"There is no possible fraking way to jump accurately from a first person perspective. All of the things that would let you do it in real life (sense of balance and momentum, awareness of your body) are gone. Also, you can't see your fucking feet."
That quote comes from Cracked's (I know) Seven Commandments All Video Games Should Obey, and it explains the crippling flaw at the heart of Mirror's Edge
more succinctly and damningly than I ever could.
Let's focus on the good parts first, though. The game looks very good, its hyper-clean, bright representation of a dystopian society making more sense to me than most of the more traditional views, ones that depict dystopia as dark and dingy - you'd think that if one person or one party wielded so much power, they'd get all their infrastructure and civic upkeep done right, you know? Or maybe that's just nearly two decades of playing Civilization
interfering with my thought process...also, the storyline and the characters keep the world convincing too. I'm a big fan of the highly stylized, anime-esque cut-scenes as well, and feel that they bring a lot of personality to the game.
It's all undermined by the gameplay though, which is genuinely horrific at times. Timing your jumps when moving between narrow platforms, as you're often asked to do, is a tedious, thankless, and counter-intuitive process - without being able to see the ground you're standing on, you can't tell when you've reached the edge when making a running jump, and the window of opportunity is so narrow at times that you literally have to make that jump on your very last footstep to avoid dying, and it's needlessly difficult to judge when that last footstep falls. There are a number of mechanisms that could have sorted this out, like a shift to a third-person view for the trickier platforming moments, or a fail-safe mechanism that stops you from being able to just run off a ledge to your death (a la Prince of Persia
); instead, you're pretty munch left to your own devices, which involve watching your character fall to their death 25 or 30 times. The field of view doesn't help either - I'm not going to hold it against the game too much, because I've never heard anybody else make the same complaint and am happy to accept that it's probably just me, but the second time I sat down to play I only lasted 20 minutes before I was physically sick. I struggle with motion sickness all the time in cars, sure, but this remains the only time anything on a TV has ever literally made me vomit.
Weirdly, it feels like two good games mashed into one mediocre one. Take that storyline, these characters, those cut-scenes, and turn it into a third-person stealth game, and you'd have something. Make a game about parkour, from a first person perspective, that has a free running mode and a set of objectives like a Tony Hawk game, and you'd have something there, too. Mash them into each other, though, and you get a game where a few good elements simply exist to nullify each other. You can't appreciate the scenery when you're so busy trying not to die (often at the hands of gun-wielding enemies that you can't even look at without endangering yourself), and you can't appreciate the gameplay when you're always in danger of dying in a way that would be eminently avoidable if only the camera was a few metres behind your head.
In the realm of missed opportunities, this is up there with Gascoigne vs. Germany. I really do look forward to somebody making a dedicated parkour sports simulation, though.