Wednesday, September 25, 2013

First Impressions: Me vs Mirror's Edge

I got this game in some Humble Bundle or another

I tried playing Mirror's Edge last night.  It's not good.  Sorry.  I want to like this game.  I really like the concept:  first person running, leaping, climbing!  It looks really cool when the computer is controlling the action.  But it's tough, and I don't think it's tough for the right reasons.  It's tough to do much of anything.

The first level is a training level.  Well, thats' good, because this game is tough, and the controls aren't terribly intuitive. They even acknowledge in-game that is a training course. But the training level, itself, is really tough.  Also, for some reason the training course is at the top of a series of tall buildings, rather than in a sand-pit obstacle course somewhere. Every time I fuck up, I get to watch myself fall thirty flights of stairs.  Doesn't do much for my immersion into whatever world they're trying to create for me.  Or sometimes, if I stray off course, I am forcibly teleported back to my starting position, where I get to watch the computer example again.  This is annoying and happens a lot, because as I mentioned, the controls aren't really very intuitive.

I tried using a joypad and I tried using the keyboard an mouse.  The keyboard and mouse was slightly easier.  Mostly, I think, because the ability to customize the controls on the joypad is severely limited.  I just want to use the control pad and not the control stick.  Can I?  please?  And, maybe, just maybe I want to use the shoulder buttons for doing quick turns.  No?  Boy this game is tough, and not in a good way.

I got sick of the training level, and moved right on to the first actual stage.  I managed to muddle my way through it, though not without annoying my in-game companion, who started berating me sarcastically for not moving fast enough.  I guess this delightfully one-sided banter is supposed to increase immersion, but instead it just makes the experience suck more.  And I can tell I'm muddling by the sheer number of times I fall thirty feet to my doom, and then bounce right back.  A big part of why this isn't fun is that it seems clear that the point of the game is to perform sequences of moves, not just to spam the high jump over and over until it stops working, and then spam the duck button, or whatever.

And here is where I want to draw a comparison to a great game.  Also a first person game that is not a shooter, not exactly:  Portal.  Portal is a fantastic game.  And, wouldn't you know it, it does a great job teaching the player how to play.  The first ten stages or so are baby steps to how to use the portals and switches and general solve small puzzles.  Then, after getting your sea legs, as it were, the game throws some very complicated puzzles using every technique you've learned up to that point.  It works marvelously.

All I've gotten from Mirrors Edge is that I can go back to the training stage again, and practice each move, one by one, in sequence.  I can't just jump to that one move that's giving me trouble, I've got to work my way to it.  And when I pass that sequence (by sheer luck) I'm on to the next move, even though I really don't have the previous method down.  I going to keep muddling through the levels for a bit longer to see if I can get the hang of it.  

Bottom line:  The makers of Mirrors Edge should have played through Portal and taken notes.  Then maybe I would enjoy playing the game, which has an interesting concept at its core.  



  1. I just started Mirror's Edge the other night. I didn't have too much issue with the tutorial stage, but there were times I definitely felt that I needed more than one instance to practice a particular move, specifically the running up the wall, jumping off that wall then jumping off the opposite wall to grasp onto a ledge from the first wall.

    I do like how the tutorial is integrated into to the game but I feel like I was thrown too much at the beginning, rather than over the course of a couple of stages so I felt like I could do the jumps/maneuvers without having to stop and think about what it was that I wanted to do.

    I am also going to turn down the difficulty to "Easy" rather than "Normal" as I apparently suck when it comes to dealing with people shooting at me. Sure dodging people and sliding into them can be fun, but not at the expense of being annoyed/aggravated at replaying a section over and over because I missed kicking a guy and then failed to disarm him before him and his buddy shot me up.

    I see a fair amount of potential here, and I think that will only improve if I don't have to worry too much about being shot as that's not why I want to play the game. I wanna run and jump and do shit that I can't do in real life; getting shot, I'm pretty sure I could find a way to make that happen.

  2. I did adjust to mirror's edge after playing it for a while. I've generally had trouble with the 'getting shot at' sequences, which are numerous, and really aggressive. Occasionally I've been able to duck the helicopter in a fun game-breaking hiding spot. Of course, it's waiting for me when I come back out.
    I do want to play it again, though. I really like the visual design of the game, but I also think they didn't quite pull it off. I stand by what I wrote in this article, that they should have stretched out the learning period instead of throwing you into long missions right from the get-go. Portal, man, Portal did it right.
    Anyhow, I'm pretty sure I've had a full review in a text file sitting on my desktop for months. Maybe I'll have another look, though I'm pretty sure I'd been drinking when I wrote it.

  3. Ah, yes, here it is: (unedited)

    Alright, I'm midway through the second stage of Mirror's Edge. And to tell you the truth, this game is awesome. It's a ton of fun to jump from building to building. To climb fences, slide underneath obstacles, somersault and avoid enemy fire. It's awesome.

    THe color-coding method of guiding the player through the level is really great. It's subtle enough that it doesn't disrupt the aesthetics. IE: there aren't giant neon Arrows telling me which way to go. no, the color coding is subtle enough that I find I missed it a bunch of times. I kept looking for meaning behind the colors. Green is different from orange is different from blue? No, I don't think that is the case. I think the only color with special meaning is red. Otherwise, the colors are different in order to indicate a different region. It works, when you get used to it.

    But, on the other hand: fuck this game. That is to say, it seems like there is so much awesome to be had, but the game is designed in a way that does not allow me to experience the awesome for longer htan five minutes. And it's only the second stage! It's like the designers spent a ton of time on realizing their dream of a running, jumping, climbing - a TRUE 3d platformer, really-- but did not spend nearly enough time on the difficulty curve.

    Alright, maybe this is nitpicking, but another thing I notice is that the cops in this game are reeeeally trigger happy. Again, just the second stage, but the cops are just unloading on me. An unarmed running individual. Yes, possibly connected to a murder, but there are automatic weapons firing a constant stream of bullets, and a relentless helecopter unloading at me. Yes, a fucking helecopter, for one single running, leaping, climbin runner. What the hell? Also, when it seemed like the helecopter was a little too eager to turn me into swiss cheese, I found a spot between jumps where it just sort of forgets about me. Pretty annoying when I think it's too determined to kill me, and then just sort of gives up when I find the right spot. And then it starts up again when I leave. The seams are showing, programmers!

    This just tells me that the designers wanted me to be running from enemy fire. Like, the game needed excitement. The excitement of running, jumping, climbing, was not enough. There needed to be the overwhelming threat of enemy fire. No matter how much bullshit was required. A little bit of enemy fire does the trick for me, but this is like Goldeneye when you trigger an alarm on 007 mode. The fuckers swarm. It's a little much.

    So yeah, awesome game, it's a shame it fell into the wrong hands.