Mirror’s Edge

By Jim Rossignol on February 29th, 2008 at 1:59 pm.


Okay, that’s enough teasing. The really impressive thing that DICE showed at GDC was Mirror’s Edge. It looks totally fucking awesome.

We’ve all heard that it’s a first-person game that focuses more on movement than combat, but I’m not sure anyone quite believed it. Well, believe it now. I’ve never seen a game that captures motion, momentum and bodily inertia so brilliantly. Remember how Thief changed the face of gaming with its sneaking and lurking? Well Mirror’s Edge is making the same kind of leap, only this time for, er, leaping.

Beyond the jump… more about jumping.

So if you look at the screenshot below you can see that there are some red bits and pieces in the environment. This shows the fastest way across the environment. It’s an impressive system of visual signposting that doesn’t look out of place in the ultra-clean utopian cityscape. This is a game about moving, and moving rapidly. You’re a free-running courier called Faith, who has to make her way across the city without either getting apprehended by the cops, or plunging to her death. Knowing what to leap for and what to grab is utterly essential. Of course there’s going to be multiple routes out of any given situation, but noticing the red stuff is probably going to get you on your way a little faster. It’s not always obvious either – it’s just as likely to be a thin piece of a piping or a hidden hatch, as a giant red girder.

Anyway, the GDC demo had Faith leaping across rooftops, scrambling over fences, mantling up over ledges and wall-jumping up out of trouble. It was actually superlative-defying, in that Original-Half-Life sense of the phrase.

This focus on movement seems like a significant shift in what game designers are getting interested in: movement needs to be better. Assassin’s Creed had a taste of it, Prototype seems to have clicked with it, but Mirror’s Edge has quite possibly mastered it. Again, let me say that I have never seen a game move like this. Watching the assembled crowd sway and squirm in front of the big demo screens makes you realised that no one has really managed to simulate anything like real movement in videogames. Mirror’s Edge is a little different – there’s an amazing sense of organic fluidity to how Faith moves. It’s far more embodied than anything we’ve seen before. She slides under obstacles, or vaults over them, at the press of a button. I’d like to think that it’s going to be quite easy to grasp too, making this one of those games that you will feel like a God for having mastered. I’ve spent years with my head down in FPS games, but none of them made me feel as giddy as watching this.

What’s even more impressive is that violence is to be kept at a physical level too. You can pull a pistol from a guard, but it’ll only last as long as there are bullets in the clip. The real fighting will come with fists and feet, kung fu, not rock-launchers. Not that fighting is the main solution: you’re a free-runner of ludicrous skill, and so running away is almost always the best option. This means that much of what the game throws at you will be physical, spatial puzzles: how do I get over there?

The structure of the game is going to be a linear story, in which Faith delivers her messages and performs missions that she’s guided through by a remote radio voice, but it’s a living city beneath her. Peer over the edge and you can see cars and people bustling by. Be prepared to be tracked by TV helicopters and rooftop cops. It’s clear that this is going to be a game with a strong storyline (the producer Owen O’Brien spent some time waffling about Faith’s past and motivation before we got to the actual meat of watching it in motion) and I just hope that’s allowed to go on in the background. This is a game where we’re going to want to remain in control of throughout. I pray for more Half-Life, less, well you know how I feel about cutscenes.

Having only seen the game played by a trained DICE employee, and not yet had a hands on, it’s hard to say whether Faith’s free-running will really be as fluid or as free from getting caught on scenery as it seemed to be. And there’s still enormous scope for DICE to mess up the delivery of the game as a whole (mentioning no names… Assassin’s Creed). Nevertheless the divide between this and Battlefield Heroes basically confirms for me that DICE know exactly what they’re doing. They’re hitting both the PC’s lowest common denominator and also striking out for that high-concept astonishment with mega-production values and previously unseen design ideas. If they can deliver on both they’ll be a long way towards being one of the world’s most significant developers.

No release date has yet been confirmed for Mirror’s Edge. And I can’t wait.

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40 Comments »

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  1. Meat Circus says:

    Mr R, put that stonking great WANT-on away. You’ll have someone’s eye out with that.

