Mirror’s Edge revisited

About 2 years ago, I reviewed Mirror’s Edge as an excellent and refreshing game. Recently I stumbled upon this interview with one of the artists which made me replay the game, on hard this time.

Hard in Mirror’s Edge means: no runner’s vision (highlighting objects in red that you can use in your parkour) and of course more vulnerable to damage. Once you know how to move about in ME’s world, you don’t miss the vision. Of course you have to be quick to scan the environment for possible exits while keeping momentum, but it’s fairly easy.

Being more vulnerable is in general also no problem since you’re not supposed to be hit anyway. πŸ™‚ If you take a hit, you’re slowing down hence taking a second hit which most likely kills you. So it wasn’t until the final chapter that I got stuck because I couldn’t disarm a heavy guard. Kicking was no solution since there were other guards around but no light guards to pick their gun. Watching a walkthrough vid, I was reminded of the “bullet time” feature (called reaction time in ME). I never used that as I thought it was only meant for cheaters. πŸ˜‰ Turns out it’s about the only way to take out the heavy guards when there’s more than one of them. Another thing I learned is that you need to dodge-jump when fighting runner-like enemies.

I had more fun than the first time I played it since I quickly remastered the movement combo’s which allowed me to play in a more relaxed way but also in the way it’s meant to played. You know, without being killed all the time or falling off a building. πŸ™‚ It took me about 7 hours, which is slightly more than the first time (which I played on normal).

Made some steam screenshotsΒ on the way.

As a closer, here my favorite parkour vid so far:

Disabling hibernation on windows 7 and why Dirt 2 shows no replay

Yesterday I made this awesome flying finish in Colin McRae Dirt 2 and wanted to view the replay only to realize: there is no replay? That sounded impossible and today, after missing another fine opportunity, I decided to go to the bottom of this. πŸ™‚

Turned out Dirt 2 automatically disables the replay functionality behind your back when there is insufficient free space on your OS partition! That’s right:

  • I have Dirt 2 installed on a partition with 15 GB free space, but that doesn’t matter.
  • It requires 2GB to save a replay!
  • I does not inform the player when it gets turned off (it used to work in the beginning).
  • There is no visual indication whatsoever, that the replay functionality uberhaupt exists but is disabled! It is surgically removed from the gui instead of just a disabled button, for example.

IMO, this is just another example of why consolisation of excellent PC games like CMR is BAD. Anyway, don’t let me go there, let’s focus on hibernation in win 7. πŸ™‚

So I have a 20GB partition for Wintendo 7, but with only 1GB free that does not seem to cut it. Turns out about 6.5GB is taken by the hibernation file (I have 8GB RAM) which I don’t use. So, how to disable that in windows 7? Open a command prompt as administrator and type:

powercfg.exe /hibernate off

That’s all.

Fullscreen games and Nvidia TwinView

Today, I decided to play a game on my suse box for the first time since I have my “new” game rig. I didn’t play any games under linux lately since Microsoft gave us a free windows 7 RC. πŸ˜‰ I decided to play some Urban Terror but a few hurdles needed to be taken first.

First one: some time ago I managed to screw up my glx acceleration, yielding a “Unable to create SDL screen: Could not create GL context” error. So I installed the latest nvidia binary driver which detected the screw up and fixed it for me.

Second: I have 2 monitors connected: one CRT on the left and one LCD on the right. The LCD is the primary (which confuses some apps). Anyway, when starting an SDL game like Urt, it only sees one monitor (the “beauty” of nvidia twinview πŸ˜‰ ) and projects its graphics somewhere half-way the primary screen with all the rest left black. I.e. unusable. As I understand it’s an Nvidia problem as they do not obey the rules of the game (meaning xrandr and consorts) for which they had their reasons too (at least back in the day).
Anyway, to solve it, let’s have a look at my original xorg config, or rather the relevant metamode line:

Option "metamodes" "CRT: 1280x1024_85 +0+0, DFP: 1680x1050_60 +1280+0"

We can see there is one mode defined with my crt on the right and my LCD on the right (+1280). The solution is to simply add a second mode in which we disable the CRT and to switch to that mode using the mode cycle shortcut ctrl+alt+”+” before starting a game. When you’re down switch back to your first mode.

Option "metamodes" "CRT: 1280x1024_85 +0+0, DFP: 1680x1050_60 +1280+0;NULL,DFP:1680x1050_60"

You can add as many modes as you want for your different gaming setups. πŸ˜‰ It’s not ideal, but it does the trick and it even maintains my full desktop resolution (so apps don’t get confused or icons get misplaced) which you can access by “scrolling” on the side.

