Mirror's Edge iPad Review

   01/06/2010 at 09:39       Richard Horne       11 COMMENTS. - Score 3/5
 - Mirror's Edge Review, iPad Game Review, EA, DICE, Free running

Whether the iPad will be a viable and legitimate gaming device offering traditional games for gamers remains to be seen. It will undoubtedly become the home for casual throw-away bite-sized titles, much like the iPhone before it, but Apple is no doubt hoping for so much more from its shiny new toy. And it’s certainly got a long way to go before it becomes as ubiquitous as Sony’s PSP, never mind Nintendo’s DS.

But, with Electronic Arts well and truly aboard this bandwagon, Apple has every hope. And with Mirror’s Edge, arguably the first proper game for the iPad, there’s a lot of lessons to be learned and mistakes to be made.

The first thing that hits you about Mirror’s Edge, before you see any of the graphics, hear any of the audio or offer any touch-screen inputs, is the price-point: £7.49. A price that’s nowhere near the price of a full retail console game. But conversely, nowhere near the iPhone’s premium price-point of about £2.99. Sure, the game’s a higher resolution than on Apple’s mobile phone, but then when it originally began life as an iPhone game before making the leap to the iPad, questions have to be raised.

But then with the iPad app store still very much in its infancy, publishers and developers are yet to establish that sweet spot. A sweet spot which on the iPhone settled at £0.59 and which for the iPad, at this early stage, I predict being about £2.99. But of course it would be churlish to expect anything other than to be fleeced for being an early adopter. I mean if I can splurge all that money on a 1st generation Apple device, no doubt missing a whole host of options that will be added in the next year, then what’s another £7.49? And of course, prices always start high before being driven down. It’s never the other way around.

But I digress. App store pricing is a whole series of articles in and of itself and we’re here to talk about Mirror’s Edge, so onwards and upwards. Quite literally.

Mirror’s Edge was a hugely experimental first-person/free-running game developed by EA and DICE. Combining the flair and agility of parkour with the viewpoint and gun-play of a first-person-shooter, led to an experience like no other game before it. With its dystopian setting and minimalist but supremely well designed aesthetics, whether you felt it ultimately succeeded as a gaming experience or not, there was no doubting that it was one of the more memorable games of 2009.

The iPad version is pretty much the same game but with the camera fixed side-on and played like a 2D platformer instead of a first-person-shooter. And, instead of bastardising traditional controls and shoe-horning them onto the iPad screen by way of a virtual d-pad and buttons, EA knocked its collective heads together and came up with a control-scheme perfectly suited to the iPad, and one that more importantly embraces its unique abilities. Swipe your finger to the right and Faith runs right, swipe left, and well you get the picture. The further Faith manages to run uninterrupted, the more momentum she carries and as a result, the more speed she gains. Swipe up to make her jump, swipe down to make her slide. Jump and swipe forward to initiate a kung-fu kick, swipe down to break a fall and that’s pretty much it. It’s both intuitive and inventive and there’s a certain satisfaction and fluency to be had once you get over the fact that you don’t have as much direct and instant control over Faith as you’re perhaps used to in – here comes that dirty word again – traditional video games.

What Mirror’s Edge also drives home perhaps more than anything else, is just how much real estate the iPad screen actually offers as a gaming device. Played on the iPhone, Mirror’s Edge would no doubt be quite a clumsy experience with your thumbs constantly getting in the way of the on-screen action and obscuring your vision. But on the iPad, even though the resolution is less than traditional HD, the fact that you’re holding the device so close to your face – relatively speaking to the distance you’d sit from your TV or a PC monitor of course -  means you actually have tons of room to both control the game effectively while still having a perfect vision of your surroundings. And while we’re on the subject of the iPad’s resolution, the insistence of publishers and developers to add the letters HD to the end of iPad game titles is really getting my goat at the moment. 1024 x 768 is not HD.

This enhanced resolution - over the iPhone at least - also really comes into its own in Mirror’s Edge’s multiplayer – as does multi-touch. The screen splits horizontally with players at each end controlling their own free-runner in a foot-race to the end of each level. With the option to enable or disable melee attacks things quickly get quite intense and it’s certainly a fun and unique way to play the game.

With a single player experience that takes over 2 hours to complete, the addition of timed speed-runs plus the aforementioned multiplayer means there’s certainly plenty to keep you going. Whether or not that’s worth £7.49 or not remains to be seen. But for a 1st-generation game it certainly shows a lot of promise and is among the most polished titles yet to be released. Definitely one to look out for in the sales then.

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