tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Razor sharp

A demo for Mirror’s Edge hit PSN today, so I took it out for a spin.

The demo consists of a tutorial level and what I assume is the first level of the game, that takes place on a series of building rooftops. Incidentally, this is the same level that was shown when the game was revealed for the first time.

Amazingly, I must say, the demo lived up to my expectations. Somehow DICE has managed to craft a first-person platformer that feels right. It reminds me of old-school (read: Genesis) Sonic the Hedgehog games a whole lot, as in there are multiple intertwining routes you can use to navigate the level (although the progression is still very much linear) and there’s a heavy focus on maintaining momentum through good timing and using it to pull off platforming stunts in the game world.

Where it differs, of course, is in elements like combat (which, again, focuses on disarming and incapacitating your opponents quickly rather than engaging in shootouts with them). Combat is fairly simple, in that you have a single button for melee attacks and another button for disarming. The trick is to combine your melee attacks, jumps/slides and disarming moves in such a way as to get the opponent out of your way as quickly as possible – in other words, to minimise their impact to your momentum.

In addition, there’s a mode called ‘reaction time’ that lets you slow down time briefly, allowing you to execute maneuvres like frontal disarms or precise jumps with more leeway. This ties neatly back into the core platforming since the ability to use reaction time is granted when you successfully manage to maintain your momentum for an extended period of time.

If I had to nitpick, there are a couple of things I would mention:

  • The game uses Unreal Engine 3, meaning that things like dynamic shadows have aliased/jagged edges, which impairs the look of the game for me somewhat. On top of that, while the NPCs are modeled and animated extremely well, they seem rather crap at emoting, much like Mass Effect and other UE3 games I’ve seen.
  • I found it a little tricky to use the right analogue stick to line myself up correctly for precision jumping – this is probably more of a personal preference, though, and I imagine you can tweak the sensitivity settings to get them exactly where you want them.

Overall, though, if the final product manages to maintain the quality of the level design through to the end, this should end up being a pretty damn good game. I imagine time trial nuts (myself included) will have a blast exploring the levels, trying to find that one improvement to their route that knocks precious seconds off their best times.

(Speaking of time trials, the demo also has a time trial mode, but to unlock it you need to have preordered the game on either Xbox 360 or PS3. I’ve already decided to wait the extra two months for the PC version, so I wasn’t able to try it out)

3 comments

3 Responses to “Razor sharp”

  1. Curious Wind says:

    This is gonna sound insane but does the game have a nice ‘flow’? I’m interested in this title because it kind of reminds me of my beloved JSR – in that you might be able to achieve an unbroken stream of action (i.e. attack, jumps, tricks etc) that seemlessly melds into one another when you do it right. It’s been a loonnng time since I’ve experienced such a thing and am curious if ME offers anything comparable (if I’m even making myself clear enough to explain what I’m referring to).

    • sonictempest says:

      When you first play it it’ll take a while to get the hang of what you can do in the game, but yes, once you get a feel for the levels and Faith’s (that’s the main character’s name) capabilities the game flows pretty nicely.

      Much like in JSR, though, it takes skill to achieve a run-through where you can navigate the level without breaking flow. On my first few tries I was barely making certain jumps which basically killed my momentum completely. Once I got a hang of the timing required this was no longer a problem.

  2. […] but to unlock it you need to have preordered the game on either Xbox 360 or PS3…. source: Razor sharp, tempest in a […]

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