Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Faith rennt

As usual, I am ages behind everyone else in commenting on this. (To start with, I almost forgot I had this blog!) But the Guardian article on Mirror's Edge and the Videogame Aesthetics article on (lack of) realism in art direction ended up in tab proximity in Firefox.

Suspend disbelief for a minute and consider Mirror's Edge to be the licensed game for Run Lola Run. Both works feature a desaturated but still bright palette, using red to highlight key objects to interact with. But the similarities extend beyond the art direction. Both use a conventional-unconventionally-attractive female protagonist; both have an environment, a city, as an antagonist as much as any individual person. Both have a thematic focus on repetition until perfection.

That last part interests me most, because that's the part where the game takes a theme of a movie and does something medium-specific with it. It doesn't borrow the plot and it doesn't borrow any characterization; it doesn't need to. What defines Run Lola Run as a film is the use of repetition for unique (relative to other films) visual and emotional impact. What defines Mirror's Edge is its use of repetition in its interaction, its focus on speed runs and time trials. When most games are advertising the depth of their dynamic worlds this is one that challenges the player - sometimes almost mocking - with the staticness of it. The mechanical essence of the film has been translated, making a game experience as fresh within its medium as the film did in its.

When Keith Stuart says
Because, if it were a movie, Mirror's Edge would be critically lauded by the specialist film press – it would be considered a forward-thinking masterpiece.
We don't need to consider it an "if" - Run Lola Run won over two dozen awards.

I guess this post wouldn't be complete without me chiming in about the game like everyone else did. Mirror's Edge is one of my favorite games of this year, but I think it copped out at the end. It's not the only game that started out combat-light and gave in during the climax, whether for lack of a better idea or as a concession to sexy trailers and mass appeal. Thief and Dead Rising come to mind as non-standard-combat games that stumbled at the end. Gun and Bioshock went from mostly freeform combat to a heavily scripted final boss battle that bore no relation to the rest of the game. I'd hold up Portal, Fallout 3, and Metal Gear Solid 4 as recent games that delivered a climax and ending up to the standards of the rest of the game while making them memorably different at the same time. A few false steps is no reason to discount Mirror's Edge - the game delivers what it promises, you just have to play through an hour or so of bullshit in the middle of it. Compared to the amount of bullshit you'll find in the middle of other games, that's nothing.

No comments: