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thinkingparkour

Just putting together some thoughts on Mirror’s Edge and noticed that Tom Francis from PC Gamer UK has put up a post all about why the combat in Mirror’s Edge fucking sucks.

Mirror’s Edge is a good game, even a great one at times, but the combat just seems to be working against what is brilliant about sprinting over rooftops while being shot at.

At its heart, Mirror’s Edge is about going from A to B as efficiently as possible, with the chase bits forcing you to think and make choices on the fly. “Runner Vision” gives you visual cues as to where to go next and the “auto-look at next waypoint” button points you in the right direction (most of the time), both of which are extremely helpful. Successful jumps, wall runs, landings, etc, build momentum and increase your speed as you head towards your target, with the only major obstacles being the police, or “blues” that constantly hound the runners.

The majority of these enemies can be avoided quite easily by just running and dodging the gunfire, but there are some, fortunately infrequent encounters that are almost impossible to escape from without a fight. These are drawn out and can involve a lot of running and hiding, which breaks the flow and opens up the flaws with the combat system.

For a game about running it doesn’t help that taking down an enemy isn’t something you can do on the move. To effectively take someone down you need to:

Run in.

Wait for them to swing at you to and hope you hit the button at the right moment to engage the disarm move.

Wait for the animation to complete.

Run away.

Which can take more than a few seconds, kills any acceleration you’ve built up along the way, and, later on, a slight mistake while attempting a disarm will see you beaten or shot down and back at the last checkpoint.

Speaking of which, I understand why the game relies on checkpoints, rather than quick saves. They add to the momentum and rhythm; it’s all about doing one long run perfectly rather than reloading before every jump or encounter. Eventually you nail it and it feels great, especially when you jump into a wall run, jump off the wall, turn in mid-air, and then grab onto a scaffold with nothing below you except a hundred foot fall onto solid concrete.

A bullet time/slow motion ability helps you time the disarm move, which can be an utter bastard to pull off, but as it takes time to recharge after each use it’s of limited use when facing multiple opponents. Also, as far as I can tell, there’s no way to turn the bloody thing off, so once it’s activated, that’s it, you have to wait for it to finish it’s cycle.

The other obstacles in the game perform a function much more in line with the free running aspect of the game. The doors, the electric fences, the death-defying gaps between buildings, all of these things are hurdles. It’s just a shame that the enemies are speed bumps.

(And for some reason it reminds me of Portal; a short-form puzzle game with a bare aesthetic and ambient electronic music. What I find strikingly similar is how you have to adjust your mind when looking at how to apply your free running abilities to the environment, which ends up less “thinking with portals” and more “fuck using the stairs”.  I don’t know.)