When Mirrors Edge was released I was not impressed by the seemingly awkward and clumsy attempt at ‘parkour with a purpose’ it presented. The game (based around a future scenario where ‘runners’ have to navigate cities via acrobatics to deliver packages as quickly as possible) was more artsy than it was practical but that didn’t keep it from being a fun game that could be improved upon dramatically. The game certainly has a fanbase but I can’t help but feel that those people are fans of the games style and music rather than the gameplay itself. It’s an FPS with no third person camera mechanics and I just don’t think it works that well for a parkour game. The goal is obviously to provide realism but the concept is ruined by the stunts you pull off that are often unrealistic so the clash of realistic viewpoints with unrealistic moves results in awkward gameplay. Add a bad combat system on top that and you have yourself a game that seems to have a hard time making its mind up.
There’s a lesson to learn from the first Mirrors Edge which is this: Your game must flow smoothly with itself especially when it is such an unconventional title.
Mirrors Edge 2 was in development but seemingly canceled after it failed to impress EA. Recently Dice announced they were not actually done with the series like fans originally thought (source via PC Gamer) and do indeed plan on releasing a second Mirrors Edge. There are some loose confirmations and speculations that the sequel will use the Frostbite 2 engine which I’m not complaining about whatsoever since that engine looks spectacular.
There are however a few things Mirrors Edge 2 needs to get right that it didn’t the first time around.
1. The soundtrack
This is my biggest complaint with the first Mirrors Edge and many fans will hate me for saying this. I did not enjoy the music (outside of the main theme.) This is not because it was bad music however but because it was in the wrong game. The only kind of music that would complement this style of gameplay are songs that will get your adrenaline pumping and give a true sense of suspense and epic cat and mouse chasing. The music they opted for instead was this uplifting tech-beat stuff that did not fit the scenario whatsoever, rather it felt like the game was trying to be hip and edgy and it made that aspect of the game feel forced. The main theme Still Alive was plastered all over the marketing and in the game itself. You cannot watch a Mirrors Edge gameplay video or advert without hearing that horribly repetitive song that repeats the same riff and lyrics over and over. This style of music does not have to be so carefree and mellow.
Learn a lesson from Portal; the game with the truly catchy theme song Still Alive (I am going to pretend that Mirrors Edge, made in 2008, did not try to blatantly mimic Portal, made in 2007, to the point of having the same title for their theme song.) Still Alive in Portal caught on like wildfire among fans and it wasn’t even put anywhere in the marketing or the game except at the end credits. If you want your game to have a catchy mind virus theme song you will have to submit to the opinions of your fans and put it in their hands. You cannot force the popularity of a song no matter how many times you try drill it into people’s heads. This is the difference between Valve and EA in terms of marketing intelligence.
Mirrors Edge is a retail FPS running and parkour game with real action scenes; not some flash game that can have any generic catchy music thrown into it.
2. Unrealistic movement mechanics
There was never any true sense of speed in the original; not that people can run very fast in the first place. When real people go from a stand still to running speed they do not slowly go from walking speed all the way up to running speed, they just go. In Mirrors Edge you have to accelerate back up to full speed when you stop which you do more often than you should have to. It leaves you feeling like your character is heavy or has something preventing her from running at full speed 80% of the time. The game overall feels slow. Parkour games obviously should have a gradual acceleration involved with them but the initial acceleration in Mirrors Edge is way too slow.
3. We do not need doors, ramps and lines to be bright red to know that we can use them
I know this game opts for a more colorful style of setting, but it doesn’t prevent these red abominations from sticking out like a sore thumb and making an otherwise semi-realistic and immersive game feel like just a game. If you want a game like this to be good you have to avoid reminding the player that they are playing a game. Seriously Dice we are not idiots. If we understand the game mechanics (which you need to learn anyway for this kind of game) then we will be able to tell whether we can vault off something or grab onto something even if you don’t make it bright red. More importantly you could just make the game less limited in that regard and make all of the objects in the environment interactive and not just have a few select things to play with to make our running experience more fluid. This is not just my opinion either. One of the biggest fan complaints of the game was the red objects scarring an otherwise cool looking city.
4. What’s up with the combat?
Anyone who’s played the original knows exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t give ‘runners’ the job of being a marksman. Give Faith knives or other such weaponry that can actually be used on the fly. Make her an escape artist, not some rambo badass who clears house before continuing on. That is not the gameplay of a non-combat based character on a time crunch.
5. Whose idea was it to have this game take place during the day?
I can’t help but think this game would have been so much more amazing if it had taken place at night instead of in blaring sunlight 24/7. Most fans would probably not disagree with me. Night time has always been a far cooler setting for video games that take place in cities and it would work great for Mirrors Edge 2.
6. It feels as though the city is inhabited by only Faith, the other runners and the police
This is a huge immersion killer. If you’re running through a city on rooftops and through buildings you should encounter or see civilians. It’s not an outrageous concept.