2.22.2009

Play Time (or, how I learned to stop worrying and hate Mirror's Edge)

An hour was all it took for me to decide that I was utterly uninterested in Mirror's Edge. But I couldn't help but feel that I should keep on playing for at least a few hours before I could authoritatively state that I hated it. Perhaps this is a vestige of my life as a member of the (modern-era) EGM Review Crew, when we took game reviewing so seriously we would never consider forming final opinions on a game until we'd damn near finished it or at least made sure that we'd seen all of what the game had to offer. But really, how long should you have to play a game before you can determine whether or not you like it? The closest analogy I can think of is reading a book, where you often have to give it 50 or 100 pages before you really get a sense of the story, characters, and depth. Writing style is apparent and may be immediately engrossing or off-putting, but the more macro aspects of the book take a while to develop.

With Mirror's Edge, though, I felt pretty immediately and consistently throughout the first level or two that I was basically going to hate almost everything about the game. The world was kinda interesting architecturally, and the cartoony graphics were pretty cool. But I hated the voice actor who played Faith. I hated the story line and the silly tomboy runner who was showing me the ropes in the tutorial. I hated the first-person perspective and not being able to see my character doing all these ostensibly cool parkour moves. I hated the fact that the game made me use my left hand more than my right. I hate the constant insta-death scenarios. I hated how long it took to reload after you died. I hated being chased by "blues" shooting me. I hated that my reflection didn't show up in glossy windows except during the scripted parts. At a certain point very early on (right after Faith kisses her sister goodbye in awkward first-person view and then has to outrun a bunch of cops), I decided that there was absolutely no reason for me to continue playing something I was hating so much.

But still, I can't shake that nagging feeling that I haven't played enough of the game to truly see whether I've made a fair judgment about it. I know quite a lot of people who'll beat games they don't even like, but they too are all former reviewers. I also remember playing a bunch of games during my time as a reviewer where you get used to the controls or the camera and then the game starts to be not so bad (though I've rarely seen games go from seeming bad at the beginning to becoming really good eventually -- only from bad to OK). But since Mirror's Edge was rated fairly high (wasn't it?), I am wondering if I missed the point or something.... Did it get really good a few more levels in?

Unless you enlighten me, we'll never know, because after 2 levels and 30 achievement points, I'm done.

21 comments:

Jon said...

I can see how due to personal preference you may have not liked all those things about the game, but I actually like those things the best.

If you want to have seen pretty much everything and be able to say you truly hate the entire game, I'd say play a little bit more until you get to the first section where you can't just run away from blue shooting guys and you have to fight them. When you want to throw your controller in volcanic frustration, then you will have seen everything.

Adam Coronado said...

Mirror's Edge is a dramatically flawed masterpiece, a woefully honorable failure of ambitious game design. I would call it the most divisive game of last year. No one wants to hate it because of what it does well (A+ well). Everyone is afraid to speak on why parts of it just suck (Shame of the Month, suck).

It's all a matter dealing with its drawbacks to get to why its awesome and I don't think anyone can be judged for not having the patience.

NintendoTheory said...

I really enjoyed Mirror's Edge, terrible flaws and all. I liked how they managed to make a pretty good platformer in 3D (although you could argue Portal was better, even though its considered to be an FPS), I liked the protagonist, and I liked how the game felt when you got a good run going.

It played the same throughout though, even becoming more frustrating during the last few levels, so it's probably not something you'd enjoy more if you dig deeper.

For me, if a game can't convince me to play it within the first hour or so, I give it up. My first published review was for Two Worlds, which was probably as deep as Oblivion, but I only gave it about four hours before I returned it. If a game can't grab you at the get go, should you really slog through it?

Ian said...

Mirror's Edge doesn't get any better later on. You either like the game despite of its flaws, or the flaws bug you too much to let you really get in to the game. People just have different levels of tolerance for game bullshit.

+3 Pants of Quietude said...

Jen--

I really dug Mirror's Edge, and I completed it in, oh, three days.

That said, your decision to quit was absolutely the right one. The beginning is absolutely the best part of the game, and if you hate that, you'll despise the rest.

I will say that I was a little moved by the ending, though. Not many games end with a simple hug, and even if you did have to kick a dude out of a helicopter to get to it, it was still nice.

The thing that really did suck about the game to me, though, was the voice acting. I mean, I could forgive some bad acting if the game was an indie production, but EA is, well, EA. These people have the ear of Steven freakin' Spielberg, for Christ's sake! The least they could do for their ostensibly story-driven game is record performances more emotionally involving than those on an average episode of Cleopatra 2525.

The worst part is, the story itself isn't too bad. Simple, maybe, but not bad. And yet the actors deliver their lines with slightly more conviction than a Burger King customer ordering a Whopper. I'm not sure if it's the fault of the VAs themselves or what, but there's a clear absence of passion there, and the whole game suffers as a result.

Anyway. My two cents. :)

Mark said...

I have to agree with your opinion, Jen.

I only played the demo and I was hating it. A lot of reviewers and my 1up friends seem to have loved it, but I couldn't agree with them. I had the same complaints as you, and to top it all off, I just hated the controls on the PS3. It really felt awkward for me.

In a weird way, I felt a little guilty for hating the game. So many people I'm either friends with or respect in the profession loved the game so much. I felt like I was wrong for not even wanting to at least rent the game so I could complete the game and form an opinion. I had this strange notion that completing the game would either open my eyes to its apparent excellence or confirm how terrible the game really is.

In my life now I have a huge pile of shame of games I want to play, and my wife and I are living tight to pay off some bills, so I can't really afford the time or money to play anything that I don't think I'm going to enjoy. Mirror's Edge has passed me, and living on a tight budget makes me okay with that now.

