Though best known for their work on the wildly popular Battlefield games, Swedish developer DICE has had plenty of past experience beyond the realm of team-based first-person shooters, though with Battlefield's success, there's no shame in forgetting that DICE has done some great work in other genres as well, with racers like the RalliSport Challenge games and Midtown Madness 3 being some of the most notable.
DICE and publisher EA showed off a live demo of its new first-person action game, Mirror's Edge, to press during a pre-GDC event, and in a way, DICE seems to be drawing from both its first-person shooters and its racing games with this dynamic and acrobatic runner. We'd be getting ahead of ourselves if we jumped straight into the nuts and bolts, though, so first, a little backstory.
The game is set in an Orwellian metropolis in the near future, though rather than rendering this oppressive city-state in the commonly grimy and rainy cyberpunk style, Mirror's Edge is a game of clean, gleaming skyscrapers and skies so crisp and bright that it almost hurts the eyes. In a way, we're reminded of the oversaturated look of "Minority Report," though the rooftops and corridors we were shown during the demo were also rich with saturated colors, lending the game a very vivid and striking aesthetic.
It's a world of opulence and prosperity, though somewhat predictably, it's also one fairly free of privacy and personal freedoms, an imbalance that helps nurture an underground movement whose distrust of the technologies employed by the nebulous Powers That Be leads them to use runners to hand-deliver data. You'll play as one of these runners, an agile young woman named Faith, a character whom DICE says was modeled after strong survivor archetypes like Sarah Connor from the Terminator series and Ellen Ripley from the Alien series.
We didn't get to see too much of Faith during the demo itself, though, as Mirror's Edge is played from the first-person perspective, though the folks at DICE also stressed that this is not a shooter. While there are guns in the game, and we did get to see Faith take down some unlucky security types in a hands-on fashion, the experience is more about interacting with and moving through the world, and DICE cites parkour -- the French-originated art of moving through your environment as quickly and fluidly as possible -- as an inspiration to Mirror's Edge, something that comes through in the way the game controls.
Rather than opt for the more involved control schemes of similarly acrobatic games like Prince of Persia and Assassin's Creed, in Mirror's Edge players will simply use the up and down buttons to jump over and slide under obstacles, though you'll be using combinations thereof during specific situations as well. For example, after hopping over a chain-link fence, Faith's running speed will stutter a little bit if you just push forward when she lands. However, tapping down just as she hits the ground will cause her to do a parachute roll, allowing her to maintain her speed. This sense of momentum is something that DICE really hopes to convey with Mirror's Edge.
As we watched Faith leap from rooftop to rooftop, we also got to see her negotiate obstacles like ziplines, wall-run across short gaps, and perform some balance walks, the last of which DICE promises will employ the Sixaxis motion controls in the PlayStation 3 version. The game is big on providing the player with obvious visual cues to let them know with what objects they can interact by color-coding them red. Because so much explanation about the game was being given during the demo, the pacing seemed kind of deliberate, but we came away with the sense that being able to quickly identify your intended path could make Mirror's Edge a pretty speedy game. If it gets too speedy, you'll be able to tap into Faith's special ability called "reaction time," which slows things down.
As much as we liked the look of the game and a lot of the ideas at work here, we have concerns about the potential disconnect between what you see and what you do. First-person games are typically not great at creating a connection between the player's ?body? and the player's ?eyes,? due in large part to a lack of peripheral vision and a practical need to keep the camera fairly steady. This presents a significant challenge for Mirror's Edge, and it's something on which we'll have to keep an eye as the game's development progresses.
Mirror's Edge is currently slated for release on the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 sometime this year.
This preview was based on a publisher-driven demo of the game. The game is scheduled for release later this year.