast of characters. The main protagonist, Faith Connors, is a 24-year-old Runner who makes a living by acting as a courier of sorts amongst the city's underground. She delivers valuable items considered contraband or illegal by the city's totalitarian government.

Faith is very much a self-assured, confident woman who can also be somewhat reckless due to the occasional death-defying risks that she takes. That being said, she harbours a lot of love for her sister, Kate, and goes out of her way to try to prove her sister's innocence by any means necessary.

Kate Connors

Kate Connors, Faith's sister, is a City Protection Force cop; essentially an antithesis of Faith and what she stands for. Despite their differences on opposite sides of the law, Kate and Faith both have a deep and mutual love and respect for one another.

Kate is depicted as a by-the-book, straight-edge kind of cop given the limited amount of screen time we have with her. However, due to circumstances beyond her control, she finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy that seems set to ruin her career within the police force. This sets up the main events of the game in which Faith will have to help Kate clear her name.

Faith encounters her sister Kate Connors during the first chapter of the game.

Faith encounters her sister Kate Connors during the first chapter of the game.

Lieutenant Miller

Lieutenant Miller, Kate's superior officer, is another character who operates very much by-the-book on the City Protection Force. That being said, however, he does reveal a bit of an enigmatic personality over the course of the game which makes Faith understandably cautious of him. Out of most of the cast, he feels very much like the 'wild card' character that you can't quite place where his true allegiances lie. He's an enthralling character in my eyes and it's a shame that there isn't more time to explore his goals and motivations.

Travis 'Ropeburn' Burfield

During our investigation, we encounter a hulk of a man by the name of Travis Burfield who quickly becomes a suspect. Burfield, who is a former ex-wrestler by the name of 'Ropeburn', just oozes a sleazy personality when you first encounter him. It seems apparent early on that he's not a good person and is quickly set up as an antagonist of sorts during the first few chapters. I can't really elaborate any further than that without venturing into spoiler territory so that's all I can say about him for now. He's certainly an intimidating presence to be sure.

Jacknife

Jacknife, the man who leads us on the path to Ropeburn, is an even more enigmatic character than Lieutenant Miller. He's an interesting mix of both Miller and Ropeburn in that he feels like a 'wild card' character but is also a bit of a slime-ball. Unlike Miller, Jacknife is not portrayed as a man of integrity and would seem like the type of person to sell out his friends if it meant benefiting himself. However, he's also a good source of information for Faith and sets her on the right path during the investigation. It also seems implied that Jacknife and Faith have some degree of history with each other given some select dialogue the two characters share. It's never explored beyond that point but it's interesting to note nonetheless.

Faith encounters the ex-wrestler known as 'Ropeburn'. This scene showcases a sample of the game's real-time combat system.

Faith encounters the ex-wrestler known as 'Ropeburn'. This scene showcases a sample of the game's real-time combat system.

Mercury

Mercury is a former Runner and acts as a father figure of sorts to Faith over the course of the game. As a supporting character, he's given the most dialogue out of the rest of the cast as he constantly updates Faith on events via comms. He's one of the most well-rounded characters out of the cast and easily integrates himself into the natural flow of the game.

Celeste

Celeste is another Runner and a good friend of Faith's who is given some significant screen time as well over the course of the game. She seems more introverted than the rest of the cast but is always quick to help out Faith and Mercury when needed. In fact, she's the one who helps train Faith during the tutorial segment by teaching the player the basics of free-running, jumping and fighting. She's one of the more interesting characters out of the bunch and is given a fair amount of screen time to boot.

Faith explores an area inside of 'The Boat' chapter. Note the vibrant green colouration, a staple of this particular level.

Faith explores an area inside of 'The Boat' chapter. Note the vibrant green colouration, a staple of this particular level.

Narrative Reflection

In regards to the narrative of Mirror's Edge, it's solid but not quite as in-depth as I was hoping it would be. There's dialogue during chapters and demos between each chapter, but the game is noticeably short compared to other modern games.

Mirror's Edge consists of nine story chapters, with a brief tutorial segment and a short prologue chapter. Each of the game's chapters is designed with a different environmental layout in mind and usually accommodates a certain over-saturated colouration aesthetic as well. The colour red is used frequently throughout the whole game to show players where to go but each chapter mixes in different colours as well to make locations more memorable.

