Mirror’s Edge Pure Time Trials Xbox 360, PS3 Review
Remember how amazing it was, the first time you downloaded the Mirror’s Edge demo and sped across rooftops, jumping and rolling without a care in the world? Then do you remember how disappointed you were when you realised that the full game was actually a lot of crawling through ventilation shafts, interlaced with shoddy combat and a rubbish story? We feel your pain, we really do – and having finally got to grips with the Pure Time Trials, it would appear that the nice folk at Dice do too!
It wasn’t that Mirror’s Edge was a bad game, but everything that had been promised during the build up to its release – exhilarating chases, intuitive parkour skills and multiple routes by which to traverse levels – was diluted by the rest of the unnecessary filler. By introducing the Pure Time Trials, Dice are almost acknowledging this; combat skills are no longer required, poorly lit interiors are obsolete, and linearity has – at least to begin with – been done away with. In fact, the Pure Time Trials couldn’t be any further from what the bulk of Mirror’s Edge turned out to be, so much so that even the white washed utopia in which Faith’s story took place has been substituted for a setting far more impressive; amidst a wealth of multi-coloured floating geometry.
Scaling the geometric platforms of each of the pack’s nine stages is like a free-running session through the minds of Escher and Kandinsky. Where once the path onward could be instantly recognisable be it via a staircase or a chain-link fence, Faith is now presented with obscure shapes and translucent surfaces that combine in such a way that half the challenge this time around, is knowing where to go. Although each checkpoint on the time trial courses points in the general direction of the next, Dice have done away with the red glowing surfaces which dictated Faith’s progression during the main story mode. Instead there are far more subtle changes to the palette. Initially appearing to be little more than a colourful touch to each stage – it soon becomes apparent that the seemingly random coloured objects are an almost subliminal guide to the level’s solution.
Building on this, each stage is graced with a different colour scheme, meaning that the guiding colour will differ throughout. And despite the ease in which Dice could have churned out the same level in several different colours, each one boasts its own particular architecture, rife with subtle changes that demand a focused strategy if Faith is to overcome them as quickly as possible. Yes, regardless of how much effort went into designing a small Chinese woman with funny tattoos, the real stars here are the levels themselves. Free of any need for realism, each one is designed to take advantage of Faith’s entire arsenal of Parkour skills. A nail-biting succession of challenges ensure vaulting, sliding and wall-running are chained together with such fluidity that failing to beat the best time only means another opportunity to experience the thrill all over again. This is highlighted via the new achievements, demanding the performance of some highly specific manoeuvres within the different stages before they can be unlocked. Not only do they require an in-depth understanding of the course, but when successfully executed, provide some of the most breathtaking spectacles the game has to offer.
At first it can all be rather daunting, from the horizontal tunnel-like settings of Chroma, to the thousands upon thousands of green and yellow cubes of kinetic, each stage is an overwhelming mass of colour and shape. It will result in an endless number of restarts, as Faith refuses to grab a ledge and plummets to her doom, over and over again. The difference is that no longer is there a narrative to interrupt, or an entire area to be cleared because of poor checkpointing. This is about the player and the level, and all the other pompous crap that bogged down Mirror’s Edge has been stripped away, leaving a finely crafted, no-nonsense free running simulation. For all the frustrations that a misjudged leap will cause, there is an equal sense of satisfaction when a single wall-run chips a few milliseconds from the overall time, and just as a level begins to feel all too familiar, it gives away another secret, providing an all important shortcut that demands integration into a player’s strategic run.
More akin to a racing game than any 3D platformer or first person shooter, Dice have encapsulated the essence of free-running and as a result, this package develops everything that was good about Mirror’s Edge, and ultimately it’s everything the original game should have been. It’s a triumphant re-imagining of a game that deserves a second chance and for 800 points, anybody who still owns a copy of Mirror’s Edge owes it to themselves to get it downloaded.