    It sounds like it has an enormous amount of potential, but I remain cautious now. And as you pointed out, that reason for that caution was Assassin’s Creed.

    It also had the same amount of potential, and then blew it by being a bit of a rubbish game underneath all the climby-jumpy-runny happiness.

    Let’s hope Edge doesn’t.

  2. Janek says:

    I think the key will be keeping the motion fluid – making sure the player is always moving, always has somewhere to go. I mean, it’s all very well watching a dev play it, but would an actual player be able to move as seamlessly, rather than getting stuck and just sort of looking around scratching their head. Would disjoint it horribly.

    I guess it’ll need Valve levels of tweaking and playtesting, but if they get it right? Mmmmm.

  3. Matu says:

    Hmm. I’m just going to have to take your word that this will make me its bitch, I’m underwhelmed by the concept without playing it. We’ll see.

  4. Rook says:

    If you talk about movement in FPS game but don’t mention Arkane’s Dark Messiah (and from their trailer – The Crossing), you’re doing something wrong.

  5. Jim Rossignol says:

    It makes Dark Messiah look pretty clumsy.

  6. James says:

    OK yeah, this doesn’t look half bad at all. If it can actually capture free running rather than the ‘Hey, look how you can jump between buildings’ version that most games – yes, Altair, people are pointing at you – have tried to push as the real thing, I will be incredibly happy.

    Also, I must mention that I liked Assassin’s Creed. Horribly flawed, but unbelievably awesome when it hit home. I can see why a whole lot of folks hated it, though.

  7. Tak says:

    Concept – huge want-on (to steal the phrase, love it)
    Execution – perhaps cautious to the point of cynical.

    EA, for all their claims at wanting to change, well, have a way of porking things up. DICE I have some level of confidence in as a team, but they answer to the big E, and these past few years that has meant ‘Garbage out to make a deadline’. I hope that EA is being sincere about these much-covered changes they’re making, so that teams can make games like this using whatever resources (time included) it takes. If so it could lead to a refreshing run for gaming (particularly PC gaming).

    I’m going to bet this will have in-game ads. That really, REALLY is going to irk me if so. I bought the game. You don’t need more money from ads. Give the game away, no problem with ads.

  8. Max says:

    At first glance, I thought that logo on the chopper was a muzzle flash, and the brightly-coloured line coming out of it looked like a bullet.

    I play too many shooting games -.-

  9. Kast says:

    Max: Errr, it IS. You’re being shot at plenty and running away.

    Yay for new screenshot. That makes…. three. hmm, new glove. And I wonder if people will now stop complaining that it looks like a guy’s hand.

    And finally: Story! Background! Character! We need to know.

  10. Matu says:

    But I thought Dark Messiah WAS clumsy…

  11. Masterdog says:

    I have to say when it comes to industry innovators, I don’t necessarily think of DICE. But this does look like something special and genuinely groundbreaking. Will be very interested to give it a play.

  12. Rook says:

    Fighting with a sword is clumsy if you’re trying to hack and slash rather than skewer.

    And I’m pretty sure that is gunfire from the helicoptor
    http://www.on-mirrors-edge.com/incgalleryview.php?file=119.jpg

  13. dartt says:

    gamersyde seems to have a few other screenshots that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

  14. Tak says:

    I don’t think it looks like a male hand. It looks like a muscular and well-toned hand/forearm, but you’d expect that from one of those crazy run-and-jump-on-everything types that make awesome youtube videos.

  15. Citizen Parker says:

    So this looks to plays well as a first-person as opposed to third-person game?

    I ask mostly because I’ve hated every platforming section in every FPS I’ve ever played, but otherwise I’m totally in love with this game.

  16. Jonathan says:

    Not a want from me yet. I just don’t have enough faith in game developers (pun sooo intended), it’ll need a Valve level of polish because this game looks like any break in rhythm would be unbearable. That said chases are always the most exciting bit of a first person game (Dark Corners of the Earth, the start of Half Life 2 etc) but also run a thin line between being too obvious and linear or too obtuse leading to repeated deaths and a £200 bill for a new monitor.

