Where’s My Sequel?: Mirror’s Edge
Mirror’s Edge, is an EA game about a hot (Asian?) chick running from rooftop to rooftop, using parkour and martial arts to get from one point to another, taking down guards. Sounds awesome. In fact, nothing about that sounds bad to me at all!
Well despite how awesome everything sounds on paper, I actually didn’t like the final product. No sir, I didn’t like it. Mirror’s Edge boasted a lot of new gameplay mechanics that were supposed to be so revolutionary but ending up feeling clunky, clumsy, difficult or otherwise awkward. In the end, I preferred the free browser version of Mirror’s Edge more than the console version!
While I didn’t like the final product, I do like the idea behind Mirror’s Edge and I believe there should be another Mirror’s Edge game. I’d be more than willing to give a second Mirror’s Edge game a try, provided they make some key changes from the first one.
An optional HUD
A lot of gamers liked the fact that Mirror’s Edge lacked a HUD, claiming it added a sense of realism to the game, giving it a unique presentation to boot. With no HUD and no lifebar, players would have their displays turn black and white and their sound become slowly muted as they incurred damage, as if Faith, the main character, was having her senses fail on her. Also, without a HUD, there’s nothing to tell the player how visible they are when using shadows, ledges and columns for cover while sneaking around, another major part of the game.
But with no way to gauge how much damage each hit takes away from you, it’s hard to determine how much caution to use when walking into potentially dangerous situations. “Will this fall kill me?” “Can I be seen if I jump this floor to that floor?” “Can I sustain a gunbutt to the head?” “How many times can I get shot while walking this tightrope?” All lines that sound incredibly odd out of context and all questions one asks themselves while playing Mirror’s Edge. When I first complained about not having any HUD during a Mirror’s Edge review at the very first gaming site I wrote for, readers jumped on me. I rethought my suggestion to having an optional HUD, one that can be toggled with a button or stick click or through an option/pause menu. If you need it, you can have it, if you don’t need want it, you don’t have to have it. Boom, everyone’s happy, even the hard-to-please readers.
Better stealth gameplay
I mentioned that the lack of a HUD impacted Mirror’s Edge’s stealth gameplay as it gave players no way to gauge how covered they are or aren’t or if their footsteps could be heard by guard, enemies, what have you. Not every game is going to be like Metal Gear Solid 3, offering camo indexes and Soliton Radars, but Mirror’s Edge was downright unfair with it’s stealth gameplay. Enemies halfway across the map can see and hear you when you move, regardless of whether the player is walking, crawling or running. Deus Ex: Human Revolution provided excellent stealth gameplay, crouch to help not be seen and mask footsteps and stick to the shadows. How easy is that? Hopefully a second Mirror’s Edge game would take cues from Human Revolution.
During Mirror’s Edge players could have Faith use some pretty agile takedowns to incapacitate opponents and even take their guns from them, Jackie Chan style. Actually doing this was insanely difficult though. First players had to press a button at a certain time with no margin for error. Enemies hands would briefly light up as they attacked, letting the player know that the time was right for a counter, but the red flash was so quick, it was hard to ever time a counter the same way twice. As a result, when I played the game, I tried to avoid confrontation altogether, but since the stealth gameplay was so off, I’d always get shot. I’d have to keep re-loading and trying my hand at countering when confronted with a hand-to-hand situation, not my idea of fun. Hopefully the next Mirror’s Edge game, if they have one, has a better countering method, or at least more options for countering. Of course, it’s sort of a moot point to steal weapons from the enemies when they don’t do anything. That’s why the next thing I’d like to see in a Mirror’s Edge game is….
Maybe it’s my luck of the draw, but everytime I managed to wrestle a gun from a guard, I got maybe five shots out of it and all of them met with body armor. In short? The guns in Mirror’s Edge suck on ice. Improve the clip size and have less enemies protected by body armor. And while we’re at it, add in Time Crisis style shoot-the-environment-to-hurt-enemies situations.
More options to escape
Mirror’s Edge always felt too linear to me. Sure, there were lots of stunts to ooh and aah at, but by and large every level in Mirror’s Edge is part puzzle and part race track. Sure there’s only one way to get across a wide gap in Mirror’s Edge, you have to jump. But to reference Human Revolution again, there should be more than one way to skin a cat. Players should be offered a bevy of options in getting across a map, whether it’s the trademark sprint-for-your-life Mirror’s Edge experience, navigating through buildings, crowds, accessing terminals, rigging materials to allow players access to new area or even different goal points that alter how players progress.
No two athletes are the same. There are guys whose core competencies vary; one guy is more durable than the other, but the next guy is faster, the third guy is stronger and the last guy has grip like a gorilla. You know, breaking down a selection of athletes is kind of like a video game. Let players customize their free runner’s appearance and attributes: how high and far they jump, how much wind they have, how fast they go, how much damage they can absorb. Heck, throw in everyone’s favorite, perks to boot.
The bottom line
EA should make another Mirror’s Edge game because there’s a lot of gameplay elements that haven’t been explored yet. EA should experiment a little and see what they come out with. Give players a little freedom, especially in a game where freedom is part of the underlying message and they’ll be more than satisfied.