Mirror's Edge Demo Hands-On

After the amazing game that was Dead Space, I’ve found myself looking forward to EA’s other new IP of the fall, Mirror’s Edge, even more. No, it’s not from the same development team, but I still link the promise of one with the payoff of the other, as they show EA willing to stray from yearly sequels. Last week, EA gave gamers a taste of the parkour-flavored game, with demos now available on both PSN and Xbox 360. After taking it for a spin on both systems, I’m more excited than ever.

The demo starts you off with a step-by-step tutorial, from the most basic (jumping, crouching, forward motion), to the slightly more advanced (fighting, disarming, chaining together moves). Two things are an absolute must for this game to be successful: easy controls, and a solid camera. The camera in this case always stays centered. There isn’t a ton of random motion, and it’s easy to tell where you’re going next, thanks to a white (and sometimes blue) reticle that sits in the center of the screen. It’s just a small dot, but it keeps your focus, and is designed to both guide you and prevent simulation sickness. As noted, it turns blue when you have built up some slo-mo time, which is accquired simply by running.

And run you shall. This game is all about thinking on your feet, and figuring out your next move as soon as possible. It’s a real rush, like playing a racing game while playing an adventure game, all in first person. There’s almost always a different if not better way to go through any one section of a level, as well, so there’s plenty of reason to try again, over and over.

One thing the developer (and even your instructor) encourages you to do is just forget about guns. Yes, they’re there, yes, there’s a pretty solid shooting mechanic, but it really is so secondary. Guns take time to fire, and it just slows you down too much. It’s much more efficient, and in this case more fun, to simply run up, disarm the creep, throw the gun away and move on to your next enemy.

The PlayStation 3 controller felt more comfortable and responsive, compared to the 360 one. However, the graphics were smoother (though not necessarily any prettier) on 360, as the PS3 had a couple of frame rate issues. Granted, this is just a demo, and hopefully that won’t be an issue in the final retail version, but it was noticeable here. Other than that, the two versions are identical, with controls mapped to matching buttons (L1 = LB, etc), and an amazing soundtrack accompanying a beautiful white-and-primary-filled world. The brightness of the scenery certainly sets this far apart from most other first person games, which have of late tended to the dark hues, browns, and lots of smoke/dust/fog. Taking in the beauty is tempting, but the constant speed of moving forward is too satisfying to stay still for long.

Overall, this was a great demo, and a great introduction to the game for those who haven’t had any opportunity with it before. If you preorder the game, you’ll also get a code to play the time trials section, giving a little competition to even the demo. I imagine these time trials will become a huge hit with glory-obsessed gamers in the final version. Not being much of a first person kind of gamer, I’m amazed by just how much fun I had with this. The demo is definitely worth checking out, and the full game, which comes out in a couple weeks, is now even higher on my list to check out.

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