Mirrors Edge story problems.
Problems with Mirrors Edge story problems.
I played Mirrors Edge a good year or two ago, but the memories still burn fresh in my mind.
If its still burning after two years, you may want to seek a physician.
I could go into all sorts of detail about the failures of this game, but I need not. There is only one aspect I feel like stamping all over today, and that's the plot.
I hear Terry Pratchetts daughter wrote Mirrors Edge, which is a good argument against the concept of hereditary traits being passed from parent to child if you want to disprove the theory of evolution I guess that that's besides the point. The point is the story of this game falls flat on its face so often its flatter than a polished monolith.
As others have mentioned, Mirrors edge was well into production before a story was even scripted. So, on the face of it, I agree there are some pretty shoddy aspects in the writing, it is hard to lump this on one figure.
So lets start at the start. The game opens up with some back story of your main character, Faith (Oh I see 'leap of faith' fantastic work Ubisoft real clever, next thing we know your gonna start using bloody Greek mythology to name everything as per lazy writer tradition, oh wait...) who is a bitter, angry woman because as a child her parents were gunned down during a protest.
Because as we all know DICE is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ubisoft and not EA in any way shape or form, regardless whose label is on the box.
Thus our first target of nitpickery stumbles into my iornsights, the revolution.
Not to nitpick, but, what revolution?
Now historically revolution tends to arise under only the most extreme class conflict.
Actually, that's not true. If you frame it from a Marxist perspective and look at the revolutions he had access to, then you can make this argument in a very limited venue. But, no modern revolution has been driven by class conflict. Sorry Marx.
While there are a number of models, the easiest one to explain is (I believe) Parsa's model. For a revolution to occur, a state must be an exclusive, repressive, and weak regime. Without any one of these elements a revolution is highly unlikely. While there are class elements involved in revolutions, it is not "class conflict" which drives them.
In Russia the people rebelled because their leader Stalin committed genocide and twisted the ideology of his nation for his own ends.
And when did this mythical revolution occur? Not in 1917 when Stalin was writing a newspaper. Not when the Soviet Union finally crumbled in the 1990s over thirty years after Stalin died. Not in the 1920s and 30s when Trotsky and Stalin were consolidating the Soviet power base by exterminating anyone who stood in their way. You see, the Russian state may have been exclusive and repressive, but it was also very powerful, and had the capacity to enforce policies.
In France a revolution sparked because the people were desperate and depraved while the Monarchy revelled in luxury and frivolity.
I'm sure there's some historical error here, but honestly my apathy towards the first French revolution renders any argument moot. However, this was one of the cases Marx looked at when he was adapting the Hegelian dialectic.
So why did the citizens of the nation in mirrors edge take arms against their rulers? Because of strict crime suppression and radical modernisation of infrastructure to make the city more organised and productive.
I mean HONESTLY?
That's worth starting a bloody revolution over? Hells bells.
Again, you keep running through this and calling it a revolution. The word you are looking for was riot. You do understand there's a difference, right? A revolution is the chaotic overthrow of a governmental system. A revolution is by definition successful. When an attempted revolution fails it is called something else, a rebellion, an insurrection or sometimes an insurgency.
Her parents were killed in a riot. Well, strictly speaking her mother was killed in a peaceful protest that the police decided to put down in the fine tradition of Kent State. It wasn't a revolution.
If you haven't played the game you may wonder if I am skewing the facts in favour of the government. Nope, no dice.
Ironic choice of words.
In fact when it comes of government corruption I am the first to wish for drastic action. But if you see the city in Mirrors Edge- in fact bugger it just watch one of the trailers. Go do that right now, take a look at the city in game and tell me what you think. My thoughts? What a fucking fantastic job the government did! If only we had such vision in our real life leaders! The supposed "Orwellian regime" has converted a city that Faith herself called "Dirty and Dangerous" into a beautiful utopian metropolis of shining light and majesty.
...where any dissent from the whims of one man are harshly and savagely beaten down.
Now, you're right, there is a philosophical argument to be made against the runners. Is it better that a few suffer so that the many can enjoy a peaceful existence, free from worry?
And that brings me neatly onto why the main character is so completely infuriating. Its some of the lines she spits out. "Most people were content to live a comfortable life" Oh no! Really? I cant imagine why. Perhaps its because they don't have an instinctive knee jerk reaction against change. Maybe when they saw the first few lines of rioters get gunned down they realised their privacy isn't worth hundreds of lives.
