Mirror’s Edge #1: The Controls

As I noted before, I have a major problem with Mirror’s Edge that stems from the controls.  It’s not just the mapping though, it’s why they are what they are.

When I started doing the tutorial mission, my natural inclination was to LB for jumping, but RB for crouching (It’s actually LT).  Jump and crouch are on the same side, basically putting all movement controls on one hand.  It’s incredibly awkward, especially because you’re half-palming the controller if you keep your index and middle finger on the left side (It works better for the PS3 controller because it’s light and more shaped like a boomerang, but on the 360 it requires some active effort which takes away from playing the game).  As you start trying to do the zipline and wall-jumps, things don’t really seem to get better, but you get used to the controls and it’s passable.  Enjoyable even.  Then you hit the combat portion of the game.

What.  The.  Hell.

I’ll ignore the controls of combat because, honestly, they aren’t important.  The only thing that is important to note is they take up at least two buttons that could have been used to better the parkour portion of the game in a meaningful way.  What IS important is how the combat, although semi-fluid, forces you to stop in a game that is all about forward motion (I mean, that’s what parkour is all about after all).  But the disarms are martial arts, so it still flows.  Until you learn how to shoot guns.

Shooting guns makes no sense.  Really, at all.  Not in the context of parkour, not in the context of marketing the game, and not in the context of playing the game.  The whole design of Faith, her clothing, her job, does not scream “gunplay” in any meaningful way.  So why add it?  The ability to shoot a gun feels like complete pandering.  

Overall, though, you could argue for the need for combat, in order to maintain the sense of “I actually have to keep running or the cops/government/mafia/whatever will get me”, which basically requires some kind of buttons associated with combat, right?  I mean, I should at some point be required to defend myself with a series of blocks, strikes, disarms, and the like.  Doesn’t combat require I have buttons mapped for that purpose?

Not really.  I’ll get to that later though.

My original point from the previous post was that guns and parkour don’t mix.  With regards to Mirror’s Edge, the entire game was based around fluid motion and the parkour experience.  Guns and striking are not entirely fluid acts in the same sense as parkour.  What IS fairly in-line with parkour philosophy is Aikido (Aikido philosophy is built specifically around preservation of momentum for self-defense, which is more appropriate for someone of Faith’s size than the hard, karate-style approach which is used in the game).

The buttons used for combat (Strike, disarm, and reaction time) could all probably be better suited for something else more related to making movement easier.  The combat is not nearly as fleshed out as the movement, so you could probably get rid of it and not miss much.

Of course, none of this complaining serves a purpose without presenting the alternative.  If all you’re going to do is complain about how things are constantly without offering up a counter-proposal/idea you’re no better than a posturing politician.  How do you improve from where it is now, beyond allowing button-remapping (Which doesn’t address many of my concerns at all)?  The short answer is Quick Time Events and scaling the controls.  But, I have a little bit more to say about it than just putting an alternative button mapping and calling it a day.  I need to sit back down with the demo to put it to the “test”, and when I do that I’ll follow this up with how you would and why it matters.

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