    I’ll wait to see this gameplay video before I get a solid want-on.

  17. Theory says:

    I ask mostly because I’ve hated every platforming section in every FPS I’ve ever played

    Something tells me that Mirror’s Edge is going to set a new precedent in that area. ;-)

  18. drunkymonkey says:

    “And finally: Story! Background! Character! We need to know.”

    Yep! As the world looks so beautiful to run around in, I’d love to hear more about it and the characters in it.

    Been gasping for more details for this ever since EDGE got the scoop on it, and it looks like it’s going to be phenomenally good fun if they can get the combat as good as the parkour.

    Now I want to see an in-game video. Need one, rather.

  19. Aubrey says:

    Augh. I’ve been wanting to do a “proper” parkour game for such a long time. Even starting doing the sport to get a proper feel for it, so I have a total false sense of superiority when it comes to opinions about movement in games. I want to believe that this will be the second coming, but my expectations for parkour games are really kind of high/boarderline unrealistic (although some of that Natural Motion stuff could break down some technical barriers), so, fingers crossed.

    I think the level design in combination with the core game play will be the real decider. If you do parkour, you’ll know that a lot of effort is made just finding locations that lend themselves well to movement (and which don’t have fascist security guards hanging around). Some areas just really don’t provide much interesting “furniture” to move around. And a common pitfall in making levels for these kinds of games it to take too much of an “intended route” approach to things (Prince of Persia was lovely, but for this). Parkour is about creative path-finding, after all, so levels need to be set up with massive combinatorial possibilities in mind.

    It’s all very well having stellar movement, but if you’re just going to use it to slowly clamber up boring, repeating tower blocks (Hello crackdown! I loved you otherwise!) then you’re missing a trick. Equally, great level design which allows for lots of interesting routes won’t save a clunky movement system.

    From the looks of the screenshots, I’d say they pretty much have the idea for the level design. The idea of “red = optimal path” sets off alarm bells for me. If they just said “red = most obvious route”, then I wouldn’t have been so concerned. Still, that’s just how they’re explaining it. If they actually end up bottle necking the levels heavily, you’re going to lose that wonderful exploratory/complete world feeling. Please. Don’t.

    Hard to tell about the movement of course. I like DICE (a lot) but I’ll be more surprised at them getting movement right – DICE don’t spring to mind when you think of fluid movement (Battlefield 2 has some nasty hitches here and there… so maybe this game is a sort of reaction to that nastiness, and the fact that movement in games in general has so much room for improvement that it’s not even funny).

    Guardedly optimistic about this.

  20. Nick R says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this ever since Edge’s article on it last summer. The focus on movement rather than combat appeals to the time attacker in me. :-)Really hope it lives up to the promise.

  21. Karthik says:

    I’m surprised no one’s noticed the obvious connection between the lead character name and the promised gameplay- yet.

    Leap of Faith.

    DICE think the pun would go unnoticed, eh?

  22. Cyren says:

    Why haven’t they released a video of this game yet? Impressions of how the movement looks great only takes us so far. It’s a game about movement, show it to us in motion!

  23. Zuffox says:

    Karthik: that or a hidden affection for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. :P

    (agh, and lose the smileys, RPS guys)

  24. Turin Turambar says:

    I fear two things in this game:

    -Linear levels with “paths” formed between all that mess of construction stuff and skycrappers which are the only real way to advance, so you can’t use you leet parkour skills outside the path done by the designer.

    -Visual cue system which makes the game dumbed down and trivial.

    If the games passes these two hurdles it can be really great.

  25. Noc says:

    Something about this game seems really Valve-y to me. Which is a good thing; I feel like the more the story mode looks like Half-Life, the better it’ll be.

    As opposed to being a series of isolated missions in closed areas.

    Also, will it ALL be on rooftops? Because then it just starts to look like a platformer. I think what’ll make or break this game is whether it’s just one long series of jumping puzzles, or if it’s a wider free-range environment with a point A and a point B, where detours are both possible and necessary.