For example, a later chapter in the game known as 'The Boat' uses green as its primary colour throughout the majority of the level. So, whenever I think back to the level in Mirror's Edge I'm more inclined to think of 'The Boat' chapter as the green level if someone mentions it in conversation. Mind you, some chapters re-use certain colour combinations as well in smaller portions; but there does seem to be a consistent scheme running through particular levels aside from the guiding red and contrasting white.

The decision to use animated scenes for the game's demos was an interesting one. I personally don't have much of an issue with it as it helps break up the realistic-looking gameplay with a more stylistic narrative. The demos look well-produced with an interesting mix of Western-style cartoon and a slight Eastern-style anime aesthetic. That being said, I know a lot of people had differing opinions on the presentation of the game's demos which is a point of contention that should be raised. For the record though, I quite liked them.

Mirror's Edge utilises a form of stylized animation for its demo scenes that take place in between chapters. This decision received mixed reception from gamers and critics alike.

Mirror's Edge utilises a form of stylized animation for its demo scenes that take place in between chapters. This decision received mixed reception from gamers and critics alike.

Gameplay Reflection

In regards to the gameplay, Mirror's Edge shines brilliantly with its incorporation of fluid free-running and plat-forming mechanics. The game lets you climb, wall-climb, wall-run, swing, slide down poles and angled surfaces, coil your legs over low obstacles and break your fall using a skill roll. There are a number of trophies associated with performing specific move combinations in quick succession for the trophy hunters out there as well. The game chapters are all re-playable with additional features unlocked after your first playthrough of the game.

First of all, the game allows players to replay the story chapters with an additional speedrun challenge. The game assigns a certain time limit in which players need to finish the related story chapter before reaching that time in order to pass. These add a new layer of depth and strategy in order to find the fastest route through each chapter.

Secondly, the game introduces a total of thirty-three time trials that unlock progressively over the course of the player's first playthrough of the game. Ten of these time trials are part of an expansion pack that has to be purchased separately. The time trials are more focused and clustered segments in which players need to complete a section of a level within the assigned time limit.

These are arguably harder as they are much shorter and therefore less forgiving in terms of time. Each time trial has a ranking system ranging from one to three stars, with three being the best. There are several trophies associated with reaching a certain star level, which entices players to take on the time trial challenge. The maximum number of stars one can obtain in the game with the expansion pack is ninety-nine stars, with three stars obtained on each of the thirty-three trials. It's certainly not an easy challenge, but it's definitely a rewarding one.

Faith using a sniper rifle during a particular story mission. This is the game's sole scenario in which using a weapon is required to continue the story.

Faith using a sniper rifle during a particular story mission. This is the game's sole scenario in which using a weapon is required to continue the story.

Music Reflection

Finally, the Mirror's Edge soundtrack is fantastic. Composed by Swedish artist Solar Fields, Mirror's Edge is filled with a veritable ballad of ambient tracks that supplement the atmosphere of the game well. Of particular note are the tracks Ropeburn - Cutscene Ambience and The Boat - Chase.

The Ropeburn - Cutscene Ambience track captures a sense of confrontation as we prepare to face off against our suspect. It feels tense but also exhilarating as we prepare to face the unknown. In a somewhat similar vein, 'The Boat - Chase' is a very upbeat and intense tune that is perfect for a run. Fitting its title well, the track manages to convey a sense of urgency while also motivating the listener to pursue their intended goal. Both of these tracks help in capturing the adrenaline-inducing sensation that Mirror's Edge provides for its audience.

The Mirror's Edge expansion pack, Pure Time Trials, adds ten additional time trial levels to the game. These trials are more abstract in nature with brand new layouts and designs.

The Mirror's Edge expansion pack, Pure Time Trials, adds ten additional time trial levels to the game. These trials are more abstract in nature with brand new layouts and designs.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Mirror's Edge is a fun and unique little game that has captured the hearts of its niche audience. It combines great game-play elements with a vibrant colour aesthetic that contrasts the harsh whiteness of the city it's set in. The story is solid with an interesting demo style; although it is disappointing that some characters didn't get more development. Additionally, the game's short narrative length is disappointing. However, this is supplemented by the myriad of speedrun and time trial challenges that help pad out the game's length as a whole.

Mirror's Edge focuses more so on its free-running and platforming elements than it's narrative and combat mechanics. This is a point of conjecture among many people but in my opinion, doesn't really dampen the overall experience of the game. What Mirror's Edge focuses on it does very well.

On a personal note, I'm proud to have Mirror's Edge back in my trophy cabinet on my new account after all this time. For an EA-published game, it's certainly one of their better titles.

Rating: 8 / 10

© 2019 Bennu