I downloaded the demo, tried it out, and the game simply wasn't for me. I wanted to like it. I really did! Honest!

Time and money is too short to playing a game that is just pissing you off.

Dan said...

This post instantly brings to mind the new Joss Whedon show Dollhouse. I had been hearing stories about how Fox dealt badly with Firefly and how they had similarly been messing with the first episode of Dollhouse. About 20 minutes into the first episode of Dollhouse there was nothing that made me want to continue. Do I need to watch the whole episode? Do I need to wait around for 2 or 3 episodes to see the genius of Joss Whedon even though I've never watched much of his shows?

The Letter D said...

While admittedly off topic,as a Joss Whedon fan, his shows take a little while to get going (Buffy didn't fully "take" for me until Season 2).

The second ep of Dollhouse was much better than the first at better set up the story arc.

I would never tell someone to stick with something they don't enjoy. I have no acquired tastes, not even coffee. I just hope Fox gives Dollhouse the time to get to full steam.

But I'm saving my money on Mirror's Edge. It didn't sound like something that I'd like and the issues that I felt that I'd have were confirmed.

Crossraine said...

I didn't really hate or like the game. It was a time killer. It took a day for me to beat the game, which was disappointing. The scripted animated scenes looked horrible and lazy. The controls were not perfect. The view was aggravating. It killed time. The demo intrigued me, the game did not. If it weren't in my job description to know things about these games, I probably would not have checked it out.

To answer your question, it was not any more interesting than what you experienced. You aren't missing a thing.

Rexly said...

So I've only played the demo and I have a love and hate thing for Mirror's Edge. I liked the gameplay and the environment, but I didn't like the controls or story. It reminded me way too much of science fiction movies like Ultraviolet. The controls are just hard to comprehend. I know that games are trying to have a much more simple approach in terms of controls, but I think this is a very bad attempt at it.

As for reviewing games, I find that I have to play at least 80% of the game in order for me to write a review on it. For example, the most recent game I had to review for my school paper was Skate 2. It was a great game, but I didn't find any negatives until I played a little further into the get. By then, I was already submitting the final draft for my review and I couldn't change it. It just goes to show that we should spend a lot of time looking at the content rather than just play the game for about 4-5 hours.

Elementlr said...

My experience was exactly the same as what you just described. Things only became worse further in, as the game shoved more and more enemies in my way. But as my frustration grew, some sick part of me couldn't stop, because I'd heard all of these wonderful things from people who seemed to have played an altogether different game.

In the end, I beat Mirror's Edge while cursing its name.

RJC said...

The idea of parkour in a first-person perspective is an interesting concept. But in practice, Mirror's Edge proves that it ain't pudding!

It's not that DICE have badly executed their design : it's just that they may have confused "Immersion" with playability.

Personally, a few moments with the demo made it clear that I wouldn't appreciate the game enough to buy it, play it, devour it, etc.

Oh, well. That was one less game in the budget to worry about.

retroyoshi said...

Hey, that's the good part about not being a reviewer (anymore). You have the luxury of giving up on a game earlier on. Personally, I don't have time for a lot of gaming, so if the first couple of levels of a game have me saying "this sucks", then back to the store/Gamefly/whatever it goes...

Anonymous said...

Was that a Dr Strangelove reference I spy in your title there?

Smooth.

Dan said...

Interesting thoughts on Mirror's Edge and bad video games (and books) in general. I haven't played it enough to know how I feel about it yet. :)

If I may go off-topic a moment, I just read about EGM's demise after wondering where my February issue was all last week ::chuckle:: Sorry about all that; I hope Sega's a blast!

I thoroughly enjoyed your writing in the mag; I'll see if I can get my "J. Tsao writing fixes" from your blog. :)

-Daniel

jhuggard said...

I bought the game right around its release date because the demo impressed me. The initial playthrough of the demo content was as fun as it had been previously, but when I got to that same part where Faith has just seen her sister...

Goddamn.

I died over and over again trying to figure out where to run to. After something like 10 deaths, I called it quits and haven't picked it up since. I liked it and eventually will return to it, but that first taste of the game past the demo really kicked my ass.

SixByNine said...

I really enjoyed Mirror's Edge. I like the feel of the movement, the panic when trying to find the path while being chased and the puzzle solving at the more difficult platforming parts was rewarding too.

I think at the simplest level, like Portal and Assassin's Creed, Mirror's Edge made moving fun, and you get to move all the time.

I'm sorry you didn't like it, I'm anticipating the next one.

Jennifer said...

so interesting to hear that so many others have equally strong opinions on this game! in that way alone, Mirror's Edge is set apart from lots of other games... what's the word for when something evokes strong but divided opinions? Uh... perhaps we start to discover why i haven't been blogging much lately! No More Words!

Dan said...

Hmm..."divisive" comes to mind, or perhaps one of its synonyms might be the word you're looking for.

"No More Words?!" Oh, no! Not you! :( What's the word for that?!

stiill said...

How about "polarizing"?

ME is clearly a niche title. You can't make something that punishing, that repetitive, and not have it be a niche title.

Fallout 3 was also a little nichey, but at least it was huge and epic, so it sold. It was still polarizing, though-- I know plenty of people who hated it.

I don't know where I saw it, but I read a ridiculous article from some reviewer who'd given Fallout 3 a high score, but was admitting he'd hated it. The whole article was a rationalization/excuse for why he hadn't mentioned any of that in his review. Sorry y'all spent 60 bucks on it, but I feel really bad about it! And the industry made me do it!

Whoah. /offtopic rant :)

Anonymous said...

I only played the demo. The game was okay. I would save it for a rental. I like what they did in moving away from guns as the number 1 means of fighting. Especially in the context of a fps type game.