I had to go full circle with Mirror’s Edge. It took two returns and three purchases to finally become friends with DICE’s parkour adventure. First, there was love at the sight of the first trailer; blue skies and scrubbed white buildings as a playground for first-person running. Next, obsession with the demo, learning the quirks and characteristics to try and get the best time. But, then came the full game.
Played to completion, it left my teeth almost ground to power in frustration, flaming anger stoked by the promise of what it might have been. For DICE had met their promise of beautiful, free movement across rooftops, but underneath there was forced combat, machine-gun-firing helicopters and stifling indoor arenas. It’s almost as if someone somewhere (coughEAcough) had decreed that there couldn’t possibly be a full-price game without combat. The result was a hash of messy platforming and countless restarts.
What kept bringing me back, however, were two emerging assertions. The first was from one of the game’s Achievements, which was rewarded for completing the game with just a single bullet fired. The second, this time from the Internet’s collected random voices, was that Mirror’s Edge wasn’t actually about adventure and combat, but was really a racing game. The first made immediate sense; the protagonist, Faith, is actually pretty crappy with a gun and moves better without it. In addition, there was a running disarm move that didn’t break “flow”, the game’s currency of forward motion. So, with the aim of not breaking momentum through a level, the racing line became much more important. Enemies became just another obstacle in the road. This led to confirmation of the second assertion and Mirror’s Edge‘s own version of the magic element of racing games; the exquisite feeling of completing a level and shaving seconds off your best time.
The game’s only DLC seemed to reinforce this notion. Removing the city for surreal floating blocks of colour, it enabled Mirror’s Edge to become the game that you feel DICE always wanted it to be. Without enemies or the inconvenience of story motivation, all that was left was flowing running and jumping over beautiful racing tracks of vibrant colour. No other game has since managed to recapture that absolute feeling of physical freedom from a first-person perspective.
This year, fans finally got their wish with the announcement that a next-gen sequel to Mirror’s Edge was in development. Or did they? EA have said that it will be a reimagining of the idea, with more chances for Faith to engage her enemies. Precisely what ruined the first game in the first place. Hopefully there’ll be another chance to turn all that off and just let Faith fly.