Great games change the way your brain works. Indeed, every GTA-related murder only pushes the game higher in my mental rankings. And if you hear people musing thoughtfully about how they could probably get a decent grip on the stonework around Exam Schools, they’ve probably been playing Mirror’s Edge.
ME is basically Parkour: The Game. Parkour is the French sport of unrestrained urban movement; appropiately, ME has you vaulting, rolling and wall-running across the urban jungle – much like the opening scene of Casino Royale. Or The Matrix. You play Faith, one of these ‘Runners’, trying to bring down a dystopian puppet-master through subversive rebellion. Not dissimilar to 1984. Or The Matrix. The combat pits you against both easily-overpowered rent-a-cops and equally acrobatic anonymous agents. Like… Jet Li’s The One? Sort of, but mostly like The Matrix.
Recently, I raised the point that games succeed when they imitate good films or books but don’t try directly to be the same thing. The Matrix makes people say “I want to do that”, and ME makes it feel like you are. Context-sensitive controls chain moves together; jump to the building, scale the fence, vault the pipes, slide under the ventilation shaft, and top it off with running across a wall. Stylish.
And it’s fun. Once you get the hang of it, you start seeing multiple routes,and adapting them to fit your tactics. The gunplay is a bit flat but it’s far more entertaining to run loops round enemies before nipping through an unprotected exit. The only problem, in fact, is it being a little too easy sometimes. Not ‘easy’, perhaps, but the areas aren’t as free as they seem to be.
Clearly the totalitarian school of architecture was big on ledges and overhangs. It was also an employer of lazy builders: the number of planks left hanging over the edge of buildings and high-grip material nailed to the walls implies that someone’s playing silly buggers.
This doesn’t change the fact that Mirror’s Edge is one of the best games this year. Unmissable. Go out and buy it.