Third problem: no matter how I tweaked the framerate cap, vertical sync or other graphics settings, I didn’t achieve the smooth framerate I’m used to from Windows or previous linux installs. Somehow the framerate was really high but not entirely smooth. I tried playing online and had a horrible aim. If I didn’t know it ran flawlessly on my old suse box with ATI radeon 9800 pro, I would have stopped looking. Then I realised: let’s try disable desktop compositing. Problem solved! Smooth framerate, 0wnage ensued.

btw: nowadays, Urt’s master server is down. I created an autoexec.cfg in ~/.q3a/q3ut4/ with the line:

cl_master master.urbanterror.info

Last problem solved. πŸ™‚

Game review: Mirror’s Edge

During the Steam Holidays (xmas 2009) I picked up Mirror’s Edge for a few bucks. I definitely do not regret. Mirror’s Edge stands out by its intriguing graphical style and gameplay. I totally dig the visual style based off primary colors like blue/red/white. See it for yourself.

Story

Although there is a story, I wouldn’t call it exactly a major part of the game. It is fun to have a goal, but let’s face it, it could’ve been better (especially the ending) and it’s not what makes Mirror’s Edge shine (as proves the DLC content which has nothing to do with the story πŸ˜‰ ). In a nutshell, you are one of those runners delivering messages/packages for the “rebels” in a society where all rights on free speech/freedom have been abandoned. This guy your parents knew got killed and now your sis is framed. Rescue her. πŸ™‚
Everything takes place in “the city”, which proves to be a nice environment for stunt jumps and the like, and with plenty of variation in location. From time to time, you’re treated with a surprise, like for example a train thrill ride. πŸ™‚

Atmosphere

In general, the atmosphere of the game is really great. The active modern city presented in an clean abstract art way really ends up right. Visual effects are being used where adequate: blooming sun when you climb from a ladder in the shadow on the top of building. HDR effects: when you kick in a door and enter a building your eyes have to adjust to the darker environment. Vice versa when you escape out of a building. Narrowed vision when running at top speed. Motion blur when something happens in slow-motion.. Nothing special, but it makes the experience complete.
On a funny side-note, this is also the first FPS game I encounter which has REAL working clocks! I was in an office with a clock on the wall and noted the time. Later, when I came by again, time had passed, in real-time! πŸ™‚ Clocks are often just textures, not in ME!
The music sets the exact right mood. Although I understand a song at the end of a game is fashionable nowadays, I still can’t believe they decided to also have “Still Alive“. Is this some kind of joke..? πŸ™‚ Some kind of me-too? πŸ˜‰

Combat

It is really refreshing to have a game where melee combat is your primary weapon. This does not mean the enemy doesn’t use fire arms or that you can’t use them (although you first have to overpower an enemy to take it πŸ˜‰ ). Since weapons are not a main thing in this game, I was surprised to still find quite a collection along the way: pistol, light machine gun, shotgun, heavy machine gun, sniper, … 11 in total! However the game does try to encourage you not to use guns. First of all, it is useless to attack more than 2 people in a frontal way without weapon. Second, when you pick up a gun, you walk a lot slower and can’t do special jumps. Third, there is no ammo in the game. πŸ™‚
Most of the times, if there are only 2 bad guys, you can take out one by surprise, get his gun and use it to kill the other. If there are more, you first have to get hold of a machine gun or just do what you do best: run. πŸ™‚
Basically it is a lot more fun to take out a guy matrix style by wall running and then perform some special kick jump/strangling move than to shoot them from a distance. Talking about distance, there is one time you can really use that sniper gun you just got hold of to clean the area before infiltrating a facility. But they don’t overdo a certain game mechanic so it doesn’t get repetitive.

Mirror’s edge uses a minimal HUD. In fact, there is no HUD. πŸ™‚ You can be shot a few times and it turns (too) red when you’re about to die. There is an option though which, when enabled, indicates the next recommended jump by highlighting the related objects in red. I must say, quite useful, especially for beginners. πŸ™‚

Criticism

It’s a console game.. πŸ™‚ You can’t save when you want, they somehow didn’t get the refresh rate totally right, the mouse pointer does not fit the visual style and is barely visible like it is has been taped on afterwards, …
I was also disappointed to learn that the achievements websites are talking about are actually XBOX achievements and have not been ported to Steam! Would’ve been extra fun..

Everything happens from the 1st person’s POV, which helps create an immersive feel with the environment. The camera moves along when bursting through a door, climbing a ladder, etc. So they have this great engine (modded Unreal 3 engine) which they can use to create cut-scenes, yet from time to time most (but not all!?) cut-scenes are suddenly in a different style, i.e. drawn. For example (compare with the above in-game video):

I don’t understand.

