Mirror’s Edge is a single-player first person action-adventure video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts. The game was announced on July 10, 2007, and was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in November 2008. A Microsoft Windows version was released on January 13, 2009. Mirror’s Edge is powered by the Unreal Engine 3 with the addition of a new lighting solution, developed by Illuminate Labs in association with DICE.
The game has a brightly coloured style and differs from most other first-person perspective video games in allowing for a wider range of actions—such as sliding under barriers, tumbling, wall-running, and shimmying across ledges—and greater freedom of movement; in having no heads-up display; and in allowing the legs, arms, and torso of the character to be visible on-screen. Mirror’s Edge is set in a futuristic dystopian society, in which a network of ‘runners’, including the main character, Faith, are used as couriers to transmit messages while evading government surveillance. In the style of a three-dimensional platform game, the player guides Faith over rooftops, across walls, and through ventilation shafts, negotiating obstacles using movements inspired by parkour.
Mirror’s Edge has received mostly positive reviews, with the PC version garnering a Metacritic aggregated score of 81%. The game’s uniqueness and its expansive environments have received praise, while criticism has centred on its weakness of plot, trial and error gameplay and short length. A soundtrack featuring remixes of the final credits song “Still Alive” by Swedish singer Lisa Miskovsky (unrelated to the song of the same name featured in 2007 game Portal) was also released. A side-scroller version of the game for the Apple iPad was released on April 1, 2010 and for the iPhone on September 2, 2010.
In Mirror’s Edge, the player controls the protagonist, Faith, from a first-person perspective as she is challenged to navigate across a gleaming city, by jumping between rooftops, running across walls, and gaining access to buildings through ventilation shafts. This is accomplished by use of techniques and movements inspired by the discipline of parkour. According to senior producer Owen O’Brien, Mirror’s Edge aims to “convey […] strain and physical contact with the environment”, with the goal of allowing a freedom of movement previously unseen in the first-person genre.In order to achieve this, camera movement has been tied more closely to character movement. For example, as Faith’s speed builds up while running, the rate at which the camera bobs up and down increases. When a roll is executed, the camera spins with the character. Faith’s arms, legs, and torso are prominent and their visibility is used to convey movement and momentum. The character’s arms pump and the length of her steps increase with her gait, and her legs cycle and arms flail during long jumps.
In gameplay, the character’s momentum becomes an asset. The player must attempt to conserve it through fluidity of physical actions, encouraging the creation of chains of moves. If Faith does not have the momentum required to traverse an object, she will fall off or short of it. Controls are simplified by being context-sensitive; the “up” button will cause Faith to traverse an obstacle by passing over it (i.e., by jumping, vaulting, climbing, or grabbing set pieces like zip-lines) while the “down” button will cause her to perform other manoeuvres like sliding, rolling, or crouching. To assist the player in creating these chains of moves, the game employs a system called “Runner Vision”, which emphasises environmental pieces useful for progression. Certain pipes, ramps, and doors are highlighted in red as Faith approaches, allowing the player to instantly recognize paths and escape routes. Further along in the game, the number of these visual hints is reduced to only the end goal, and the player can opt to turn off this hint system entirely. It is also used to create puzzles in which the player must figure out how to combine the highlighted set pieces into a chain of moves in order to reach the target. Another means of assistance to the player is a system called “Reaction Time”, a form of bullet time activated by the player, slowing down time and allowing the player to plan and time their next move without losing momentum or tactical advantage.
The player character can hold weapons, but O’Brien stressed that “this is an action adventure. We’re not positioning this as a shooter – the focus isn’t on the gun, it’s on the person.” Gameplay in Mirror’s Edge focuses on finding the best route through the game’s environments while combat takes a secondary role. Completing the game without shooting a single enemy unlocks an achievement for the player. Consequently, guns may be obtained by disarming an enemy, but when the magazine is empty, it will need to be discarded. Additionally, carrying a weapon slows Faith down; the heavier the gun, the more it hinders her movement. This introduces an element of strategy in determining when to trade agility for short-term firepower.
