Tina K. Russell

December 3, 2008

The Cutting Edge

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 7:24 am

From Edge’s review of Mirror’s Edge (no relation):

Review: Mirror’s Edge | Edge Online
Its story is so ethereal you barely know it’s there,‭ ‬and when you do you wish it wasn’t.‭ ‬Its puzzles scarcely evolve beyond the obvious,‭ ‬its combos beyond sequences its levels can’t sustain.‭ ‬Attempts to infuse the recurring,‭ ‬utilitarian environments with something‭ – ‬anything‭ – ‬dynamic produce disastrously signposted boss battles,‭ ‬bumbling arcade sequences and the gross indulgence of Faith’s lesser-known talent:‭ ‬turning valves.‭ ‬Run,‭ ‬grab it,‭ ‬run

But the real tragedy of the game,‭ ‬with its dedicated time-trial modes and leaderboards,‭ ‬is its failure to capture anything of what popularised parkour to begin with.‭ ‬There’s no freedom or empowerment in constantly failing to make a predefined jump hemmed in with dead ends.‭ ‬Nor is there sustained momentum,‭ ‬nor any real sense of verticality beyond what passes beneath your feet.

This is what I sincerely appreciate about Edge. A lot of game publications spend so much time previewing a game, hanging out with the developers, fighting off PR reps, etc. that when they finally review a game, they feel a sort of obligation to gloss over its faults. Edge feels no such obligation; whatever you think of their opinions, they’ll give them to you straight. They can also, in the manner of Zero Punctuation (spectacularly filthy language and visuals warning!), be counted on to complain about the things that bug you about games, all the little annoyances that chip away at a game’s unique world.

On the subject of Mirror’s Edge… I’m disappointed that the game isn’t more freeform. Some of my favorite games—most notably Crazy Taxi and Jet Grind Radio, both masterpieces—are basically simulators of getting from point A to point B, repeatedly, whilst avoiding obstacle C. (That’s really the basic premise of Pac-Man, a founding document in gaming culture.) The trick is to give the gamer an open city in which to do crazy cool stunts, so he or she can keep finding new ways to cut corners and show off, to look cool and get the job done. In Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind Radio, and Pac-Man, you’re never given a preset order, and are forced to make things up as you go, which is at the core of what makes them fun. In Mirror’s Edge, it sounds like, levels are more linear and predetermined, which sounds like exactly what would kill a game like it, which is tragic because I liked the idea of a first-person game where it doesn’t feel like your character is a human Steadicam.

Note to the uninitiated: Most first-person games, defined as games in which you see the world from the eyes of the main character, have you move forward and look around with robotic precision, unlike the real world in which your viewpoint bobs around as you walk, run, or do crazy stunts while avoiding totalitarian government agents. The idea of a first-person game with no guns, one about using your wits and athletics alone to escape the Man, sounded really compelling to me. It’s sad that it sounds like the game didn’t reach that distant rooftop it was leaping toward.

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