Mirror's Edge is an upcoming first person action-adventure video game being developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE), due for release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on November 11, 2008 in the US, and November 14, 2008 in the UK, and Windows-based PCs in late winter 2008.
The game was announced on July 10, 2007 and will be powered by the Unreal Engine 3 with the addition of a new lighting solution, developed by DICE. The game has a realistic, brightly-colored style and differs from most other first-person perspective video games in allowing for a wider range of actions—such as sliding under barriers, tumbling, wall-running, and shimmying across ledges—and greater freedom of movement, in having no HUD, and in allowing the legs, arms, and torso of the character to be visible on-screen.
The game is set in a conformist dystopia in which communication is heavily monitored by a totalitarian regime, and so a network of runners, including the main character, Faith, are used to transmit messages while evading government surveillance.
In order to assist the player in creating these chains of moves, the game employs a system called "Runner Vision", which derives its name from its purpose: to depict the environment the way a runner would see it, instantly recognising escape routes. It is a highlighting system that emphasises environmental pieces useful for progression—like pipes, ramps, and enterable doors—with the colour red as Faith approaches, though it does not always indicate the best route. Further along in the game, the number of these visual hints is reduced to only indicate the end goal, though the player can opt to turn off this hint system entirely. It will also be used to create puzzles in which the player must figure out how to combine the highlighted set pieces into a chain of moves in order to reach the target. Another means of assistance to the player is a system called "Reaction Time", which is a form of bullet time that allows the player time to plan where to go next without losing momentum.
Although the player character can hold weapons, O'Brien stressed that "this is an action adventure. We're not positioning this as a shooter - the focus isn't on the gun, it's on the person." Gameplay in Mirror's Edge will focus on finding the best route through the game's environments while combat takes a secondary role. In fact, on the E3 'Gameplay Walkthrough' O'Brien says that going through the game without shooting a single bullet gets you an achievement. Consequently, guns may be obtained by disarming an enemy, but when the magazine is empty, it will need to be discarded. Additionally, carrying a weapon slows Faith down and the heavier the gun, the more it hinders her movement, which introduces an element of strategy in determining when to trade agility for short-term firepower.
To increase the longevity of the game, there will be many messenger bags hidden in the levels for the player to find to unlock extras. Also, there will be a time attack mode where the player will try to complete small portions of a level as fast as possible. There will be online leaderboards as well as red "ghost runners" so that the player can see their fastest routes or the routes of people on the leaderboard.
The only playable character in the game is a runner named Faith. Faith was not the intended lead character. The developers ultimately “fell in love with her” among a number of originally planned characters in a multiplayer mode. Art Director Johannes Söderqvist explains that she has “grown a lot through the two years since she was ‘found’” and that her shoes come from a “concept artist having some fun”, “the tattoo on her arm…from her being a tech girl,” as the developers “didn’t want something like the yakuza…I wanted something more unique that would key into who she is as a person. If she was into electronics, she’d have a tattoo that looks like a circuit board.”
The story follows Faith and her struggle to free her sister from a corrupt government. Her parents were killed while protesting against the government and she was forced to grow up on the street, later becoming a runner. Faith was taught not to rely on modern forms of communication, partially because they are monitored by the police state. As Faith attempts to rescue her sister while running messages for the criminal underworld, she gets caught up in a series of events which lead to her being pursued by the totalitarian government. Acting as Faith's guide is a mysterious character named Mercury, who will help Faith in her attempt to outwit and overcome the many government agents that are out to eliminate her.
Though set in a seemingly utopian city environment with low crime, clean streets, and sterile architecture, it is ruled by a totalitarian government regime that conducts unbridled levels of surveillance on citizens. In this world of communications monitoring, the only way to deliver confidential information between parties is to employ couriers (called runners) to physically deliver the information.
Aside from white, the city is dominated by primary colors and orange, but it has little of the color green, emphasizing the sterile atmosphere—even plants and trees are white. Grey was also avoided in order to distinguish Mirror's Edge from other games. Color is important as an indicator of health, since HUD has been eliminated from the game; as Faith takes damage and her health level decreases, the city's colors desaturate.
The game uses Epic's Unreal Engine 3 rather than DICE's own Frostbite Engine because the development of Mirror's Edge began before Frostbite's development was complete. Beast, a new lighting system developed by Illuminate Labs in association with DICE, was added to the Unreal Engine in order to accentuate the different art style of Mirror's Edge and allow for the reflection of colours as well as light.
In order to address the issue of simulation sickness that is associated with the free movement of the camera in first-person view, a small reticle was placed in the centre of the screen, though this is not apparent from the first video released because it was removed from the in-game footage shown. The reticle serves as an aiming point and as a focal point to prevent the player from experiencing dizziness, working in a similar fashion to the dance technique called spotting. Other than this reticle, no HUD exists in the game. Sony has announced that the PS3 version of Mirror's Edge will receive exclusive downloadable content.