I don’t post here often anymore, that’s not only because I don’t have all that much time for blogging, but also because I’ve barely played games this year. In the last half year I’ve probably played less than 20 hours in total. Just a couple of years ago that was probably about my weekly average. Now with this Christmas holiday I’m okay with gaming my time away a little bit more, especially after seeing the insane Steam Holiday sales. A new game like Mirror’s Edge for less than 4 euros? Come on..! I got so many games already that I need to finish and for which I didn’t take anytime this year, but I can’t leave that kind of offer behind.
So, Mirror’s Edge. You’re probably heard of it. I installed it last Thursday in the afternoon and finished the game around 2 o’clock that night. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve finished a singleplayer game, so that’s a good sign and it felt surprisingly fulfilling. It’s a beautiful AAA-title game in which you run from A to B, while trying to dodge your enemies, jumping from one building to the other similar to Parkour. The movement feels awesome, it looks great and just because of the colours you somehow intuitively know which way to go most of the time. It also seemed very well optimized for my pc (not just a sloppy console port). But it’s by far not brilliant and has so much more potential…
I could focus on how the game weirdly forces you to ( gun-)combat and actually kill people half-way through, which is definitely a major weak point of the game. But I’m okay with that. What bugs me a lot more is the story and how much better it should have been.
I simply do not get it. They have this brilliant dystopian ‘Brave New World’-vibe going on; an apparent clean beautiful city but under a totalitarian regime, where all communication is under complete surveillance, but where people are somewhat apathetic about it, mindlessly consume and live their lives in blissful ignorance. While it’s not the most original anymore, I love this sort of thing. They’ve invested even some effort in it, they have these slick cartoon cut-scenes before and during the game. But it does not get further than this introductory trailer I just linked. At no point it is explained what bad things the City government actually does, or who the clients of the runners are. It’s a brilliant setting, but the plot is just incredibly silly. The sister of the main-character is framed for the murder of a politician that threatens the established order (how and what we don’t know), this plot then suddenly ends up being part of the major conspiracy to kill all the runners as they are the only remaining forces that are able dodge the surveillance system, this all abruptly ends with the main-character finally saving her sister and then suddenly the end credits rolling in… I got no idea what it was all about, I’m not even sure if I summarized it correctly, it’s a paper-thin plotline that doesn’t make any sense at all.
And this annoys me. The gameplay could have been better, sure, but I’m okay with it. To me it’s just this silly plotline (if we can even claim it to be one) that makes this an ‘okay’ game rather than a brilliant game. Can someone explain why the hell AAA titles never fulfil this potential? It would only take such a small portion of those budgets to make the game so much better. These games could actually be thought-provoking rather than just mindless entertainment. Is it some weird attempt to stay political correct at all costs? To not shock or offend people, to not be labeled as a political game which might hurt the sales or something? I simply don’t get it. There are several AAA titles that could have been oh-so brilliant. Assassin’s Creed is a good example of a beautiful game being turned into a piece-of-shit I couldn’t even play through, because I got so disgusted by its ridiculous time-travel plotline. Assassin’s Creed is situated in the medieval Middle-East, so you have these beautifully designed and truly living cities as Jerusalem and Damascus. Awesome right? Right, but then you for example also have several Jewish, Islamic and Christian soapbox preachers in the streets all giving pretty much exactly the same shallow speech, plus several similar examples, they don’t have the balls to touch upon any religious question. They avoid all the potentially sensitive issues while they could get so much more out this subject. Bah. And then with Call of Duty: MW2 you have developers that actually do have the balls to shock, but don’t do anything with it and keep it at nothing more than empty bullshit.
It’s just sad. Games have so much potential as a platform, but the big developers just don’t seem to get it. Of course they have their commercial reasons, but even Hollywood does something right from time to time. Why not with games? Deus Ex is now almost 10 years old for fuck’s sake. Mirror’s Edge was good value for money with this steamsale, I’m happy I bought it, but it’d have been so much better if it would’ve maintained a more thought-provoking edge. Mirror’s Edge is kinda edgeless, yeah, lets name it that way.