Here's a funny thing about enforcing power. A state, no matter how repressive cannot silence every dissenting voice. What they can do is frighten you into staying silent. The state effectively becomes a terrorist actor upon its own population. Examples of this include basically any secret police agency in the 20th century.
In this sense the game can be interpreted as a (relatively) elegant critique of the Bush administration (and it is in the right time frame for it.) The general population in Mirror's Edge was quite literally frightened into giving up their freedom in favor of security, echoing that oft misattributed quote about liberty and security that became a part of the American zeitgeist back in 2003.
Best of all Faith is bloody vague about how the whole thing got started, and even on what went wrong in the riots. "I was too young to remember how it all started" and "Riots went wrong" WHAT?! What went wrong Faith? If you don't know why the riots started or how it all turned ugly then I would say there is about an equal chance that the rioters were the ones who tossed the first stone anyway. But screw that it feels much more heroic to fight against the man, yeah Faith?
This does in fact get fleshed out. Peaceful protests against the new policies were met with gunfire. Think about it this way, you may take your six year old daughter to a protest march, but you're not going to take her to a riot. The later defies any kind of logical sense.
Here is yet another hilarious moral ambiguity point for the cops, Faith says that they usually leave the runners alone!
Ignoring a problem is not the same as condoning it. Law enforcement spends more resources trying to catch drunk drivers than it does trying to solve homicides. Does this mean that the police are more forgiving of murder? And, honestly do you want to jump from rooftop to rooftop for a government salary check when you could stay on the ground?
Now let me explain runners to you, runners are illegal couriers who transport sensitive information or packages about for rebel cells across the city. And Faith is telling us the government are leaving them alone. I mean Jesus, does she hear herself? According to her the coppers are a bunch of fascist pigs who restrict everything like evil Nazi murderfuzz or something,yet somehow I think the whole "allowing terrorist cells to communicate without any trouble at all" thing not only diminishes her view but also suggests that the government either couldn't care a rats arse what a bunch of silly doomsaying freerunners do with their time OR that they are actually not nearly as restrictive as Faith keeps claiming.
I hate to ask, but did you even finish the game? Because that is the entire fucking plot right there. The government has decided it is time to crack down on the runners, shutting them down, and finally has the resources to do so.
Eventually the game starts and you spend a good few minutes jumping about in plain sight of large glass windowed buildings on rooftops. Oh yes the filth are cracking down on freedom so much they absolutely fail to track the movements of individuals who hop about in the view of every window of every citizen in the whole city, that's really tough going for those runners, yes siree. Then you come into contact with the fuzz, who dazedly glance down the corridor when you plummet in form a ventilation shaft. One of them commands you to put your hands in the air. You don't, they open fire.
I don't think I even need to explain my feelings about this other than yes its pretty extreme to open fire on somebody because they don't put their hands up, unless its a known member of what is essentially a terrorist organisation.
Or they're trigger happy psychopaths. Which is somewhat plausible given the backstory.
To be fair as you go through the rest of the game you do come across a number of hints that the men in charge are bastards. For one thing you meet a high ranking member of a government department face to face, and he has really bad teeth, which means he is pure evil no doubt. And then later on you find out their nefarious master plan, to take out all the runners to stop them transporting illicit material.
I'll grant you that this is one of the problems. The game never tells us what the fuck you're carrying around. It could well be components for building a nuclear device. The game seems to intend for us to think it is information between various chunks of a resistance movement that's sprung up. But there's no actual confirmation of this.
Apparently faith and crew are so feckless they cant figure this out as soon as the cops start hunting them down and opening fire. Oh no, these guys need to infiltrate the factory of a weapons and munitions company, dodging and dispatching the trained snipers, guards and even bloody bleeding NINJAS in order to find our the plans.
It's been a while, but my recollection is, this is part of the murder investigation plot. Which means you break into the security company to go after evidence to clear your sister, not to find out why the police are after you.
And another thing! Who are the police that you fray with anyway? Because I have doubts that every last one of them is a ruthless propagator of the regime, most of them probably just wanted a steady job with a fair pension. Many of them probably don't know who you really are. I would expect the orders to be something like "A dangerous criminal is on the loose, weapons free" or even "A suspect, likely armed, is said to be heading this way, arrest on sight, if the suspect fails to comply then open fire". Your clichéd support character proudly announces in his last dying breath that he managed to take some of the storming cops out. Bravo man, good job spitefully taking some poor bastards with you. You deserve a medal.
