Here’s why I was disappointed by the Mirror’s Edge demo

November 3, 2008 § 3 Comments


For me at least, the Mirror’s Edge demo released last week on the Playstation Store sucked. Not that it was a bad demo – in fact I enjoyed it immensely and will buy it when the full game is released – but because it’s not everything I wanted it to be.

Part of my sorrow stems from the fact that I’d somehow elevated this title above what a game can realistically achieve. I expected a character whose animation was completely lifelike from a first person perspective, and a style that was unlike anything I’d seen before. What I got instead was a game, an amazing game, but a game nonetheless, constricted by everything any other release is. Why do I feel this? Read on to find out:

1. First person perspective isn’t realistic.

Not that a real first person perspective is all that different from what is displayed on a television screen, but the way in which you, your character acts in a first person game is far removed from how you’d act in real life. People don’t strafe…ever, they turn their head and move in that direction. In the same way, your head will move with 360 degrees of movement, whereas when confined to a controller your primary shifts of vision are up, left, down and right. Of course every shooter has this problem, but as Mirror’s Edge has tried so at to capture a realistic perspective such as with the presence of legs below your character, or the side to side movement of your head as you run, these fundamental inconsistencies are left exposed for all to see.

2. Character animation isn’t dynamic

You won’t notice this one unless you try to take an unintentional route, but Mirror’s Edge’s character animation only looks good when you’re doing what Dice expects you to do. Scale a fence? Check. Vaulting over piping? Check. Jump over a fence from a waist high air conditioning unit however, and the smoke and mirrors vanish in a flash.

I’ll tell you what happens when you try and attempt the latter move. Your character hits the fence awkwardly, but the game’s laws determine that you should be able to get over the obstacle, and so you’re free to pass over it. In any other fps this wouldn’t brake the immersion at all, but in Mirror’s Edge it does, when every other action you perform looks so amazing on screen. There’s no way around this, sometimes the player is going to move in ways you can’t anticipate, and when they do, they’re going to discover the seams of your elaborate creation.

3. They killed the beauty of the music.

Do you remember the end of the first ever Mirror’s Edge trailer? The subtle synth sounds that had been playing throughout finally crescendoed into the first song shown from the game, with piano and drums providing melody and rhythm to this simple tune. Nothing about the song felt like it should belong in a game, and that felt fantastic, it was fresh and pleasant, and original, just like the rest of the game. “If they stick with this musical style throughout the rest of the game,” I remarked to my cousin, “it could be the best soundtrack ever.”

Listen to the score now and it’s a completely different story. The tune is the same, but now there’s someone else in the mix, a female, with her incessant drawls robbing the song of whatever merit it formerly possessed. It feels, in a word, mainstream, and I don’t like it. Here was a game which I wanted to be original and unique, and in one fell swoop the composer had taken that away from me. Why did you have to mess with perfection? Why?

Like I said I enjoyed the demo for hours on end, and will probably the full game too, but this pedestal I’ve built the game up on has been irreversibly toppled. It’s no longer the shining beacon of “Game as Art” that in the back of my mind I wanted it to be. It’s just another brilliant holiday title, and that’s great, but I wanted more.

I’m sorry I have such high expectations I guess.

Peace out

Jon

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