Our man at GDC was granted a viewing if DICE’s “revolutionary” first-person action game Mirror’s Edge at GDC last week. As you’ll see, his mind was well and truly blown.
The behind-closed-doors unveiling of Mirror’s Edge was one of the most impressive events of last week’s Game Developers Conference. Presented by producer Owen O’Brien, the free-running sci-fi game had some of the crowd suffering vertigo.
“Red is a very important colour in the game,” O’Brien explains, as the first-person demo sees us leaping from a rooftop onto the arm of a crane. “The player should be able to see the route forward in any situation.”
Momentum, explains the bearded Irishman, is everything in this game. Red, which seldom looks out of place in the clean, Utopian cityscape, allows gamers to instantly calculate the best possible angle of travel. When you’re leaping across rooftops under fire from half a dozen hi-tech security guards, thinking has to be quick.
What DICE has realised – seemingly in parallel with Radical’s Prototype game – is that no one has really tried to simulate real movement in videogames. The first-person free-running of the female protagonist is astounding to behold, and we watch as the entire crowd wobbles and leans in response to the running and leaping on-screen. With just a press of a button the demo-player is able to skid underneath pipes, or vault over them. He can vault fences and can flow leap across rooftops into a run with a single crash roll. Never has an FPS tracked inertia and human movement in this way.
Combat, meanwhile, focuses on hand to hand melee. Enemies get close and it’s time for kung fu. Arms are twisted and necks are stamped on: “Guns will be just a temporary power-up, lasting until the end of the clip,” said O’Brien. “The focus is on the person.”
The session shows our hero travelling across a series of rooftops to hand-off a valuable piece of information to another runner. At one point she’s trapped inside and must vault up inside a corridor to reach an escape hatch (again, highlighted in red). O’Brien explains that because of the nature of the game, these physical, spatial puzzles will be routine, throughout the game. Finally our runner is trapped on a rooftop, under a hail of bullets, unable to escape. She leaps, risking death, to catch hold of the landing gear of a news helicopter that has been trailing her. The sessions closes with the player looking into a mirror skyscraper, and seeing our hero hanging from the helicopter. It’s an awesome piece of visual design.
This game, you could say, will do for movement and inertia what Thief did for stealth and sneaking. It’s a paradigm shift, and gaming might never be the same again.
Mirror’s Edge is slated for a calendar 2008 release for PC, PS3 and 360.