Along with the campaign mode, Mirror’s Edge features a time attack mode, where the player must try to complete one of a set of special maps in the shortest amount of time. Best times can be uploaded to online leaderboards, where players can also download ghosts of other players to compete against.The maps are unlocked by playing through the campaign mode. According to producer Tom Ferrer, the time trial portions of Mirror’s Edge are “bite-sized and short so you can grind them and play them and get faster and faster. It’s not like playing an entire level.”
Mirror’s Edge takes place in an unnamed utopian city where life is comfortable and crime almost non-existent. But the city’s state of bliss is the achievement of a domineering and totalitarian regime which monitors all communication, controls the media, has policies which include the outright illegalisation of smoking, and, it is strongly implied, operates sham trials and a sham democracy. Eighteen years before the events of the game they had opened fire on a protest against their rule, killing many civilians.
As the story begins mayoral elections are near and a new candidate, Robert Pope, is challenging the incumbent Mayor Callaghan on a platform of deregulation.
According to senior producer Owen O’Brien, “[Mirror’s Edge] asks how much of your personal freedom are you willing to give up for a comfortable life. It’s not one girl against this police-state dictatorship. It’s more subtle than that.”
American TV series Firefly and film spin-off Serenity were cited by O’Brien as inspirations. “Our other theme is you can’t force other people to live by your rules and your society, even if your society is better,” he said. “In Serenity The Operative actually says, ‘This is not an evil empire. We just don’t understand why you don’t want to be part of our happy club.’ Obviously they take it too far, and that’s kind of what happens in our game as well.”
The protagonist of Mirror’s Edge is 24-year-old Faith Connors (voiced by Jules de Jongh), who has a distinctive tattoo around her right eye, imitated by the game’s logo. Faith earns her living as a “Runner”, a courier who carries physical communiqués around the city, her services retained by revolutionary groups who avoid communicating via highly-monitored telephone and e-mail channels. Faith’s attitude towards the totalitarian government is rooted in her past; her parents were active in protest movements when she was young, campaigning to keep the city from shifting to the oppressive regime. Her mother was killed during the “November riots” — peaceful protests gone wrong — and Faith ran away from home when she was 16, living a thief’s life on the city streets. Faith became a Runner after meeting Mercury (or Merc), a former Runner who now trains new hires, sources jobs for them, and provides them with intelligence and radio support while on the job. Other characters include Faith’s twin sister, Kate Connors, an officer with the city police, Faith’s friends Celeste and Kreeg, another pair of Merc’s Runners, and Jacknife, a former Runner.
Faith, after completing a delivery to fellow Runner Celeste, learns from Merc that her sister Kate may be in trouble at Pope’s office. When she arrives, she finds Kate standing over the body of Pope, insisting she has been framed for murder and requesting Faith to discover the cause. Faith finds a piece of paper with the name “Icarus” on it in Pope’s hand. Kate remains at Pope’s office to provide distraction for Faith’s escape. From a former Runner, Jacknife, Faith learns that Pope’s head of security, a former wrestler named Travis Burfield (under the ring name Ropeburn), may be connected to Pope’s murder. Faith meets Lt. Miller, at Kate’s behest, narrowly avoiding arrest. At Ropeburn’s office, she overhears him setting up a meeting at a new place downtown. At the meeting, Ropeburn discovers Faith’s presence and attacks her, but Faith gains the upper hand and throws him off the roof. As he is hanging above a long drop, she tries to interrogate Ropeburn, but before he can reveal anything he is killed by an unknown assassin.
Lacking other leads, Faith investigates the security firm that has begun aiding the police force in their crackdown of Runners. She finds they are behind “Project Icarus”, a programme designed to train their forces in parkour to chase and fight the Runners. Evidence also leads Faith to the trail of Ropeburn’s killer to a boat in port; after chasing the unknown entity, Faith discovers the assassin is actually Celeste, who is now a part of Icarus under collusion to keep herself safe, and warns Faith to consider the same. The arrival of the police allows Celeste to escape.
