The current 'gaming generation' might still have up to 3 years of battery life left, but with the inevitable release of new consoles it's time to take a look back. Look back and find the best of the best. The games you just have to play, and, in the few years remaining maybe you'll just have time to check them out. It's prime-time, people. These games aren't here because they're popular. They're here because they are great! If they're available on the Xbox 360 it's fair game. So, without further ado your first game is;
Picture the setting. It's 2008. Mirror's Edge is first released. Most people are disappointed. Most people are silly. This game is a true masterpiece and an artistic work of beauty.
Published by the ever so infamous Electronic Arts and developed by DICE, Mirror's Edge throws you in the shoes of Faith; a free runner, who acts as a courier in a dystopian world. As such, she has great physical prowess allowing her to traverse the city she lives in by jumping over and under obstacles, running along walls and reaching new heights. A true platformer heavily inspired by parkour, with action thrown in to keep the player engaged and occupied.
The game itself has a relatively weak story arc. The city Faith lives in is entirely ruled by outlandish policies. All communication is monitored and the media controlled. On the other hand, crime is all but non-existent. This results in a strong message about fighting for your freedom. How far is too far before society turns into a regime? The story may be weak, but it is heavily reinforced by the environments.
You control Faith in first person mode, through an almost entirely white city. The city is completely cleansed of everything and represents the lack of independence & privacy of its citizens. The government has total and unlimited control. The same white walls are never ending which acts as a reminder as this minimalistic design paves the way for innovation. True beauty lies within for those who are willing to explore the themes of the game. Reluctant players can still dive in without giving too much thought, but if you do then you're going to miss out on an incredible portion of the world. To really enjoy and understand the wonders of Mirror's Edge you must first immerse yourself in this unimmersive world. You can't? That's the point!
Everything is deliberate. The lack of variety is intended. The repetition serves only as visual proof that you're not making any progress. Why? Because in reality, you aren't. It all boils down to a race against time, which is really clever given that at its heart Mirror's Edge is nothing but a speed running game. The mechanics define the atmosphere in which you live in and the atmosphere in turn defines the story. Quality game design at its peak.
With such revolutionary momentum the gameplay either exemplifies or stifles Mirror's Edge. You run, and use the ever so intuitive control scheme to navigate obstacles. Navigating successfully allows you to either keep your speed, or increase it. Competent players can keep the pace to excel through the levels at an incredible rate. Unfortunately, a mistake usually ends up stopping the player dead in their tracks and they have to build that pace up again. This is how Mirror's Edge determines its bad players from its good ones. Those who can keep the pace and speed in their favour are privy to exploits within the game's world to shave minutes off of their time by making but a single leap. Leaderboards are important here.
Mirror's Edge offers a multitude of game modes to test the player's ability to perform. Most are governed by the game with a score to beat and completing these modes within the allocated time limit isn't an easy task. If you can do it, then you're surely a skilled player. In story mode, you are hindered by enemies firing at you. The player has combat capabilities at their disposal, and disposing of certain enemies is key to a good time, however, many dislike Mirror's Edge for poor shooting segments because the mechanics are sub-par. But, as outlined above; that is intended. This is a 3D platforming game, not a shooter. The goal is to run away from opposition and not to fight it. Keep one thing in your mind at all times in this parkour driven game. Run.
Within each of the game's modes you'll find (On the lower difficulties) that the world lights up red for Faith. This is Runner's Vision, and allows the player to see the world through Faith's eyes. A world of connections; objects she can interact with to get from one place to another. To begin with this is a very important mechanic for the player to understand how to interact with the game and progress. However, traditionally levels are very linear with little variation in routes you can take, but a lot of possibilities to make jumps and tricks within the linearity to break records. This further reinforces the city you live in and on subsequent playthroughs on those higher difficulties, as you spend more time in the city, that runner's vision disappears. Mirror's Edge is one giant, deep metaphor. Embrace it. Enjoy it.
Being such an old game you can pick this beauty up fairly cheap now. I urge all you readers out there to play it, and maybe, just maybe, you can even enter it in the £5 challenge.
XBLG Content Writer