So you'd rather have Merc weeping that he just shot six or seven cops when you come across his dying soon to be corpse?
You're partially right in that the game did pass up the opportunity to introduce some moral ambiguity into the content. But, seriously, they're fucking shooting at you, it's self defense.
The final criticism I have for the story is that the writer was under the false pretence that using Greek mythology to name your characters is totally original and clever. This individual having presumably ignored the plot of countless well known games. Deus Ex was the first to make it all trendy and now you can hardly swing a pair of cats without knocking over a game where Greek mythology is used to name central characters and reoccurring set pieces.
And that kiddies is what we call a critical research failure. So what was the first game to drag in Greek mythological references? D&D's got them. So that takes it easily a decade before Deus Ex if we're only looking at gold box releases, and... what, 25 years if we're looking at D&D as itself. In lit I couldn't begin to trace the origins.
In Mirrors Edge this very tiresome device is shoved in with no thought for the meaning of it all. The main evil plot is called "Project Icarus". ARGGHAAARG HATRED. Why would you name your frankly pathetic master plan after a boy who flew too close to the sun with wings made of wax and plummeted into ground, killing him. Thats like naming your plan "Project Titanic" or "Project Dreamcast" or something. What lazy ass writing.
Yes, why would you name your project aimed at ending the runners after the Icarian fall? Maybe because the entire point was to INFLICT an Icarian fall on someone?
In this sense, I'd have to argue with you that it is actually one of the better uses of the name Icarus in pop culture.
And to finish off the game with a brutal fatality lets quickly smother the wheezing, pathetic gameplay with a pillow as well, because frankly I want to put it out of its misery. I know I promised not to do anything but the story but when the game first came out I knew that there could well be a place for a first person parkour game. And I still do. But Mirrors Edge fell short of the goal. And I know what you are thinking, is it the glitchy clipping, the forced and poorly executed fight sequences or the aggressively lacklustre length of a full playthrough? No. And I know what you are thinking now too "Well why not I would totally rag on all that stuff" well if you give me a moments fucking peace ill tell you what I mean! Blimey, some people...
Anyway yeah my problem with the gameplay is the level design. Its not the most obvious problem, until you play the game through again. You notice the filler, of which there is plenty. Its the same problem I had with LOZ Twilight Princess. You can just feel your heart sink when you come to a certain point. You see it and go "Aaaaw hell, its the really slow and boring bit again". In Mirrors Edge this happens more often later on. Near the start you are duped into the game by fast paced parkour segments where you slide under pipes, climb over fences and evade the filth which is all satisfying and very fun. But as you go through you start to notice the pace decrease. Your still outside, but now you climb lumberously up pipes and across ledges. You have nothing to do except watch the wall scroll by.
Fortunately DICE seems to have realized this happened, and claimed they're fixing it for the sequel.
Finally, the pace grinds to a near halt as the level designers try every trick in the book to keep you playing as long as possible. The climbing now takes place in a tiny maze of the interior of a ship. Up a pipe, climb climb climb, across a ledge, shimmy shimmy shimmy, and now you turn backwards and jump. Oh damn! I gone too high so Faith skipped merrily over the thing, Time to climb back up again.
These points serve no purpose, no enjoyment or pleasure can be gained from this boring grindy shitty place. And your reward at the end of each of these levels is a cheap ass budget constrained cardboard cutout cut-scene where a cluster of characters take part in events you don't give a shit about. Its just what you always wanted, right little Jimmy? And I hope you didn't buy it for full price because I guarantee you will feel empty and unsatisfied by the end.
You may well have missed the worst part of that ship. The fucking key lime green pain that's sprayed over EVERYTHING. Seriously, dollars to donuts that's arsenic green. Faith could just munch down on some paint chips and die. Not only is it a pain in the ass platforming puzzle, but it is easily in the ugliest part of the game.
So anyway happy nearly Halloween everybody, I only make reviews about once every year so see you much later! And I hope my rantings haven't broken some sort of mirage of excellence you had over the game to convince yourself it was worth the money you could have spent on real entertainment such as Earth Defence Force 2017 or VVVVVV or Phsychonauts or Left 4 Dead 2 or Katamari or ect ect ect....
The only thing truly excellent about the game was the music.
Edit: Sorry for the wall of text, I would have put up some pretty pictures but I couldn't be bothered just to add some colour variety to the page.