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Review: Mirror's Edge

November 21, 2008

Reviewer: Sameer Desai, Editor,

Mirror's Edge is set in a rather sterile-looking nanny state sometime in the near future, where crime is minimal, but so are its citizens' social and civil rights. Those that speak against the government are cast to the edge of society; their social liberties taken away, their phones tapped, and always under the watchful eye of the totalitarian authorities. These outcasts are therefore forced to rely on more primitive forms of communication to stay under the radar.

That is where Faith, the game's lead character, comes in. Faith is a courier, or a runner as they are referred to in the game, whose parents were persecuted for rebelling against the government and whose sister is framed for murdering a mayoral candidate, a crime for which Faith too is under suspicion.

While in most games a premise like this would set the tone for vengeful gunfights and exaggerated boss battles, in Mirror's Edge, the story is where similarities with every other game end. Running is what Faith does best, and a lot of the game involves her evading the authorities rather than confronting them. In fact, you very often have an option to do either, and the beauty of the game is that, most of the time, giving your pursuer the slip is a lot more exhilarating than two shots to the dome.

Mirror's Edge is heavy on platforming, and while we've seen some innovative takes on the genre this year with games like LittleBigPlanet and Braid, Mirror's Edge flips the script entirely by putting the player in a first-person perspective. And it isn't the floaty, man with no legs FPS perspective either. The game has what the developers call full body awareness, which means that if you look down, you will see her feet, at full sprint you will see her pumped fists, and in mid-air you will see her legs stretch to propel herself forward.

And if simply platforming in first-person wasn't enough innovation, you also have a wonderful set of camera animations to bring in a real sense of realism and immersion into a simple thing like running. The faster you run, the more your head will bob around. Landing from big jumps into a parachute roll also triggers a very believable camera animation, which, however, may prove disorienting for some. Even just standing in an elevator after an intense chase, the camera will bob gently as Faith breathes heavily.

There have been fears that, owing to the camera animations and dizzying roof-top gameplay segments, the game could lead to simulation sickness leading to disorientation or nausea. DICE, the game's developers, have studied this issue at length and to address this, they have added a small reticule near the centre of the screen which acts as focal point, reducing the chances of simulation sickness. I personally wasn't bothered much while playing the game, but I did start to feel a bit nauseous after playing for five hours straight. So like any other game, taking a break every hour or so may be a good idea. And if you're the queasy type, keep that reticule on!

Photographs: DICE

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