Previews

Mirror's Edge

Preview: Does it play as good as it looks?

When the trailer for Mirror's Edge hit the internet, DICE freely admitted they were pleased by the public's reaction.

There were, however, accusations of prerendering from the predictable blood clot of cynics. Being taken on a tour of two levels, they're obviously keen to prove that the action was real, rather than some conniving plan to trick the internet into an unjustified gush.

Mirror's Edge is beautiful - from the cutscenes, which take place in both 2D animation and chunkily stylised motion-captured 3D - to the in-game depiction of a crisp, clinical city which isn't as sci-fi or fictional as you might assume it is.

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"It's a city that doesn't exist, but it's a contemporary city," explains O'Brien, the game's senior producer. "We've taken things that are happening in the world, whether it's social, political or architectural, and combined them into one place."

The game consciously distances itself from far-future concepts and military dictatorships, instead using a nanny state that monitors the flow of information, and gets shirty when data gets out. And here, shirty means "attack you with helicopters".

You play Faith, one of the city's runners - a courier who transports valuable information around the city, under the always-sniffing noses of the authorities. She's aware of the dangers of her job - to spend your working day launching yourself off pristine blue-white surfaces and performing absurd acrobatics, you have to be.

The dangers were driven home when her sister was murdered. This all builds up as election posters adorn some of the buildings, bellowing the name Callaghan from shiny glass buildings while cutting workers in a dozen offices from natural light.

A safe bet is that he's a shady sort with a lot to hide. A slightly less safe bet is that he bummed a zebra.

1st-person paRkour

The classic run-and-jump games Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider are played in third-person, so it's immediately strange to have a game like this played through the eyes of the protagonist.

What's also odd is that it feels so right - with Faith's hands coming into view as she sprints, and emphasis split three ways between acrobatics, puzzle exploration and the deliberately understated combat.

That's not to say you won't have access to guns - "We're men, we're stupid, we like guns," admits the unnamed man playing through the demo levels. But they're not just lying around - you have to wrestle them from your enemies.

There's no ammo, either - and killing someone with a gun then walking over them won't magically refill the one you're using.

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As if that wasn't enough, substantial weaponry will hinder your moves - meaning you'll soon have to leave that shotgun behind. Behind the stylised superpowered jumps and crisp, cartoon aesthetic, this is a bold move towards reality.

Reality is also evident in the level structures. A massive cylindrical level may seem like a fantastical futuristic structure design built purely to show off Faith's free-running skills - but it's based on a real-life Tokyo storm drain.

The inspiration for the whole game's locations is rooted in real places, with a lot of research having gone into places that would be visually impressive and could provide a solid puzzle-platforming challenge for Faith.

The controls have been tailored to suit the new perspective in this 3D acro-platformer, and are so streamlined they're virtually featureless. Press one button and you'll jump, climb, or do many of the other skyward activities that are associated with up.

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