Mirror’s Edge is a game that isn’t like anything else released in the modern era. In most games, running is a means to an end, something you must do in order to reach your objective. In Mirror’s Edge, the objective is to run.
When the game was released in 2008, it was met with generally positive reviews and gained a cult following of sorts in the years since. The question is, does the game still live up to the admiration it has garnered over the last fourteen years? Let’s find out.
In Mirror’s Edge, you play as Faith Connors, a young “runner” who traverses a large cityscape via parkour to deliver important information. You travel rooftops, sewers, office buildings, and more in order to avoid the watchful eye of city surveillance. The near future city is peaceful and clean on the surface but is only able to maintain this status due to oppressive government control over its citizens. The Utopic presentation of this unnamed city reveals a deeply troubled dystopia once you look past the shimmering glass.
The people have happily traded their freedom and privacy for a comfortable life. The city is silently in a police state, and the modern architecture and bright colors mask the reality of what is happening. Runners are some of the few people who reject the status quo, and that doesn’t make big brother very happy. Police are tasked with taking you down and will shoot first and ask questions later.
Throughout the narrative of the game, you will uncover a conspiracy to maintain control and eliminate any threats to the powers that be. There are twists and turns and genuine surprises that make the story enjoyable and worth paying attention to. While the story is definitely a plus, the gameplay, level design, and overall atmosphere are the stars of the game.
City in White
The city DICE created is one of the best and most unique settings I have ever played in a video game. Striking colors are painted throughout, including a glowing white that gives the city an uncomfortable uniformity, with a smattering of red, orange, blue, and green. The game does show its age in some areas, but the art style has managed to help the game stand out as one of the better-looking games of the mid-2000s.
You will spend a lot of your time on rooftops, jumping between skyscrapers, scaling ledges, jumping on scaffolding, sliding down pipes, and more in order to quickly traverse this dystopic city.
When not up high, you will travel below, navigating train stations, storm drains, city streets, and more. Mirror’s Edge, which can be completed in just a handful of hours, is filled to the brim with varied locations. The game is packed with a wide variety of settings that all feel distinct and offer unique challenges.
Parkour is the main gameplay loop and what makes Mirror’s Edge a timeless classic. For most of the game, you will simply run through levels and navigate obstacles in order to complete the mission. You can run, wall run, jump, climb, slide and roll and combine each move to efficiently traverse the city. Navigating a rooftop and combining moves to seamlessly get through an area is a repeated dopamine hit that feels amazing whether it’s your first or one hundreth time playing the game. You will want to replay each mission just to perfect your skills and progress through a level without losing any momentum. Any false move in Mirror’s Edge could slow you down or lead to your demise, whether that be falling off a ledge to the streets below or being hit by an oncoming train.
The parkour gameplay, while straightforward and repetitive, is simultaneously complex and rewarding. Expert players are able to take full advantage of the game’s systems and fly through levels without a second wasted. For newer players, experimenting with the game’s mechanics and learning efficient routes through a level is a satisfying experience that rewards practice. DICE has created an all-time great gameplay loop here and it’s one not many other games since have been able to replicate.
While parkour is the star of the game, combat exists on the other end of the spectrum, and for good reason. The mix of hand-to-hand and occasional gunplay feels so underwhelming and underdeveloped in this game that skipping these scenarios feels necessary to have a satisfying experience. Faith does not have any weapons of her own so must first engage hand to hand and then has the option to pick up weapons once enemies are downed. This usually involves just spamming the right trigger and landing body shots until enemies fall over. Melee feels sluggish, nonreactive, and an overall waste of time. Gunplay feels arguably worse as Mirror’s Edge features a suite of generic guns that all feel terrible to use. This game feels as though it would be better served if combat was completely removed. There is very little redeeming about the systems, and its a surprise DICE of all studios could make combat feel this underwhelming.
The soundtrack in Mirror’s Edge perfectly matches the game and provides an incredibly immersive atmosphere. Swedish electronic music artist Solar Fields composes the music for the game, and its mix of futuristic synth pop gives the game an ethereal feeling that matches the city’s utopic aesthetic. The OST for this game is one that I’ve listened to for years and is simply one of the best scores of any video game ever made.
Mirror’s Edge remains a timeless classic 14 years after release. The game’s overarching theme of endless government surveillance is one that is as relevant today as it was in 2008. The parkour gameplay is one of the best gameplay loops I have ever experienced and the nameless city is one of the most memorable video game settings in recent memory. The soundtrack has aged beautifully and is one I often go back to.
While Mirror’s Edge does a lot extremely well, the combat is a complete miss. Luckily parkour is able to compensate for what’s lacking in the combat encounters scattered throughout the game. This is a game you should absolutely check out, and if you’re a Game Pass subscriber it’s “free” to download, leaving you no excuse not to check out one of the most unique games of the modern era.
Available now on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate