|Developer(s)||EA Digital Illusions CE|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Release date(s)||PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
July 13, 2012
Mirror's Edge is an action-adventure platform video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts. The game was announced on July 10, 2007, and was released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in November 2008. A Microsoft Windows version was released on January 13, 2009. Mirror's Edge is powered by the Unreal Engine 3, with the addition of a new lighting solution, developed by Illuminate Labs in association with DICE.
Mirror's Edge is set in a quasi-futuristic dystopian society, in which a network of 'runners', including the main character, Faith, act as couriers to transmit messages while evading government surveillance. In the style of a three-dimensional platform game, the player guides Faith over rooftops, across walls, through ventilation shafts, and otherwise within urban environments, negotiating obstacles using movements inspired by parkour. The game has a brightly colored style and differs from most previous first-person perspective video games in allowing for a greater freedom of movement with regard to its 3D environment, allowing for a wider range of actions—such as sliding under barriers, tumbling, wall-running, and shimmying across ledges; in having no heads-up display; and in allowing a range of vision which incorporated the legs, arms, and torso of the character as frequently visible elements on-screen.
Mirror's Edge has received mostly positive reviews, with the PC version garnering a Metacritic aggregated score of 81%. The game's uniqueness and its expansive environments have received praise, while criticism has centred on its weakness of plot, trial and error gameplay and short length. The game won the Annual Interactive Achievement Award for Adventure Game of the Year. A soundtrack featuring remixes of the final credits song "Still Alive" by Swedish singer Lisa Miskovsky was also released. A side-scroller mobile game, also titled Mirror's Edge, was released for iPad on April 1, 2010, and for the iPhone on September 2, 2010. A port of the game was released for Windows Phone on July 13, 2012, with an initial exclusivity period for owners of Nokia Lumia phones. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013, a second game was officially announced.
In Mirror's Edge, the player controls the protagonist, Faith, from a first-person perspective as she is challenged to navigate across a gleaming city, by jumping between rooftops, running across walls, and gaining access to buildings through ventilation shafts. This is accomplished by use of techniques and movements inspired by the discipline of parkour. According to senior producer Owen O'Brien, Mirror's Edge aims to "convey [...] strain and physical contact with the environment", with the goal of allowing a freedom of movement previously unseen in the first-person genre. In order to achieve this, camera movement pays more attention to character movement. For example, as Faith's speed builds up while running, the rate at which the camera bobs up and down increases as well. When a roll is executed, the camera spins with the character. Faith's arms, legs, and torso are prominent and their visibility is used to convey movement and momentum. The character's arms pump and the length of her steps increase with her gait, and her legs cycle and arms flail during long jumps.
In gameplay, the character's momentum becomes an asset. The player must attempt to conserve it through fluidity of physical actions, encouraging the creation of chains of moves. If Faith does not have the momentum required to traverse an object, she will fall off or short of it. Controls are simplified by being context-sensitive; the "upwards movement" button will cause Faith to traverse an obstacle by passing over it (i.e., by jumping, vaulting, climbing, or grabbing set pieces like zip-lines) while the "downwards movement" button will cause her to perform other manoeuvres like sliding, rolling, or crouching. To assist the player in creating these chains of moves, the game employs a system called "Runner Vision", which emphasises environmental pieces useful for progression. Certain pipes, ramps, and doors are highlighted in red as Faith approaches, allowing the player to instantly recognize paths and escape routes. Further along in the game, the number of these visual hints is reduced to only the end goal, and the player can opt to turn off this hint system entirely. It is also used to create puzzles in which the player must figure out how to combine the highlighted set pieces into a chain of moves in order to reach the target. Another means of assistance to the player is a system called "Reaction Time", a form of bullet time activated by the player, slowing down time and allowing the player to plan and time their next move without losing momentum or tactical advantage.
The player character can hold weapons, but O'Brien stressed that "this is an action adventure. We're not positioning this as a shooter – the focus isn't on the gun, it's on the person." Gameplay in Mirror's Edge focuses on finding the best route through the game's environments while combat takes a secondary role. Completing the game without shooting a single enemy unlocks an achievement for the player. Consequently, guns may be obtained by disarming an enemy, but when the magazine is empty, it will need to be discarded. Additionally, carrying a weapon slows Faith down; the heavier the gun, the more it hinders her movement. This introduces an element of strategy in determining when to trade agility for short-term firepower.
Along with the campaign mode, Mirror's Edge features a time attack mode, where the player must try to complete one of a set of special maps in the shortest amount of time. Best times can be uploaded to online leaderboards, where players can also download ghosts of other players to compete against. The maps are unlocked by playing through the campaign mode. According to producer Tom Ferrer, the time trial portions of Mirror's Edge are "bite-sized and short so you can grind them and play them and get faster and faster. It's not like playing an entire level."
Mirror's Edge takes place in an unnamed 'utopian' city where life is comfortable and crime almost non-existent. But the city's state of bliss is the achievement of a domineering and totalitarian regime which monitors all communication, controls the media, spies on its citizens and has policies which include the outright prohibition of smoking and alcohol. The City also operates sham trials, and runs on a sham democracy. Eighteen years before the events of the game they had opened fire on a protest against their rule, killing many civilians.
As the story begins the mayoral elections are near and a new candidate, Robert Pope, is challenging the incumbent Mayor Callaghan on a platform of deregulation.
According to senior producer Owen O'Brien, "[Mirror's Edge] asks how much of your personal freedom are you willing to give up for a comfortable life. It's not one girl against this police-state dictatorship. It's more subtle than that."
American TV series Firefly and film spin-off Serenity were cited by O'Brien as inspirations. "Our other theme is you can't force other people to live by your rules and your society, even if your society is better," he said. "In Serenity The Operative actually says, 'This is not an evil empire. We just don't understand why you don't want to be part of our happy club.' Obviously they take it too far, and that's kind of what happens in our game as well."
Writer Rhianna Pratchett has said that the game's story examined why citizens would accept a life in a society where their personal choices were very limited. It also looked at reasons people might have for attempting to live outside the system and what could result from this. The society portrayed in the game was somewhere between what George Orwell described as an 'anti-utopia' and a Nanny State.
The protagonist of Mirror's Edge is 24-year-old Faith Connors (voiced by Jules de Jongh), who has a distinctive tattoo around her right eye, imitated by the game's logo. Faith earns her living as a "Runner", a courier who carries physical communiqués around the city, her services retained by revolutionary groups who avoid communicating via highly monitored telephone and e-mail channels. Faith's attitude towards the totalitarian government is rooted in her past; her parents were active in protest movements when she was young, campaigning to keep the city from shifting to the oppressive regime. Her mother was killed during the "November riots"—peaceful protests gone wrong—and Faith ran away from home when she was 16, living a thief's life on the city streets. Faith became a Runner after meeting Mercury (or Merc), a former Runner who now trains new hires, sources jobs for them, and provides them with intelligence and radio support while on the job. Other characters include Faith's sister, Kate Connors, an officer with the city police; Drake, another Runner-trainer; Faith's friends Celeste and Kreeg, another pair of Merc's Runners; and Jacknife, a former Runner.
Faith, after completing a delivery to fellow Runner Celeste, learns that her sister Kate may be in trouble at Pope's office. When she arrives, she finds Kate standing beside Pope's body, insisting she has been framed for murder and requesting Faith to discover the cause. Faith finds a piece of paper with the name "Icarus" on it in Pope's hand. Kate refuses to flee with Faith, saying it would only make her look guilty, and is arrested. From a former Runner, Jacknife, Faith learns that Pope's head of security, former wrestler Travis "Ropeburn" Burfield, may be connected to Pope's murder. Faith meets Lt. Miller, at Kate's behest, narrowly avoiding arrest. At Ropeburn's office, she overhears him setting up a meeting at a new place downtown. At the meeting, Ropeburn discovers Faith's presence and attacks her, but Faith gains the upper hand and throws him off the roof. As he is hanging above a long drop, she tries to interrogate Ropeburn, but before he can reveal anything he is killed by an unknown assassin.
Lacking other leads, Faith investigates the security firm that has begun aiding the police force in their crackdown of Runners. She finds they are behind "Project Icarus", a program designed to train their forces in parkour style to oppose the Runners, giving them the ability to chase down and eliminate the Runners. Faith follows the trail of Ropeburn's killer to a boat in port; after chasing the unknown person, Faith discovers the assassin is actually Celeste, who is colluding with Project Icarus to keep herself safe, and Celeste warns Faith to consider the same. The arrival of the police allows Celeste to escape.
With Kate convicted for Pope's murder, Merc plans a way for Faith to ambush the police convoy transporting her to prison, and Faith helps to free Kate. She gives Kate her comms unit that she and Merc use and tells her that he will guide her back to his hideout. When Faith returns to the hideout, she finds it in ruins, with Merc dying and Kate recaptured. In his dying words, Merc tells Faith that Kate is now at the Shard, which contains Mayor Callaghan's office and the servers that run the city's surveillance systems. With Miller's help, Faith is able to enter the Mayor's private offices, destroying many of the servers to gain access to the roof. On the roof, she finds Kate held at gunpoint by Jacknife. Jacknife reveals that he too is part of Project Icarus, and has been part of the plan all along to lure the Runners out of hiding. When Jacknife tries to take Kate onto a waiting helicopter, Faith jumps on before it can leave, knocking Jacknife out of the helicopter to fall to his death but also damaging the helicopter in the process. Faith helps Kate to escape safely from the falling helicopter.
During the end credits, the media reports that Faith's actions have only served to intensify Project Icarus, and Faith and Kate are still wanted for Pope's murder. However, with the surveillance infrastructure damaged, the population is cautioned to avoid using electronic means of communications until their "security" is restored, with the location of Faith and Kate remaining unknown.
Development and release
In 2007, DICE creative director Ben Cousins told GamesIndustry.biz that the studio was looking to create "something fresh and interesting", anticipating a need to diversify away from the successful Battlefield franchise the studio was known for.
In June 2007, Computer and Video Games magazine revealed that DICE was working on a game called Mirror's Edge, which was expected to "shake up the [first-person shooter] genre". On July 10, 2007, Mirror's Edge was officially announced by Electronic Arts, and at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco in February 2008, the first demonstration of gameplay was shown. A video featuring entirely in-game footage was released at the Sony PlayStation Day in London on May 6, 2008.
Mirror's Edge has a distinct visual style, with the outdoor environments predominantly featuring white and distinctively lacking in green (for example, trees and foliage would appear completely white instead of in their natural colors), punctuated by deliberate use of strong primary colours. According to Senior Producer Owen O'Brien, the stylistic choice allows the player to focus on the Runner Vision guidance, as well as serving as a health meter; the colours become less saturated as Faith starts to take damage. Because development of Mirror's Edge began before DICE's own Frostbite was completed, the game uses Epic's Unreal Engine 3. A lighting system called "Beast" was developed for the Unreal Engine by Illuminate Labs in association with DICE. The new software would accentuate the different art style of Mirror's Edge, by allowing for the reflection of colours as well as light. In order to address the issue of simulation sickness associated with the free movement of the camera in first-person view, a small reticle was placed in the centre of the screen. The reticle serves as an aiming and focal point, preventing dizziness in similar fashion to the dance technique called spotting. Aside from this reticle (which can be hidden by the player), no heads-up display exists in the game.
The demo for Mirror's Edge, consisting of the game's prologue chapter, was released via the PlayStation Store on October 30, 2008, followed by the Xbox LIVE Marketplace on October 31. On November 7, 2008, DICE announced that Mirror's Edge had achieved gold status, and PS3 and Xbox 360 versions would be shipping to retailers on November 13. On January 16, 2009, a Microsoft Windows version of the game was released. The PC version features support for NVIDIA's PhysX, adding detail and physics to glass, smoke and soft materials. The game includes the SecuROM v7.x (activation based) DRM software, unless bought from Steam.
The game was at the centre of EA's conflict with EDGE Games, a California-based development studio. EDGE Games is not related to Edge magazine beyond the licensing of its trademark. In September 2009, EA petitioned to have EDGE Games' trademarks cancelled, alleging continued threats of legal action. Tim Langdell, president of EDGE responded by accusing EA of engaging EDGE in settlement talks as a "play for time". Langdell's company claimed true legal ownership of the phrase "Mirror's Edge" among other variations of "Edge". After a court found that EDGE's claims were "suspect", the company settled with EA and surrendered many of its trademarks.
Buyers who pre-ordered Mirror's Edge at Game Crazy received a code that unlocked a time trial portion of the demo, as well as a Mirror's Edge-themed t-shirt. A time trial code was also included in GameStop preorders, along with a yellow "Runner Bag" resembling the messenger bags used in the game. Preorders from UK retailer GAME included a Mirror's Edge-edition Fenchurch t-shirt. The game could also be bought through the Electronic Arts website, where a package deal with a red Timbuk2 messenger bag was available. The bag featured the game's logo on the outside, while the inside featured a portrait of Faith.
During Comic-Con 2008, DICE announced it would create a limited-run comic book adaptation of the game together with DC Comics division WildStorm. The six-issue comic is drawn by Matthew Dow Smith and written by Rhianna Pratchett.
In May, the Mirror's Edge Original Videogame Score was released in online-only form. The album was composed by Swedish electronic musician Magnus Birgersson, also known as Solar Fields. On October 7, 2008, EA announced the release of a remix album featuring the Mirror's Edge theme song "Still Alive" by Swedish musician Lisa Miskovsky. Contributing artists included Benny Benassi, Junkie XL, Paul van Dyk, Teddybears and Armand Van Helden. Although "Still Alive" is also the name of the closing credits song of 2007 game Portal, the two tracks are unrelated. The album, titled Still Alive – the Remixes, was released on November 11, 2008. The album was included free in the standard game in later releases for all platforms.
Mirror's Edge has received mostly positive reviews, with score aggregator Metacritic reporting scores of 81/100 for the PC version and 79/100 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. Official Xbox Magazine gave the game 9.5 out of 10, praising its "brilliant sense of motion and gameplay". Play awarded it 9 out of 10, while GameTrailers.com gave it 8.3 out of 10. Computer and Video Games was also positive, calling it "A brilliant and unique experience, even if the small shooting parts aren't quite up to scratch." IGN awarded the game 8.3 out of 10, calling it a "thrilling and stylish venture", but "the first chapter of a franchise that's still finding its feet." GameSpot praised the immersive gameplay environments, but criticised the inconsistency of gameplay speed. Ian Bogost of Gamasutra commended the game for being unconventional, calling it "a shooter that makes you hate to shoot".
Edge gave the game 5 out of 10, stating that the levels felt contrived and that there was no true freedom through the levels, merely multiple preordained paths. The Guardian noted the game's short length, and many reviews criticised the "trial and error" nature of the play. Despite giving the game a score of 8 out of 10, Eurogamer dismissed the storyline as rambling, adding that "[Mirror's Edge] is going to divide audiences down the middle... Some will be able to overlook the gaping flaws, but others will never appreciate its moments of brilliance, and both positions are justifiable... " Other issues raised were the stylistic choice of animated cutscenes, and the "cramped" feel of some of the levels.
The developers initially projected a total of three million copies of Mirror's Edge to be sold, but in February 2009, Electronic Arts reported sales of over one million. According to an October 2010 court document pertaining to the legal conflict between EA and Edge Games (see Mirror's Edge: Development and release), Mirror's Edge has sold more than two million copies worldwide, with more than 750,000 of those copies having been sold in North America. The iPhone-compatible version of the game has sold more than 37,000 copies. In June 2013, the executive vice president of the EA Games revealed the game has sold "about 2.5 million units".
Expansions and sequels
On December 4, 2008, EA announced the creation of seven all-new time trial maps for Mirror's Edge, slated for release in January 2009. According to Owen O'Brien, Senior Producer for DICE, “The freedom of movement and control in first person has been the most popular aspect of Mirror's Edge so we decided to distill these down to their purest form for this map pack... We deliberately chose a more abstract aesthetic that is still within our distinctive art style and then focused on flow and gameplay to create an experience and challenge very different from the main game.” In January 2009, the release date was specified as January 29. The release was delayed until February 19, 2009, when the "Time Trial Map Pack" was made available as downloadable content for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. An eighth map is available exclusively for the PlayStation 3 version of the game. The time trials DLC has proven to be incompatible with versions of Mirror's Edge purchased from Steam.
A side-scrolling browser game interpretation of Mirror's Edge titled Mirror's Edge 2D was released by Electronic Arts in conjunction with independent developer Borne Games. The game is similar to and uses the modified engine of Borne's popular game Fancy Pants Adventures. A one-level beta was released on November 11, 2008, with an expanded three-level beta released on February 24, 2009. The developer's site states that "the full Mirror's Edge 2D has been released, but we're still in beta."
A version of Mirror's Edge for the iPhone and iPod Touch was announced on December 2, 2009. It is a side-scrolling game with 3D graphics, featuring 14 levels and dynamic camera angles, and was scheduled for release in January 2010. It was then later revealed that the iPhone and iPod Touch versions were pushed back to an April release. EA Mobile released Mirror's Edge for iPhone and iPod touch on September 1, 2010. An iPad version was released on April 1, 2010.
Second Mirror's Edge game
A second game was officially revealed at the Electronic Arts' press event at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013 to be released on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One at an undetermined time. The game has been confirmed to be a prequel to Mirror's Edge showcasing the origins of Faith, and will use the newer Frostbite 3 engine. Electronic Arts later confirmed that the game will be an "open-world action adventure". According to DICE's general manager Karl Magnus Troedsson, the prequel will have combat mechanics that are more refined than those in the first game. In January 2014, writer Rhianna Pratchett had announced on Twitter that neither she nor any other members of the first game's writing team would be involved with the new game's development. Some early developments of the game were featured at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2014.
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Faith: Kate? / Kate: [turns to face her] What are you doing here? / Faith: [regarding the body] What happened? Did you—? / Kate: No! You don't recognize him? / Faith: Should I? / Kate: It's Robert. Robert Pope, friend of Dad's. / Faith: Shit. That Pope… […] You think this was an accident, Kate? There are no accidents in this city. Someone wanted him dead, and wanted you to take the fall. […] / Kate: If this goes down badly, find Lieutenant Miller. My superior. Take anything you find to him.
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Merc: Heard them mention…the Shard. / Faith: The mayor's place?
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