Mirror's Edge is a first-person action-adventure game from 2008, developed by DICE and published by Electronic Arts. Much of the gameplay is inspired by the sport of parkour which involves navigating from point A to B in an efficient and acrobatic manner.
At a time when first-person shooters were dominated by games like Call of Duty and Battlefield, Mirror's Edge dared to do something different. It wasn't about shooting hordes of enemies, but about navigating through the city and avoiding conflict whenever possible.
This game will forever hold a place in my heart as it is one of the first games I can remember playing on my Xbox 360 and absolutely falling in love with. Something about the game stuck out to me, and I absolutely loved every bit of it.
While some may dismiss the game for it's short story length, occasional jankiness, or poor combat controls, I will always love this game for its striking visual style, excellent soundtrack, and unique gameplay. Despite its flaws, I believe it is still one of the most interesting video game experiences out there and almost certainly worth your time.
Story and Setting
The City is a futuristic city that is ruled by a totalitarian government known as the Conglomerate. It is a dystopian police state where the government has control over every aspect of citizens' lives. The Conglomerate maintains its grip on power through a vast surveillance network that monitors every citizen's actions and communications. The city is patrolled by heavily armed police forces, known as the City Protection Force (CPF), who use lethal force to maintain order and suppress any dissent.
In this oppressive environment, Faith Connors and other runners exist on the fringes of society, using their parkour skills to navigate the city and carry out missions for various clients. The runners are seen as outcasts by the government and are constantly under threat of arrest and violence by the CPF.
Mirror's Edge tackles several themes including corporate control and fascist ideologies, and although it's not the most profound story it serves its purpose well. Similarly, the gameplay emphasizes the importance of individual freedom and movement, as players must navigate through the city using their own skills and abilities to evade the CPF's attempts to capture them.
In addition, the story explores Faith's relationship with her sister, Kate Connors. Kate is a computer expert who works for a news organization that opposes the Conglomerate. Faith and Kate have a strong bond, and Kate serves as Faith's moral compass throughout the game. Kate's safety is a primary motivator for Faith's actions, and Faith risks her life to protect her sister from the Conglomerate's oppressive rule.
While the first level of the game and many sequences after that have you running frantically through rooftops to escape the police, a large portion of the game also becomes a tricky platformer. In quite a few of the later levels, you are required to slow down and think about how you are going to progress, and you have to use Faith's set of movement abilities in creative ways to navigate through the environment.
This is in stark contrast to the almost careless and exciting chase sequences that make up the first few levels, and it's perhaps where the game struggles the most. While I think this kind of tricky maneuvering works great for the hidden collectibles in each level, it can become quite frustrating at times when you have to judge the distance of a jump from a first-person perspective or Faith just refuses to climb onto a ledge that you want her to.
This style of platforming is an interesting exploration of the gameplay mechanics and a natural progression of various styles of movement throughout the game. However, I feel it often falls flat with frustrating timings, annoying jumps, and confusing level design. To me, this is probably the weakest aspect of the game. Nevertheless, I can forgive it because once you learn how to fully take advantage of the movement system, it becomes less of a hassle to clamber through these areas.
Finally, the combat system... I'm not sure who decided this should be included in the game. It doesn't make sense for Faith to mow down enemies with an assault rifle, nor does it make sense for her to take down hordes of enemies in hand-to-hand combat. Unfortunately, there are quite a number of set pieces where you have to fight your way through to win, and it can be jarring going from running away from swarms of cops to sitting on a rooftop shooting a sniper rifle.
Thankfully, you can figure out ways to get around most enemies without fighting them, and eventually, when you learn the more hidden routes through the levels, it becomes quite satisfying to fly past a bunch of cops who are desperately trying to shoot you down. So, I don't think this is as big a problem as it feels like on your first playthrough of the game.
Faith Connors is the main protagonist and playable character, she is a skilled runner who uses her parkour abilities to traverse the city and evade the government. She was orphaned at a young age and raised by her older sister, Kate Connors. Throughout the game she must complete several missions to undermine the government and uncover a conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the fragile rebellion.
Celeste is a supporting character and a member of the rebel group that Faith Connors joins. Celeste is a skilled hacker and strategist, and she plays a crucial role in the rebel group's efforts to overthrow the Conglomerate. Her quote about how "Survival is overrated. You need to live a little too" is a poignant moment in the game, as it highlights the toll that constant danger and stress can take on a person's mental and emotional well-being.
Mercury, or simply Merc, is a tracker for the rebel group which Faith is a part of. He is known for his calm and collected demeanor, and he is often the voice of reason when tensions run high among the group's members. Throughout the game, he provides tactical support and guidance, and his knowledge of the city and its inner workings is essential to your success.
Miller is a high-ranking officer in the Conglomerate's police force who is investigating the murder of Robert Pope and attempting to prove Kate Connor's innocence. While he does not initially trust Faith, he eventually does and even helps Faith find and rescue Kate.
Travis Burfield, or Ropeburn, is a major antagonist. He is a wealthy and powerful crime lord who operates in the city where the game takes place. He is a brutal and violent enforcer who has no qualms about using force to get what he wants.
Much of the soundtrack was composed by Swedish musician Magnus Birgersson, who performs under the name Solar Fields. It is full of ambient soundscapes and electronic beats, which complement the game's minimalist aesthetic. The music is largely instrumental, with occasional vocal samples and melodies that are used to underscore key moments in the game's story. If you are a fan of electronic or ambient music I recommend you check out some more of the songs from the game.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst
I have to talk about this reboot sequel whatever game because I always wanted them to make an open world version of the game... As a kid, I imagined how cool it would be to climb wherever I wanted in an entire city and so on. However, ultimately I feel that Catalyst fails to improve upon what made the original so likable.
First of all, the game is graphically impressive and technically beautiful on just about every level. Everything is sharp, clean, cold, and sterile. The environment looks as hostile as you would expect a dystopian city to look. It works well, and I often found myself taking a pause to just soak in the city.
The soundtrack is once again great and fits the tone of the game perfectly. It feels a bit more generic and doesn't stick in my memory as much as the first, but I still feel it works well. Many of the ambient tracks also stand on their own outside of gameplay.
The biggest improvement is the controls, and the movement system feels so tight in this one. Faith has some new abilities, and it feels so good to run around the city. Especially during time trials, finding new routes to lower your time was an absolute blast. I think I spent most of my time just playing the time trial mode.
Most of the grid nodes are also an improvement to many of the puzzle-platforming sections of the original, and I feel they are some of the most memorable parts of the campaign. There are also plenty of collectibles thrown about the world, but they are mostly uninteresting to find and often just slow you down when you run into them.
The story is completely redone, and while the original wasn't a literary masterpiece, Faith's characterization is completely ruined in service of some melodramatic plot about her sister. But this time, it's a plot twist that it's her sister (spoiler warning). I don't care about the plot in this one, and I don't like Faith in this game.
Overall, Catalyst is just kind of bland, and it's a shame that they failed to successfully pull off an open-world reimagining of the original. I still like this game, but it just doesn't feel as interesting or fresh as the original due to the fact that they reworked many of the more experimental and quirky game mechanics to make the game more like other open-world titles from the same time.
Where to Play
With all that being said, you should now go play the games! They are both available on Steam as well as consoles. The original is also available on GOG.
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Thank you to the Mirror's Edge Archive for making many of the assets used on this page easily accessible.