In my quarter century of life on this planet I've saved the Earth hundreds of times. I've rescued dozens of princesses, murdered millions of aliens, and slain more dragons than you could shake a +5 Sword of Repetition at. Gaming, like Hollywood, has become bogged down by its endless clichés.
But then—just when you think you've seen everything—Mirror's Edge leaps off the side of a building, shimmies up a chain link fence, slides under a steam pipe, and kicks your expectations right in the junk.
The game tells the story of Faith, a runner (think: a bike courier, as imagined by the Wachowski siblings). I won't spoil the plot here, but needless to say our heroine has to run and fight her way through legions of sinister, sunglasses-clad agents, and instead of the typical armory of automatic weapons, she's generally restricted to using her considerable physical prowess and the environment to trounce her foes. While Faith might be a martial arts expert, in most cases it's preferable to flee from combat.
Faith's flight is, in fact, the core mechanic of Mirror's Edge. Instead of just sprinting, Faith is a master of the art of parkour, a relatively new sport consisting of jumping off of things, running along walls, flipping for no apparent reason, and basically acting like a hyperactive monkey in a race across the rooftops, suspension wires, and scaffolding.
Mirror's Edge is my favorite game of 2008, almost entirely due to its novel feel. By avoiding constant gunfire and instead focusing on the simple joys of running and jumping, the game offers a unique gaming experience that is only enhanced by first-person perspective, surprisingly tight controls, and gorgeous, colorful visuals. Trumping mega-blockbusters like Gears of Wars 2 and Fallout 3 is no easy task, and I'm giddy that developer DICE managed not only to do so, but to do so with such style.
EARNEST "NEX" CAVALLI