As we continue our coverage of the first round of launch apps on the iPad, there’s a very strong case that Electronic Arts is bringing it harder than any other developer. With an amazing port of Command & Conquer: Red Alert and a brilliant new version of Scrabble using slick interoperability between iPads and iPhones, it’s very exciting to see some early returns on using such a large touchscreen. Of EA’s launch titles on the iPad, Mirror’s Edge is the biggest and most interesting surprise.
With its debut on next-gen consoles in 2008, Mirror’s Edge was a title that people either loved or hated. Billed as a first-person action platformer, you played the role of Faith Conners, a ‘runner’ who spread the news in a city that has a lot of ‘big brother’ action going on. Runners are highly agile and capable of stunts and maneuvers that normal people can only dream of. This basic premise is the starting point for the iPad version as well.
Outside of the aesthetics and story, this is an entirely new game built from the ground up for Apple’s handheld devices. Replacing the controversial first-person perspective from the consoles is a 2.5D side-scrolling camera. Using a variety of efficient finger swipes with some tilt controls, Faith has all of her signature agility intact.
Watch that first step…
Mirror’s Edge is a game of unrelenting rhythm. Jump here, duck there, leap over buildings, catch a downward zipline, capped off by a karate kick to an enemy without breaking momentum is what this game is all about. The gameplay feels really good, arguably better than its prettier console brethren, because the pace is so much faster.
One of the best attributes of Mirror’s Edge is its overall presentation. It’s very futuristic, with a dash of ’emo’ that makes it look and feel unlike any other. Except for some small aliasing issues, this game’s visuals are nearly perfect. Dynamic camera sweeps, bright colors, and solid 3D modeling make this a showpiece game for the iPad.
Another thing we noticed was the lack of any in-game user interface, which makes playing the game much more visceral, without any distractions. On the audio end, the same hypnotic soundtrack has been ported over, highlighted by some sweet new remixes.
This guard is helpfully acting as a step for Faith.
Even though this is a launch game, we were floored by all the extras. After you knock out the game’s 14 levels in a few hours, a timed ‘Speed Run’ mode will be waiting for you. Because the game is so rhythmic, we can see completionists trying to trim seconds off their best times. This mode also connects to a web-connected scoreboard.
Badges (achievements) are in the game too, and hitting milestones open up iPad wallpapers that are gorgeous. The only problem with the wallpapers is that they export at a reduced image quality compared to the previews in the game. Hopefully that little issue can be addressed by an update.
Wrapping up the extras are split-screen multiplayer modes that’ll have you holding one end of the iPad while your buddy holds the other. Competing for the fastest level run or collecting the most packages are the two modes that are available.
All the claims of the iPad being a big iPhone are hogwash when you look at a game like Mirror’s Edge. Rocking amazing eye candy in 1024-by-768 resolution, the graphical fidelity exceeds anything possible on the iPhone or PSP. Moreover, the controls wouldn’t have the space to breathe on a 4’ screen compared to a 10’ one. Specs aside, Mirror’s Edge is an outstanding example of how to create a compelling action game for the iPad.