On Mirror's Edge

2023-04-05 · 2 min read

Mirror's Edge harkens back to a more experimental era of Electronic Arts; an era where their developers could take risks and explore new, creative gameplay.

Parkour and movement are the primary focus of the game, with some combat sections interspersed throughout. Aiming and firing weapons is clunky, but makes sense in the context of the gameplay (the protagonist Faith is not trained in using weapons). Faith's lack of combat prowess serves to further nudge the player into focusing on character movement and chaining her assortment of moves together. Jumps, slides, rolls, wall running, and more can be seamlessly transitioned to and from, resulting in uninterrupted travel across the environments.

Though it sounds simple, it's really quite challenging when a single misstep can cause you to fall to your death, or get annihilated by enemies. The biggest compliment that can be said of the movement is that the simple joy of controlling Faith is its own reward. The freedom in player movement is akin to controlling Mario in Super Mario 64. It's just fun to go through levels and try to get the "perfect run" with little to no mistakes.

On a more technical and aesthetic level, Mirror's Edge still looks good today (at least on the Xbox Series X). White is used extensively for a minimal, clean look while color is used sparingly to highlight details in the environment. Red is the most prominent accent color, highlighting where to go and what can be interacted with. Other prominent colors like blues, oranges, and yellows flesh out the world and the objects within. The game could use less bloom, but the focus on a clean, stylistic aesthetic holds up well today. Indeed, Mirror's Edge has aged much more gracefully when compared to many of its contemporaries of the seventh-console generation.

It's not a perfect game. Level design is overall solid, but the minimalist aesthetic sometimes makes it difficult to identify what to do and where to go. The controls while responsive overall, can be a bit janky on certain actions such as jumping between and off pipes. While I prefer the reboot Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, the original game is a fun and worthwhile experience to go back to. There's no open-world fatigue, no handholding or over-reliance on scripted events to create compelling gameplay. At its core, Mirror's Edge is a game focused on movement and the flow established from mastery of the controls. It rewards active engagement.

Mirror's Edge is a reminder that after you take away the frills and spectacle of modern videogame design, it is the gameplay where the medium shines.

Author: Alexander Perepechko

A software engineer who has a life-long obsession with videogames. Enjoys all sorts of programming and tech; also an avid coffee lover.