With Kate convicted for Pope’s murder, Merc has arranged the police convoy transporting her into an ambush spot for Faith, and Faith is able to help Kate run free. When Faith returns to her hideout, she finds it has been attacked, Merc on the edge of death and Kate recaptured. In his dying words, Merc tells Faith that Kate is now at the Shard, Mayor Callaghan’s office and where the main servers that run the city’s monitoring systems are located. With Miller’s help, Faith is able to enter the Mayor’s private offices, destroying many of the servers to gain access to the roof. On the roof she finds Kate held at gunpoint by Jacknife. Jacknife reveals he too is part of Icarus, and has been part of the plan all along to lure the Runners out of hiding. When Jacknife tries to take Kate onto a waiting helicopter, Faith is able to jump on, knocking Jacknife out of the helicopter to fall to his death but also damaging the helicopter in the process. Faith helps Kate to escape safely from the falling helicopter.
During the end credits, media reports that Faith’s actions have only served to intensify Project Icarus, and Faith and Kate are still wanted for Pope’s murder. However, with the servers damaged, the population is cautioned to avoid using electronic means of communications until the servers are restored.
In 2007, DICE creative director Ben Cousins told GameIndustry.biz that the studio was looking to create “something fresh and interesting”, anticipating a need to diversify away from the successful Battlefield franchise the studio was known for.
In June 2007, Computer and Video Games magazine revealed that DICE was working on a game called Mirror’s Edge, which was expected to “shake up the [first-person shooter] genre”. On July 10, 2007, Mirror’s Edge was officially announced by Electronic Arts, and at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco in February 2008, the first demonstration of gameplay was shown. A video featuring entirely in-game footage was released at the Sony PlayStation Day in London on May 6, 2008.
Mirror’s Edge has a distinct visual style, with the outdoor environments predominantly featuring white and distinctively lacking in green, punctuated by deliberate use of strong primary colours. According to Senior Producer Owen O’Brien, the stylistic choice allows the player to focus on the Runner Vision guidance, as well as serving as a health meter; the colours become more desaturated as Faith starts to take damage. Because development of Mirror’s Edge began before DICE’s own Frostbite Engine was completed, the game uses Epic’s Unreal Engine 3. A lighting system called “Beast” was developed for the Unreal Engine by Illuminate Labs in association with DICE. The new software would accentuate the different art style of Mirror’s Edge, by allowing for the reflection of colours as well as light.In order to address the issue of simulation sickness associated with the free movement of the camera in first-person view, a small reticle was placed in the centre of the screen. The reticle serves as an aiming and focal point, preventing dizziness in similar fashion to the dance technique called spotting. Aside from this reticle (which can be hidden by the player), no heads-up display exists in the game.
The demo for Mirror’s Edge, consisting of the game’s prologue chapter, was released via the PlayStation Store on October 30, 2008, followed by the Xbox LIVE Marketplace on October 31. On November 7, 2008, DICE announced that Mirror’s Edge had achieved gold status, and PS3 and Xbox 360 versions would be shipping to retailers on November 13. On January 16, 2009, a Microsoft Windows version of the game was released. The PC version features support for NVIDIA’s PhysX, adding detail and physics to glass, smoke and soft materials. The game includes the SecuROM v7.x (activation based) DRM software,unless bought from Steam.
The game is at the centre of EA’s conflict with EDGE Games, a California-based development studio. EDGE Games is not related to Edge magazine beyond the licensing of its trademark. In September 2009, EA petitioned to have EDGE Games’ trademarks cancelled, alleging continued threats of legal action. Tim Langdell, president of EDGE responded by accusing EA of engaging EDGE in settlement talks as a “play for time”. Langdell’s company claimed true legal ownership of the phrase “Mirror’s Edge” among other variations of “Edge”.