'Mirror's Edge' offers dizzying good time

An action video game played from a first-person perspective is usually considered a "shooter," such as popular run-and-gun titles Call of Duty or Halo, where the protagonist roams the world toting all types of weapons.

Now, Sweden's EA DICE studio (of Battlefield fame) is offering a fresh take on first-person action with Mirror's Edge, an exciting, immersive — and for the most part, nonviolent — video game.

But be forewarned: those who feel nausea from watching first-person films like Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project, or anyone who suffers from a fear of heights or vertigo might want to skip this dizzying adventure.

In Mirror's Edge, you play as Faith, a "runner," or information courier, in a world where all communication is tightly monitored by the state. "The change came slowly, most didn't realize and others didn't care ... they chose a comfortable life," Faith explains at the beginning of the single-player tale. Your job is to act as a messenger among those who oppose the state's control over people's lives. By traversing rooftops and alleyways and navigating through underground waterways, you'll perform your tasks while remaining undetected by the "Blues," or police, as well as cameras and other monitoring equipment. After the tutorial and prologue we also learn about Faith's twin sister, Kate, who was framed for a murder she didn't commit.

As you play entirely from a dizzying first-person perspective, the agile Faith must navigate through the city by running across ledges, climbing ladders, jumping from roof to roof, shimmying across ledges and sliding down zip lines. You might liken it to a Prince of Persia experience, but from a different view of the action.

While you'll have many missions to complete, how you go about them might vary from player to player. In one memorable scene early in the game, you're being chased by police in a building, with bullets whizzing past your ears, and you must frantically climb the staircase and find a hiding spot behind boxes. Or you can climb onto a shelf and find an opening to an air vent to crawl through. Or you can kick open a door to the roof, hop over an electric fence and run like mad. While you're encouraged not to use weapons in the game (in fact, you can unlock a special Microsoft Xbox 360 achievement or Sony PlayStation 3 trophy for not firing them), it is possible to pick up and fire a gun, if you like. Otherwise, our heroine can punch or kick baddies (and disarm them by pressing Y on the Xbox 360 controller).

There's no head-up display, or HUD, information on the screen — just the city, as seen from your eyes — so the only hint as to where to go are some items that glow red, indicating a suggested pathway (this is called "Runner's Vision").

Along with the main campaign is a special Race mode, in which you're dropped back into the city and can compete against other Mirror's Edge players to see who has the best time. Every move throughout the obstacle courses is recorded and your time trials appear as red silhouettes of your character for others to beat.

As fun and fresh the game is, there are a few minor issues. Controlling Faith can be challenging, especially given the first-person view because it's difficult to determine, say, the distance between two rooftops when you take a leap. (The trick is to point the camera down a touch, and if you need to, activate the slow-motion option). Some moves also proved difficult, such as hopping between two close walls. You might also get frustrated at the lack of a map on the HUD, because you won't know where to go next if there are no red objects in sight. On that note, if you complete the story, you can unlock the hard mode, which doesn't give you any red hints at all.

Minor niggles aside, Mirror's Edge is a fantastic first-person adventure worth every dime. While Electronic Arts often banks on its proven franchises, such as Madden NFL, The Sims and Need For Speed, it's good to see the publisher take chances on all-new game concepts like Mirror's Edge.

Contact Saltzman at gnstech@gns.gannett.com.