With only a month to go before EA releases its much-anticipated Mirror's Edge, we had a chance to play an updated demo. If you read Jem's PAX impressions, you should know about the basic controls of the game -- and it's amazing that such simple controls allow for such amazing feats of acrobatics. From the moment the controller went into my hands, it was clear exactly what I had to do. The intuitive controls, which largely rely on the four shoulder buttons, make for an engaging experience right from the get-go. However, as with any great platforming game, timing is vital to success -- that was made evident by the game's newly demonstrated Time Attack mode.
In this new race mode, players must do just one thing, and one thing well: get through a course as quickly as possible. A fairly linear path still has multiple approaches, and the best times will only be achieved by those truly skilled at the game. I cleared my first time trial rather easily, in over 1:20. Ghost data is then saved, and will appear the next time someone plays the same level.
Well, my time was bested by the PR representative. He took advantage of a few shortcuts that I didn't know about. For example, immediately at the beginning of the level, he ran towards the wall, did a kick and jumped on top of a closet. Then, he did another wall jump to go atop of the flight of stairs I had previously just run up. Doing such slick moves shaved a good number of seconds off his time. Wow.
He returned the controller to me, and it was my turn to best his ghost. Surprisingly, doing a fancy move like a wall jump is quite easy. While it takes some time to master, the intuitive controls will make it absolutely clear how you're supposed to perform such a task. It only took a few attempts until I was able to repeat his wall jumping trickery. Although the notion of doing these moves in first-person may make you queasy, we easily played for hours without any problem. Perhaps watching and playing the game are two different experiences -- when you're playing, it's incredibly easy to get absorbed without getting disoriented.
With the wall jumps mastered, how else was I going to shave off seconds of my time? Well, there are a lot of small things I can do to improve my time. For example, instead of following a certain path, I can jump over a fence, or slide under a pipe. I have to think like Faith -- how can I get around my environment in a way that won't reduce my momentum? Careful button pressing is also required. With such simple controls, the game demands some precise timing. Jumping too early, or too late, can lead Faith to fall off a ledge. Choosing to roll after a jump may add, or take away, momentum. (From higher jumps, you'll want to roll. From lower jumps, it's faster to simply land, and keep moving.)
While the game can be largely played with just the four shoulder buttons, the face buttons do offer some use. For example, Triangle can disarm opponents. When you get close to an enemy, time will slow down. When their weapon glows, you'll be able to press Triangle and take their gun. Granted, you can shoot the gun -- but we prefer to play it cool. We throw it away and simply move on. The Circle button will be helpful for those afraid of getting lost in the environment. Just like Gears of Wars' "look at cool stuff" button, this will show where Faith must go ... but not necessarily how she must get there.
A lot of time and effort is being placed into the PS3 version of the game, and it shows. The visuals were perfect, and the controls seem ideally crafted around the DualShock's shoulder buttons. The game even features SIXAXIS tilt controls, which can be used when Faith balances on a narrow walkway, or if Faith needs to make a quick punch. With solid tech behind it, Trophy support, and terrific controls, Mirror's Edge is a game that we think PS3 owners can't afford to miss.