>Had a pretty busy weekend, but was able to get in some time with a rental copy of Mirror’s Edge.
I argued for a parkour game a million years ago on my old blog and while Mirror’s Edge isn’t what I had in mind, it’s the closest thing there is right now. (Prince of Persia doesn’t count, even though it kinda should.)
Mirror’s Edge has a lot of great things going for it: a simple control scheme that isn’t intuitive the first time you play it but very quickly becomes second nature, a fantastic visual design, a female protagonist that isn’t overly sexualized or half-naked, and, well, a unique concept that’s actually compelling. And when the game is cooking, goddamn, it’s just a hell of a lot of fun to play.
It’s also got some maddening problems, and this is ultimately why I elected to return it instead of trying to finish it. And the problems here are the same problems that Prince of Persia had, and even the recent Tomb Raider games have had; the combat fucking sucks. The combat sucks especially bad in Mirror’s Edge because your character is incredibly fragile and if you mis-time the buttonpress to disarm your attacker, you are totally fucked, always. The enemy AI is dirt-stupid and yet also psychic; they will stand in the middle of a hallway and shoot you, but they also seem to know where you are even when you’re totally hidden from view. At the point I stopped playing last night, I had tried and re-tried this one particular section at the very end of Chapter 5 about 30 different times, and when I finally succeeded it wasn’t through skill but through sheer dumb luck, and so when I finished the level I didn’t feel rewarded, only pissed off. I knew what I was supposed to do, and the game felt like it was broken at that particular point, and there was no way of getting around it.
It’s an ambitious game and, again, when the game is working, it’s exhilarating and breathtaking and everything I’d hoped it would be. It just feels like in every game of this type, the developer feels compelled to break up the awesome running-jumping bits with combat, which slows the pace down and never feels quite right. Either cut out the combat all together, or treat the combat as less of an afterthought and more of something just as integral to the game. Of all the games that ever did this sort of thing, Crackdown is the only one I’ve ever played that really felt like it could handle both, and what’s funny is that Crackdown wasn’t necessarily about either.