Run like Hell.
At least once in the life cycle of any genre (and in the case of a healthy, evolving genre, dozens or even hundreds of cycles), we’ll see the rise of the ‘anti-paradigm’, where one or more of the familiar tropes-in-question are in some way turned on their heads. You know, the ‘urban’ high fantasy, the starship science fiction with Age-of-Sail allusions, the ‘intelligent’ chick flick or what have you.
[image1]EA’s forthcoming Mirror’s Edge is a city-spanning action title that takes place in the sort of obligatory futuristic urban sprawl you might find in a William Gibson cyberpunk novel or the dystopia of Blade Runner – but with at least one glaring difference. The stereotypical stylistic copout of the Rainy, Grungy Neon Night has been replaced with Stark, Startling Broad Daylight.
From EA’s demo event during the 2008 Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, Mirror’s Edge is a cyberpunk take on the contemporary, kinda-sorta urban sport known as ‘free running’ or, if you want to sound even pooftier about it, ‘parkour’. There is a distinction between the two… but the sort of people who would actually bring that up in conversation are routinely atomic-wedgied in most first-world countries.
Players take the role of urban-hottie protagonist Faith, whose job it is in this futuristic urban setting to literally ‘run’ data or packages from one place to another (in parkour parlance, she would be called a traceuse, the female form of the term traceur). Apparently, the state of electronic surveillance and eavesdropping in the world is such a stranglehold that no information of importance can be trusted to ‘traditional’ electronic transmission. Runners like Faith and her kin are the only reliable option.
[image2]Faith’s adventures look like a day-lit foot messenger’s take on the opening scenes of The Matrix, when Trinity was trying like hell to escape from the Agents. The kicker is, it’s all first-person. She’ll run, scramble, and jump from rooftop to rooftop, fire escape to external air duct, window ledge to whatever-the-hell is jutting out from the side of a building. All of which you’ll see through Faith’s eyes, often looking at, out at, and down on her feet and flailing arms as she jams and leaps from place to place… and engage in martial-arts combat. Evidently, Faith has a ‘thing’ about guns, so if you’re going to bring the pain, you’re going to have to do it with your hands or feet, or whatever the immediate environment offers. Your foes, meanwhile, don’t share the same compunctions about sending small, life-ending bits of lead or depleted uranium your way. So good luck with that.
Obviously, there’s a lot to keep track of while you’re doing all this running around – not the least of which is knowing, at a glance, what particular protruding pieces of the urban landscape are suitable to grab onto, slide on, pinwheel off of, or otherwise utilize. Accordingly, the useful bits of the urban sprawl are highlighted in easily-recognized colors while you’re on the run, so there’s as much potential for fight-or-flight instinct as there is for calm, rational decision-making (often hard to scrape together when you’re being murderously pursued across rooftops and down fire escapes).
Mirror’s Edge – or again, what has been shown thus far – has a vibrant, bright, out-in-the-sunlight animated look that gleefully – and beautifully – flies in the face of the expected ‘dark future’ cityscape. The specifics of the plot or additional mechanics have not been revealed yet. The game’s release date is slated as “some time this year”, so thanks a load for that, EA Games, but GR will keep a greedy messenger’s eye on the cityscape as more details emerge on this unique, stylish non-shooter.