There is also some kind of Max Payne slow-mo button, yet I fail to grasp its usefulness. Reportedly, it would aid in disarming enemies because you can only do that at the right moment during a fairly short timespan. But then again in the heat of an attack, I don’t feel like slowing down or having to choose the right moment to slow down and then have to wait until the slow-down effect has finished. πŸ™‚
Another thing is the runner packs. Somehow, they don’t add up. It’s clear it’s fun to find them, but then what..? In the extra’s (which you get when you finish the game), you can read in the comments of the concept art that originally those bags had a bigger role. Made me understand better, but also made me curious. πŸ™‚

Bang for buck

The game is not too long (less than 10h) but I don’t mind short games since otherwise I don’t get to finish them. πŸ˜‰ It does have some replay value as you can time trial the existing levels. It is actually fun to do the time trials of the levels because now you know all the moves/possibilities without having to think too much. You can actually play the game like in the demos/trailers then. πŸ˜‰ The time trials are in fact exactly the same as the story mode (enemies inclusive), but you get a timer in the top right of the screen.

There is also a global online ladder but I didn’t try that as you have to log in with your EA account for that (which of course, I don’t have handy when I’m in a game).

DLC

For the die-hard fans, there is also some DLC released in January 2010, which is cool, if you live in a console world. πŸ˜‰ As a pc gamer, I’d rather try out some fan-made extra content which is popping up on moddb. It’s going slowly though, as DICE does not officially support custom maps. But as usual, some smart peep figured it out.

Another interesting moddb project is “Mirror’s Edge: Source“. Basically some guy saw the Mirror’s Edge trailer and decided to try out a remake (a premake actually, since it was before release of the game πŸ˜‰ ) using Valve’s Source engine. To quote the author: “I did all of the modelling and mapping by sight while pausing the trailer in parts that I was working on.” It turned out quite well, too bad he never finished his work. πŸ˜‰ Of course, mimicking the graphical style would certainly not be sufficient to recreate the feel of a game like ME.

If you are looking for wall papers or the latest ME news, I can highly recommend http://mirrorsedgefans.fr. It contains every single news fact there is to know about ME and has every ME wallpaper/fan art/concept art known to mankind in its gallery.

Conclusion

In an era in which FPS games rule, I believe DICE came with quite a innovative almost daring concept: a fine mix of first person melee combat and puzzles. Combined with a unique graphical style and chilly music, they certainly made a remarkable game. There is definitely room for improvement here and there, but the result may certainly be seen. In the meantime EA has already announced a sequel, so let’s hope they have learned a few lessons. πŸ˜‰
All-in-all, I can highly recommend this game! I will remember it for it sure.

Note: I got reminded of my almost finished review when I saw Mirror’s Edge was again on sale for 3.74EUR! If you hurry, you could still get it. Probably only a few minutes left πŸ˜‰

Update 3 apr 2012: read my thoughts after a replay on hard.

Freeman’s mind

Gordon is notorious for not talking ever. But what is he thinking, what’s on his mind? Ross Scott is playing through HL1 with full narative. Extremely funny πŸ™‚
Check out the second episode, for example (currently 27 in total!):

Dual action. Literally.

If you own a dual action gamepad, i.e. one with 2 sticks, Gunroar is a game you MUST try out. If you don’t own that, you might wanna try it out anyway as there are also game modes that are well playable without a gamepad.

To me, Gunroar is a typical old-skool action “shooter” game implemented using modern techniques (others may also want to call it a geometry wars clone). In other words: success. πŸ™‚ The wireframe and polygon style rendering is refreshing, the action is fast, the music and sound effects perfectly fit the bill, did I mention fast action? πŸ™‚ It really blows your senses. πŸ™‚

What really puts this game apart, is it superb dual action gameplay. The game sports several game modes:

  • Normal mode: one stick to navigate. If you start to shoot, the navigation stick becomes a strafing stick. Also “torpedos” available.
  • Twin stick mode: real dual action πŸ™‚ Use one stick to navigate, the other to aim/shoot.
  • Double play: if you thought twin stick was the fastest action your brain can process, try double play. You have to control two gunboats simultaneously! The combined position of the 2 gunboats determines the shooting direction. Your brain might protest in the beginning, but try it and you will enjoy. πŸ™‚
  • mouse mode: use arrows for navigation and pointer to aim and fire. Don’t think this mode would be inferior because of the focus on gamepads in the other modes!

But the best part is: all this action seems so hyperkinetic and stressing, but once you get the hold of it, it all feels quite natural and works even relaxing πŸ˜‰ Also, each game mode has its own distinct gameplay. It’s amazing what you can do with so little. πŸ™‚

A few factoids to close. Gunboat is:

  • written by some Japanese guy Kenta Cho.
  • written in D
  • uses SDL
  • uses the ant build system
  • is not open source :/