Mirror's Edge Felt Real, And That's What Made It So Special

I could write about Mirror's Edge all day. About how much I love it, how important it's been to this generation of gaming. I could talk about its visual design, which remains as fresh and iconic today as it did back in 2009. I could take about Magnus "Solar Fields" Birgersson's wonderful score. Instead, though, I'm going to talk about something a little more real.

Music and colours are the kind of things that hang heavy on your experience of a game long after you've stopped playing, like the scent of a loved one still on a pillow long after they've left the bed.

But while you're actually playing Mirror's Edge, you barely notice them, because you're so busy running around like a lunatic, jumping over rooftops, scrambling up ladders and sliding under air ducts.

While you're doing all that, people will often say "Oh, it's cool I can see my hands and feet", but those are just feedback indicators. Plenty of first-person games let you see your feet. The thing Mirror's Edge did so well was attach them to a body that moved like a human being, not a floating camera attached to an arm holding a gun.

It's something DICE are the masters of. And yeah, there's a physicality to all their recent titles, Battlefield 3 especially, but it's in Mirror's Edge that it feels most real, most heavy.

I hate the way most players move in first-person games. Hate it. The genre is specifically built to immerse you in the action, but its games too often have you slide softly across a room, or zip gracefully in a sprint. Human beings don't move like that!

We lumber. Even our most athletic and graceful specimens - and you're controlling one in Mirror's Edge - take heavy steps and run out of breath. Our vision shakes as we sprint, heads bobbing up and down. When we jump, we don't activate anti-gravity boots, we're leaping off leg muscles and propelling a human body. It's messy, precarious.

The way Mirror's Edge models this so well is what makes it such an important game. Earlier this week I criticised some first-person titles for using this generation's improved hardware as a way to simply turn up the volume. What DICE did with Mirror's Edge, though, was use it to create a way of moving in a video game that had never been done that well before. Or, to be honest, since.

Mirror's Edge Felt Real, And That's What Made It So Special

It's why I love the rooftop chase sequences of the game so much. They're maybe my favourite moments of gaming in years, because they take what other games use as tedious roadblocks to level progression - jumping a gap, climbing a box - and by making them feel real transform them into anxious, death-defying stunts.

Sure, it's not as sexy a sell as a room full of explosions, and given Mirror's Edge's (initial) lukewarm response surely didn't resonate as well either, but this series isn't about praising the best-selling or highest-rating games. It's about singling out the real heroes of the last generation, and the fact this game took the effort to do the term "first-person" justice means it deserves to be lauded as one.

Last-Gen Heroes is Kotaku's look back at the seventh generation of console gaming. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, we'll be celebrating the Heroes—and the Zeroes—of the last eight years of console video gaming. More details can be found here; follow along with the series here.