NVISION08: Mirror's Edge for PC hands-on

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I snuck onto the floor at NVISION08 a bit before the doors opened and, while most people were still setting up and not looking to talk, the folks from EA/Dice had just finished setting up the booth for PC version of Mirror’s Edge. Having watched a number of demo videos and developer walk through for Mirror’s Edge, I had always wondered how well the controls would work mapped out across a keyboard.

Turns out, they work friggin’ perfectly. I’m primarily a console gamer, but had no problem with the transition. Most of the controls are standard FPS: WASD for Forward/Back/Strafing, shift for crouching, space for jumping. Q serves as a “Quickturn” button for leaping from wall-to-wall, which spins you around 180 degrees in an instant, while R triggers a short-burst of increased focus, temporarily slowing down the game environment.

More impressive than the independent controls are the way they all mesh together. As all actions are contextually based, going from running to sliding to jumping is pure buttery amazement. Within about 30 seconds of sitting down, I’d jumped a fence, slid under a set of pipes, and bounced my way off an angled surface up onto a higher area. The game really makes you feel awesome – especially when you string together a series of actions to reach one of the game’s not as obvious, off-the-beaten-path alternative routes.

If you keep your head up, the game is beautiful. When I looked over the side of a building, however, I was a bit disappointed. Perhaps it was just the area I chose to peek over, but the city seemed dead beneath me. Even within the games setting of a city under totalitarian rule, why was nobody wandering/working below? That said – if your eyes are on the horizon, this is easily one of the most gorgeous games you’ll see any time soon.

Looks aren’t everything, though. Games that rely as heavily on mechanics as this one do have to be fine tuned to the point that it’s ridiculous. If the process of jumping out to grab one thing feels off or doesn’t work properly, the overall experience takes a hit. Such was the case with the demo; while every other object I interacted with worked like magic, there was one single pipe at the end of the demo that gave me a hell of a lot of trouble. I’d hit it just about dead on, yet my character wouldn’t grab it. After trying it 4 or 5 times, one of the EA guys stepped in – same problem. It worked eventually – but with each additional and unfairly unsuccessful attempt, I was a bit more disappointed. The demo was only a few minutes long, and has probably been looked over and polished more than any other section of the game – yet a nasty little hangup remained. Will they really be able to polish up the entire game world to the point that bugs never break immersion?

I hope so. If they can manage to stretch the experience of this demo (well, sans the nasty little pipe issue) out across an entire game, I don’t think I’ll be able to pull myself away from this one. If you’ll be at PAX in Seattle this weekend, be sure to stop by EA/DICE’s booth – they’ll have the PS3 version up and ready for the playing.

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