    So at the moment, I WANT to fall in love with it, but my heart’s still too sore from Oblivion to get look forward to a game that much again.

  26. Chris says:

    Does anyone have a link to a video of this game online?

  27. Max says:

    @Kast

    Heh, it is? I wasn’t sure, that muzzle flash is just awful looking. I don’t really know what the game’s about so I assumed there wouldn’t be gunfire…

  28. Rapscallion Jones says:

    Did this game really need combat? I have to say, I’m pretty excited about the main game mechanic. Parkour has great potential for movies and games (evident in District B13) but I’m not terribly thrilled with the idea of fighting in this setting. Nor do I particularly care for the backdrop of secret messages being moved around to keep the man off your back.

    Quite frankly, this game could have been like Crazy Taxi in that you have an assignment to deliver a package, you have this much time to get there. Find the quickest route and be flashy in your free running.

    I, personally, would have preferred something like that but I’m still pretty excited about the prospect of this game.

  29. Theory says:

    Does anyone have a link to a video of this game online?

    There is no such thing.

  30. Ghiest says:

    Someone played too much Crack down on the 360 and thought that jumping could be made into a game …

  31. Sum0 says:

    I’m interested in this concept of getting movement right in an FPS. Remember the first cutscene in Crysis, where you lose control of your character as he ducks beneath a tree branch and steps through to the other side? The camera in that cutscene moves in such a realistic fashion, as if you really were ducking a little, shifting your weight, tilting your head underneath, grabbing something for balance…

    Then you go back to the game, and you’re a floating camera which can move down if you press Ctrl or fly up in the air if you press Space. It feels nothing like a real viewpoint.

    I’m not sure if you could make a whole game about it, but making the camera in an FPS move like it’s a real-life set of eyeballs would be much appreciated.

  32. The man who doesn't need names says:

    I don’t like female main characters in fps. I mean I do like the games (think PORTAL) and I may like the character per se, I just dislike the idea of adept female characters -urm no I mean I hate having to identify with female characters ;)

  33. Max says:

    Never played Metroid then? Gotta love Samus. :)

  34. Phil H says:

    Do. Want. Now!

  35. James T says:

    I don’t like female main characters in fps. I mean I do like the games (think PORTAL) and I may like the character per se, I just dislike the idea of adept female characters -urm no I mean I hate having to identify with female characters

    I, conversely, dislike having to identify with female characters because they smell.

  36. Flint says:

    I don’t really like playing as a female character in general. Only a few have got me really on their side: Samus, April Ryan, Jade and Cate Archer. I guess the reason in all of those (except Samus) is that they’re all well written and feel like real people, instead of just lightly clothed boob machines. Hell, it even extends to me trying to build my pokémon teams as all-male.

    Oh, and I prefer playing as a draenei female in WoW because the draenei male looks so… icky, but even then the trend of female armour being damn revealing really annoys me.

    I guess there’s a hidden chauvinist in me trying to break out, or me being a poof shows in virtual discrimination.

    Erm, offtopic?

  37. Seth Tipps says:

    I rather doubt that’s a muzzle flash, but if it was, it could be a result of the filters they’re using to create the movement effects. That would seem strange though: I’d have guessed for more of a doppelar-effect distortion. (not that you’d be moving fast enough for that to happen in real life, but most games wind up doing something like that for high speed, and it seemed to work okay in ep2)

  38. Kast says:

    “I’m surprised no one’s noticed the obvious connection between the lead character name and the promised gameplay- yet.

    Leap of Faith. ”

    Karthik – Not on here, maybe, but it’s practically a meme on the OnMirror’sEdge forums. Along you “you just gotta have Faith” which is in no way perverted, I swear :P

  39. Alex says:

    Then you go back to the game, and you’re a floating camera which can move down if you press Ctrl or fly up in the air if you press Space. It feels nothing like a real viewpoint.

    Thing is, I never really find myself thinking something like “Oh, this is ridiculous, nothing like a real viewpoint, nothing like it AT ALL!”. It has never bothered me, really.

    That said, sometimes you need to be shown how things can be done differently before you realise what you’ve potentially been missing.