Based on the demo, Mirror’s Edge is one of those games that I really want to love, but in the end just end up respecting from a discrete distance.
As a milestone in the game industry’s development, it’s a great game. The visuals are refreshing, and the premise of a first-person game where the aim is not to have to shoot people is a welcome change. Technically, the impression of embodying a character who leaps and jumps and rebounds from every feasible urban surface is well realised, to the extent that when you’re hanging from a ledge and want to look around, you can see yourself let go with one hand in order to do so.
However, the choice of view also has some problems. Since in terms of mechanics this is mainly a platform game concentrating on finding and exploiting escape routes, I found the first-person view very restricting, because it cuts out all peripheral vision, when in practice being able to see what’s to either side of you, and above and below you quickly is absolutely paramount. I think if I was on a PC I might have found it less restricting, because I could use a mouse flick to quickly cast a glance around without materially affecting my runner’s trajectory, but with 2-stick control you can’t really do that, meaning the restrictions on the view meant it felt very much like I was occupying a small metal cockpit with a small front windscreen on top of a robot body, piloting it with a slightly clunky interface, rather than truly embodying an athlete. On relatively straight runs it’s ok, but as soon as you need to look around, it gets awkward and it’s all too easy to miss things in the rush, and have to fall back on repeat plays - you really need to know the level before you can leap around the more complex parts of it. I can’t help but feel that a third person view would have made the whole process of navigating through the world much smoother because it would naturally give you back that all-important peripheral vision, but of course that would have eliminated the major selling point of the game. Tough one.
Secondly, it makes me want to barf. All that bobbing around and (worse) forward rolling certainly does add to the atmosphere, but if you get motion sickness like I do, it isn’t pleasant. After playing through the demo in 30 minutes I had a raging headache and felt slightly ill - not quite the Penny Arcade result, but I can see where their inspiration came from.
Lastly, the platforming is pretty annoying at times. The game is highly unforgiving about grabbing on to drainpipes for example; if you miss it by 30cm or so you’ll be plummetting to your death pretty quickly. The restricted peripheral vision doesn’t help in this regard, timing jumps can be difficult when you can’t see your feet (of course, you can look down to see them, but then you can’t see where you’re going). Again a mouse would help here for quick glances, and perhaps with time this would become more natural, but I can’t help thinking that being a little more lenient with the jumping mechanic would make the whole experience a little smoother.I also have no idea why they chose to use the 2 shoulder buttons for jump / crouch, it feels seriously unnatural when you’ve been programmed to use the primary face button for jumping for years. Maybe they thought that it would feel more intuitive (top shoulder button = jump, below shoulder trigger = crouch) but in practice I found it hugely awkward and often ended up using the wrong one in pressured moments - a simple A to jump and B to crouch would have been much more natural and more consistent with other games. Not the control system I would have picked.
So, a very interesting game, but not one I’ll be buying, mostly because of the motion sickness aspect. If it wasn’t for that I’d consider getting it just because I like to support new ideas, but I would stick to the PC version so looking around to search for routes is snappier, and would alleviate the ‘boxed in’ feeling a little.