Mirror’s Edge (PC)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Thursday, February 12, 2009

Graphics: 9.00
Sound: 10.00
Gameplay: 8.50
Replays: 6.00
Gamelength: 8.50

EA’s “Mirror’s Edge” comes to the PC with a true PhysX makeover that’s sure to inspire any modern developer.

On the Xbox 360, “Mirror’s Edge” is easily a fantastic game. It’s realistic and it gets the adrenaline pumping almost nonstop. Because of this, it’s no surprise at all that the PC version is just as amazing, yet even better for a few reasons. The most dominant and major change for the PC release is the inclusion of the first proper implementation of nVidia’s PhysX. There’s a lot more to these PhysX than what a handful of videos floating around the internet seem to show off, but I’ll get to that. Put on a comfortable pair of running shoes and some light clothing because we’re going for a nice, lengthy run in the beautiful world of “Mirror’s Edge” for the PC.

From a technical standpoint, the standard visuals of “Mirror’s Edge” are nothing beyond average in the world of ultramodern gaming. Sure, reflections are beautiful, lighting is almost too real and the shadows are as real as it gets, but in truth, this game hasn’t reinvented the wheel. What really stands out about this game’s visuals is the complete and utter A-grade art design. There aren’t any other games out there that can turn what’s mostly the color white with a hint of red into one of the most beautiful visual experiences ever to be seen. Aside from that, the truly impressive feat here is the PhysX. From what I noticed when playing both with and without PhysX, it seems that everything is cosmetic. At first, seeing glass shatter and leave remnants of realistic shards all over the place might seem like a very small enhancement that isn’t worth the price of a proper video card containing a high-end PPU. The more you play, though, the more little intricacies you’ll start to notice. Many of them involve the glass and banners that are strategically placed throughout the game world in eye-catching scenes, but in general the whole game is just one big physics playground by comparison to playing with PhysX turned off. The famous PhysX comparison video for this very game does a pretty good job of showing off the key differences, but it’s something that has to be experienced, not merely witnessed. A little bit goes a long way and many little enhancements provide a large enhancement to the big picture. I don’t know about you, but nVidia has most certainly converted me. I didn’t care about PhysX before, but I’m starting to want it more and more. I hope for more PhysX in upcoming releases, but as far as I know, there aren’t many scheduled just yet.

If you like listening to popular music, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard the now-famous “Still Alive” by Lisa Miskovsky. That song is the complete basis for the entire soundtrack of “Mirror’s Edge”. There are literally just several remixes of the same song, but each one sounds so different that it works perfectly. And of course, a great game wouldn’t be complete without great sound effects. From the footsteps of Faith to the gunfire of the Blues and the sound of glass shattering, everything is as real as it gets in this day and age. The constant footsteps, hand grabs, sliding, grunts and shouts of Faith do a lot to immerse you and before you know it, you’ll start to feel like you’re becoming Faith for a few moments. No one would have ever thought that such basic sound effects would have such a massive impact; at least I didn’t. This game has the best sound quality that I could ask for and I’m proud to say that the soundtrack is on my portable media device.

“Mirror’s Edge” is nothing like any other game that’s ever been made. Yes, it’s a first-person title and yes, there are guns, but it is by no means even close to fitting into the FPS genre. There’s very little gun combat and honestly, most of the game is spent scaling buildings and freerunning all over the place to find information, dispose of targets and general figure out what the hell is going on. The main character in this game is Faith, a very experienced runner trying to uncover all sorts of truths. There’s a crazy, but deep and quite satisfying story that goes along with Faith and her freerunning skills, but if I say anything, I’ll ruin it. Let it be known, though, that this is a terrific story that reaches out and touches on a few real-life issues to a certain extent. I really enjoyed the story, for sure. Anyhow, the game starts you off with a rather extensive tutorial. It’s possible to skip this tutorial, but it’s also highly recommended that you follow through with it. The controls are very simple, but can be overwhelming if you just rush into the game without the tutorial. This is one of the major improvements over the console versions of the game because controls constantly felt clunky and unresponsive at points originally. The ability to have every button in much easier spots and mouselook instead of slowly tilting a joystick really help in this game. In most cases, I do better with a controller, which includes fast-paced FPS such as the “Call of Duty” and “Halo” series, but in “Mirror’s Edge”, I easily fared much, much better with a mouse and keyboard. The general gameplay is quite simple to explain. Using your “runner vision”, which shows you the way to your objective or destination by using distinct red coloring, you simply find your way through various areas by freerunning. You’ll scale fences, slide under tight spaces, jump from pole to pole and all sorts of other crazy things, all while occasionally throwing in a few basic bits of combat. Combat is very simple by nature and in most cases, you’re not meant to take out your targets and are instead suppose to keep running while avoiding enemy gunfire. When you decide to take an opponent down, however, it’s a matter if either disarming them with the right mouse button or hurting them until they die using the left mouse button and any combination of other moves, which can result in a simple three-hit punch combo, a slide kick, a jump kick and all sorts of other cool things. It’s a fun combat system to play around with, but unfortunately one of the game’s major flaws is that there’s not a whole lot of room to play with in the first place on that end of things. You never have enough freedom or time to really go nuts during combat and it’s almost always more efficient to just disarm and kill the opponent up-front instead of finding some crazy off-the-wall way of killing them. Still, it’s a great combat system and while it may not be a primary component, it’s most certainly not a necessity. This game doesn’t even need combat, to tell you the truth. At any rate, utilizing Faith’s skills, it should take a good 10-15 hours for the average player to complete the story mode for the first time. After that, though, there are a few “Race” stages that are quite different. I’m reminded of the “Mario” franchise in a certain sense because Faith seems to be running and jumping around in a random space with no real-life design or placement just for the sake of having some fun, which is perfectly fine by me. Hell, I’d venture to say that those time trials are even more exciting than the story mde to an extent. All told, “Mirror’s Edge” is a fantastic game that’s even more fantastic for the PC and I strongly urge you to check it out if you have any interest at all. At the very least, try out a demo. You wont be sorry.

Overall, “Mirror’s Edge” deserves to be a leading third party franchise and I encourage the developers to pump out a few more games, at the very least. Kudos for the astounding work, guys!

Pros:
-Art design can’t be beat.
-PhysX is well-worth it if your PC can handle it.
-Controls are extremely fluid in comparison to consoles.
-Engaging and deep story that’s sure to get your brain ticking.
-Time trials are a great way to extend the life of the game.
-Sound effects help to immerse players greatly.
-Music is awesome, especially considering it’s just a single remixed track.

Cons:
-No replay value once you’ve completed the time trials and story.
-No online play to speak of.
-Properly running PhysX requires an immensely high-end rig for the time being.

Bottom Line:
This game is definitely worth purchasing if you own a decent PC with a high-end GPU, but I highly recommend the console version if you don’t plan on going through the game more than once. For the sake of clarification: It’s possible to rent the console version of the game, which would be the most economical option for anyone without the will to replay the game. Either way, EA deserves your money.

Overall Rating: 8.75

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