It’s been a couple of weeks since E3, and the overwhelming full-body sensation that Mirror’s Edge 2’s announcement provided has finally begun to subside, giving me some time to not only replay the first game a hundred times but also think about what it really is that I’d want from a sequel. It’s gut-wrenchingly difficult for me to admit there are problems with DICE’s door-bashing simulator, but I will do my best to choke them out.
Pacing – Stop killing it
Unlike most people, I actually quite enjoyed most of the elevators in Mirror’s Edge. After an intense chase, they act as a breather, and are deceptively used as a loading screen – which is pretty neat, right?. Well, they don’t seem as neat when there is an elevator to mill around and wait in on seven of the nine missions, some of them last up to half a minute. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but for a game based around jumping from rooftop to rooftop and kicking dudes in the face, it’s enough to kill the adrenaline.
The same goes for vent-crawling (are we Faith Connors or Sam Fisher here?) and shimmy-walking; it seems that for every time we’re encouraged to pick up momentum and breeze through the environment, the offer is suddenly retracted and we’re told to slow it down again. This is likely due to development restraints and the world being smaller than DICE would have liked it, the slower sections meaning the game is able to span out a little longer, so perhaps that’s what we’re really asking for here – a bigger playground. Mirror’s Edge 2 is already said to be open-world, which could solve this issue, but I’m hoping this doesn’t mean it’s simply a huge sandbox of climbable objects, rather than a small one that allows a variety of free-flowing routes.
Combat – Don’t change it, just avoid it
Complaints about Mirror’s Edge’s punching and kicking were rife when it came out, but even when I put my fanboy bias aside, I don’t really see the problem with it. The takedown animations were ahead of their time, the kicks look and feel real, but most importantly you feel underpowered. It’s exactly what the Runners are about, and what makes Faith cool despite the industry standard – it’s not about taking out everyone in your path, it’s about being almost impossible to catch or kill. Faith is able to get out of enemy hands as quickly as she came, so Mirror’s Edge 2’s goal shouldn’t be to make some complex combo system or QTEs or anything like that, it should be inventing a host of new ways of slipping right through the CPF’s fingers. However, the trailer has a concerning amount of focus on Faith disarming and kicking a cop before stoving in another one’s face with her fist, and along with EA’s usual bid for a ‘wider-audience’ reaching (so, more violent) game, perhaps my wish will not be granted.
Storytelling – Less is more
What actually happens in Mirror’s Edge? Well, admittedly I could tell you exactly, including every single line from every single cutscene, but that’s not important right now. To be brutally honest, Mirror’s Edge didn’t have a great story to begin with, and it isn’t told fabulously either. Weird cartoon cutscenes that feel extremely out of place (and unnecessary considering how beautiful the game’s engine looks), predictable twists involving characters you’d only seen once or twice before, all in pursuit of some conspiracy that doesn’t seem like much of a big deal in the first place.
The plotline courteously steps aside during the missions, letting you get on with the fun stuff, but between them clumsily piles on a ton of information, hoping it adds up as a functional and interesting story. I can never stop feeling that it just doesn’t have to be this way; that Mirror’s Edge’s ambience and almost spooky loneliness at points could be a storytelling method of its own. Some of the best video game narratives are told with the fewest of words, and Mirror’s Edge 2 has the potential to be the same. Minimalism works. Let the City do the talking.