© 2009 The Runner

The Run, Episode Ten

I am, to all intents and purposes, a completely insignificant individual. As long as I play by the rules, nothing I do in the next twenty-four hours will have any impact on the lives of most of the population of this planet. You, reading this now, barely know who I am. This, I’m convinced, is one of the reasons I play Mirror’s Edge.

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It turns out that Celeste has been playing us, working for Icarus all along. She’s the assassin we pinned down last time, and though she temporarily corners us we manage to disarm her and escape, nuking the warehouse in the process. She says she was simply tired of running, that she wanted to be able to live. We don’t get long to think about this however – Kate, Faith’s sister who was arrested on suspicion of murder, is being transferred across the city today. We’re going to break her out.

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On my first play through this run, three extremely nice moments occurred, and each one tells us a little bit about what cinema and character association means in a videogame. It’s a short run – we’re going to move across town to a weapons drop, free Kate, and make our way down to her. The only problem is, the Icarus runners are on our tail, and this is a far cry from the early chases where Hollywood bullets lick our heels. These enemies shoot to kill.

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It’s extraordinarily easy to die here – the tasers that the Icarus runners have on them completely disable Faith, slowing her to a crawl and giving them time to close the distance – which they inevitably do, turning you into a pile of fleshy mush. However, after a few sections of evading them, a leap between buildings prompts a city cop to emerge from a doorway, and he’s packing. He chances a shot at Faith, misses, and ends up the wrong side of her heel.

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The disarm move blends into a one-eighty about turn, and Faith unloads the clip into the two Icarus runners making the leap across to her building. They both fall down. It’s the only way to kill them, and suddenly everything is safe again. It’s an amazingly weight moment. On successive playthroughs, I bypassed the guard and outran the lot; this is by no means an action you have to take. But doing it feels balletic and absolutely right in the context of the game and the character. It’s something you can tell others without knowing if they’ll have seen it. It’s a share-worthy moment.

Once the area’s clear, we leap up and around some construction equipment, finding ourselves finally inside the construction site where the weapon drop is. Slowly stepping into the base of a roofless skyscraper is one of the game’s most beautiful moments. The sudden jolt of realisation – that yes, you are going to have to climb it – is almost as sweet.

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The climb is probably the most demanding section of the entire game, requiring a huge array of moves from walljumps to swings, with a myriad of different ways of getting up. It’s a playground; an acrobatic sandbox with a great sense of emptiness. Outside, the citizens muddle on by, but the sheet glass separating you from the rest of the world is like a thick insulation. It’s just you, and the concrete.

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A mistimed jump means certain death, with the usual rush of adrenaline that follows such.

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But the truth is that completing this task is a landmark moment. The first time you attempt this it might take you five minutes, it might take you the best part of an hour. So hitting the top floor and seeing the ventilation duct, that’s an important moment. That says something about you, and your development towards being Faith herself. It’s not a shareable moment, of course – everyone will hit the top of that skyscraper eventually. But it’s a good personal moment. It’s one to share with yourself. We leap up to the duct and make our way around to the weapons drop.

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The vantage point looks straight down the road that Kate’s van will be coming down, any second. Faith grabs the rifle, shoulders it, and takes a peek down the scope. Merc, our guardian angel, tells us to shoot for the engine. A second later, the convoy rounds the corner.

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The gunshot meets its target, sends the convoy sprawling across the road. The only thing left to do is make our way downstairs. The next building, it turns out, isn’t as empty as the last.

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The problem with the sniping section is that it’s neither a moment to share nor is it a moment that’s personal. It’s entirely scripted, aside from the game, and so cripples a lot of the feelings of surprise or accomplishment that you might otherwise have had. It’s a moment integral to the plot, perhaps, and having Faith take the shot in a cutscene would certainly feel out of place. But it’s the game once again trying too hard to inject drama and variety, when it already has a very good system in place.

The next, and final, room is a great example of this – a spiral staircase with several armed guards, and a collection of platforms and other objects hanging in the central drop. Acrobatics, gunplay, running – they’re all viable approaches and they all feel like the right way, despite being completely separate.

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Ultimately, Mirror’s Edge has a lot to teach about the generation of truly inspiring moments, but in order to see this you have to look away from the places where they’re trying. It’s curious, but also underlines just how beautiful the core gameplay is.

We pluck Kate out of the van and tell her to head for Merc while we lead the Blues away. Later that evening, we finally lose our tail and make it back to Merc’s lair.

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It appears they found out where Merc was holing up. Kate’s gone, and Merc’s been mortally wounded. Kate’s been taken to the Shard, the mayor’s headquarters, but he doesn’t know why. Finally, the building which has dominated the skyline of Mirror’s Edge for so long is now within reach. Next week, Faith makes her final run.

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2 Comments

  1. Mike
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 4:24 am | #

    You know what melts my heart? It’s that I perceive Faith as being a fragile individual; a weak person with abilities. I see her as being a person that’s been thrown into a world where she doesn’t belong; the unfairness and injustice and the harm that’s been done to her during the game is characterized by the fact that it seems like the whole world is collapsing on her quickly and she had to react, with all that she has, with all her power and energy she put her all in her mission, out of love. I love the weakness and the strength balance in Faith…and that’s how I see her, even if no where in the game or the story do I get a direct and clear clue about this.

  2. Mike
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 4:31 am | #

    Oh I’m very glad to have found out that you liked the yellow building climbing sequence!!

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