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Here's the real Mirror's Edge challenge: just play through a single level without leaning or squirming in your seat. It's impossible. As our heroine, Faith, runs across the rooftops I find myself shifting left and right to match her movements. Every time she jumps, her view shifting with uncanny realism to the landing point a little too far below, I find myself craning forwards, my eyes staring down into the screen in some vague, unconcious belief that I'll see a little more this way. Even though the limbs I see flailing before me are obviously those of a young, street punk woman, there's something about the revolutionary use of first-person in Mirror's Edge that drags you right into Faith's position. For all its faults, DICE's game can be one of the most exhilarating and exciting games you've ever played.
Any comparisons with existing first-person action games are misleading. Maybe you can see predecessors in Portal or the early rooftop chase of Half-Life 2, but Mirror's Edge is really a platformer; kin of Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia, only rendered from a first-person perspective. Each level is essentially an obstacle course, with Faith - a kind of underground courier in an unnamed, near-future city - traversing from point A to point B using the sort of techniques associated with free-running, or Parkour as our French friends like to call it. Speed and momentum are all important, with you clambering up and over air-conditioning vents and rooftop generators, vaulting over barbed wire, wall-running across chasms and grabbing onto ledges by the tips of your fingers.
The actual gameplay is barely innovative - there's little you haven't seen before in Assassin's Creed or Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - but the presentation makes it all seem new once more. The way the camera tracks Faith's vision, showing glimpses of her arms grasping for balance or her legs pounding the concrete, is incredibly convincing. Combine this with the speed at which the game is played and it makes for an almost exhausting experience, like that great point-of-view chase sequence in the film Point Break stretched out over hours of game time.
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