Mirror's Edge achieves bounding, bouncing payoffs without the queasy side effects with a dot. Yeah, a dot. What you don't see in the "doctored" screens is a tiny blue/white blip. The dot isn't working alone though, the developers found they needed to widen the camera's field of vision as well as place it in the characters eyes as opposed to her head, reducing much of that first-person staple: head bobbing. The effect: a game that seems like it has no right not making you sick.
The level we played is the same level shown at the game's debut at GDC. You begin by getting over a fence. You can either climb it, straight up – effective, but not as sexy – or you can also try to jump over it. Running at it, using a convenient row of sloped solar panels for some boost, you hit the wall. The jump is just too high. Try this: Run straight at it, jump, then tuck your legs up and watch your character vault over the tall fence. You're over it! Now, quickly tuck into a roll before you land to keep that momentum going, and you're back up and running. Slide under that, clamber onto that, balance across that pole, run across that wall – your path is mapped out in red, "the way Jason Bourne would see a pen as a weapon," one of the game's producers tells us.
"Sure, you can disarm enemies, fire weapons, slow down the action briefly, but everything said and done, this is a game about movement."
All these actions occur in the demo's first minute or so. In fact, the playable portion isn't much longer than that, just long enough to prove that it works. And that's the thing about actually playing Mirror's Edge: The delta between the perceived difficulty of the title – "I can't do that!" – and the actual difficulty is mammoth. The majority of your movement is mapped to the analog sticks and the two left shoulder buttons: L1 and L2 are up and down. And ... that's it. Sure, you can disarm enemies, you can fire weapons (using R1 and R2, though you never have to kill anyone), you can slow down the action briefly, but everything said and done, this is a game about movement.
Comparisons to last year's free running Assassin's Creed are inevitable – both task you with diving, climbing, and running – but Mirror's Edge gives you more ownership of those actions. In Assasin's Creed, a simple press of the "do stuff" button coupled with some movement of the analog stick and you're vaulting, climbing, and performing other context-sensitive actions. In Mirror's Edge, you're actually moving your body. To vault over something, it's the up button; to slide under it, you hit down while moving. Like Prince of Persia, you can string your actions together into a longer sequence where you're not set on a course just pushing forward but instead you're responsible for your actions.