In Mirror's Edge you take on the role of Faith, a young, athletic woman who works as a secret courier delivering packages via rooftop-run routes rather than the traditional old-fashioned UPS method. Why the hand-held, personal touch? Because it's the near future and government/corporations are watching our every move, intercepting our every call, and generally keeping the people down. Why they don't listen in on the radio communications that Faith's guide/boss uses to give you directions is a question best left unasked. All that matters is -- you gotta get across those rooftops, and a lot of times there are guys with guns trying to stop you. The set-up and story are bland, generic, and forgettable, but also innocuous enough that they don't get in the way of what the game's really about: the movement.
When Mirror's Edge works, it's as fun and thrilling a game play experience as I've ever had. The bright whites, blues, and reds of the world stand in stark contrast to your typical browns, grays, and brownish-grays of most first person games. Everything's razor-sharp, crisp and clear, under a bright blue sky as you start off by hurtling yourself from one skyscraper to the next, landing with graceful somersaults, leaping over obstacles and slamming through doors in swift, fluid motions. The game offers a wide variety of options, from slides and rolls to tip of your fingers catches on the edge of the abyss below, that combine into a kind of truly eye-widening, muscle-tensing game. Which means it sucks all the more when it comes crashing to a halt in utter frustration.
Make no mistake, Mirror's Edge is a frustrating game. The combat in particular is pretty awful. Faith can disarm cops and take their guns, but she's not very good with them and she loses much of her mobility when she has a weapon in hand. I see the logic here, and I'm fine with it in theory. The running and jumping is the fun part after all. But there are too many times where you have to take on the cops in a fight or where, even with the wonky, annoying combat, it's still easier than some incredibly difficult maneuver that might let you avoid them. Speaking of which, there are also some sequences without guns that are just as frustrating, where you'll fall early and often before getting the hang of it. In one of the later levels I died around 80 times over the course of a single level, trying to make my way to the top. That wasn't fun. And games should always be fun.
Even with the problems, I really do believe everyone who has even the slightest interest in the game should play it. It's new, it's unique, and the thrills that reward proficiency in Mirror's Edge do outweigh the frustrations. Plus, these are the days of gamer videos on YouTube, so if you ever get stuck trying to figure out a jump, just go online and watch how someone else did it. I referenced YouTube three times while playing the game through and I'm telling you, there's no shame in it. Now, run right out, jumping over anything in your way, and get a copy. You might need to do a wall jump, twist, jump, then roll to get there, but it's worth the effort.
In one of my many never-to-be-realized daydreams, I start training really hard, hours a day, and become a parkour expert. I run around Southwest Florida rooftops, leaping from building roof to palm tree, doing flips and skipping up walls, defying gravity.
The truth is, I never quite make it to the running, let alone all the jumping and grabbing and sliding. This lack of follow-through on my part is of course why we have video games. And while running, jumping, and generally defying gravity in interesting ways have been a staple of great games since Super Mario Brothers, Mirror's Edgeis the first video game to focus entirely on the parkour (or free running) experience from a first person perspective. And if you love, or even just kind of like games, then it's a game you have to play. But there are some caveats...