Mirror's Edge

We stop perving over Faith long enough to bring you this verdict of her game.

360, (PS3)

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By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

Despite its many high notes, Mirror's Edge brings back a lot of bad memories: sickening, sweat-inducing reminiscences of outstretched fingers scraping air millimetres from a niche, innumerable tumbles into the polygonal abyss. Memories we'd thought long banished alongside Lara Croft's triangular bosom or the concept of limited lives per playthrough. Whatever else EA DICE might have tried to achieve with this heavily stylised, starkly-lit jaunt into the realm of urban free running, one objective seems to have been to return players to an age when every save point was dearly attained, every hazard overcome - just - on the fourth or fifth attempt.

Nor are the exploits of that famed lady archaeologist the only source of inspiration here: in its relentless pursuit of the shortest possible level completion times, Mirror's Edge sits on the same, checkpoint-to-checkpoint trajectory as Ridge Racer and V-Rally. If that invisible clock or the satisfaction of swiftly negotiating a perilous rooftop isn't incentive enough to put pedal to metal, there are usually a large number of armed police nipping at your heels. Given these two genre precedents, the game's nearest forebear is probably Sonic the Hedgehog - likewise a trial-and-error driven platforming experience, in love with the ticking timer.

Your character, the disgustingly stylish Faith, is a Runner: a member of an elite, subversive class of couriers who transport messages by foot across the rooftops of a gleaming, authoritarian metropolis. The storyline reels out a familiar assortment of conspiracies, family strife and betrayals via sexy cell-shaded cut scenes which put us in mind of the Animatrix, and is, on the whole, rather good. Faith is a likeable lead, thanks in part to some talented voice-acting, and the small cast which forms around her are deftly realised.

It helps the characterisation no end, of course, that EA DICE has put such time into persuading you that the eyes you see through are attached to a physical body, with all the potential for immersive confusion that entails. Roll on landing after a jump and the first person view whirls crazily; hop over a rail and you'll see your legs swing over and down. This constricted perspective can be quite jarring given Faith's mastery of such tricks as wall-running, which evokes Ubisoft's Prince of Persia titles, while the searing, mesmeric colour palette recalls Assassin's Creed, both games which let you perform effortless sequences of acrobatics: it's far harder here to weave together moves ad hoc.

The default controls, thankfully, are more or less above reproof, but there are three alternative layouts (including a left-handed option) if you have trouble. Movement and viewpoint are mapped to the left and right sticks, left trigger crouches, and right trigger throws out a range of melee moves should the forces of oppression catch up with you. Right bumper performs a swift about-face, an essential manoeuvre when you rebound from one surface to grab a high ledge. There's a bit of an issue with jumping and wall-running, alas: both are mapped to left bumper - tap to jump, hold near a wall to run along it - and the game isn't always spot on when it comes to differentiating the two.

A is an all-purpose interaction button, while Y lets you pull off eye-watering weapon disarms. X comes in handy in this regard, triggering a "runner time" slo-mo power-up which recharges as you move, and B whips your head round towards your waypoint. While invaluable at times, this latter mechanic is the most ham-fisted of the lot given that Faith seldom takes a direct route to a destination. Tap it while at a sprint and you'll often send her galloping off a roof; use it while inside a building and you'll sprint slapbang into a window.

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