As you'll know if you've read, well, pretty much anything at all about it, Mirror's Edge is an action-adventure game with a difference. Like so many other titles in the genre, it involves working out how to get from point A to point B and pulling off the right combination of moves to get there. But unlike most of them, it presents the action from a first-person perspective. For this reason it's most often referred to as an action-adventure with an FPS twist. But in fact, it's got more in common with racing games.
At least that's the case when it comes to the Time Trial mode, as we discovered during a recent hands-on session. There is a healthy selection of unlockable courses choose from, each one based on a level in the Story mode. The ultimate objective is to navigate your way to the end in the quickest time possible, hitting the highlighted checkpoints along the way. However, there's more to the Time Trial mode in Mirror's Edge than just beating the clock.
For starters, there are the controls to get to grips with. Because there's no combat involved in this section of the game, you only have the analog sticks and three context-sensitive buttons to worry about. The left stick makes Faith run, while the right stick moves the first-person camera. L1 is used to jump and vault over objects. L2 is for sliding under gaps and barrel rolling, and R1 is for pulling yourself up when hanging from ledges.
It's easy to grasp the basic manoeuvres. The controls are responsive, the context-sensitive elements make perfect sense and it's not long at all before you're running, jumping, vaulting, sliding and rolling with ease. All of this bodes well for the single-player game, but in Time Trial it's not just about whether you can pull off the moves. It's about pulling off the right moves at the right moments, and working out the best route through each level.
Which is where the racing game element comes in. Anyone who's spent time with the likes of the Project Gotham games will know you can't just rely on good driving skills to see you through; you have to get to know each track. The only way to get an impressive finishing time is by plotting out the perfect racing line, and working out which points provide an opportunity to shave split-seconds off your total.
It's the same here, with one important difference (apart from the fact you're not driving a car, obviously). Although checkpoints show the direction in which you should be heading, there are multiple ways to get between each one. You're not dealing with a linear piece of tarmac; the path ahead is usually wide open. There's a huge range of environmental objects between you and your objective, and you've got to work out how they might help or hinder your progress.
As an example, let's look at the first Time Trial course we got to try out, Edge. It'll look instantly familiar to anyone who's seen screenshots of the game - all bright lighting, white backgrounds and primary-coloured details. Your first mission is to negotiate four flights of stairs. You could just run up them, of course, as myself and the other journalists playing did to begin with. Then someone pointed out Faith can wall-run, which makes navigating stairs a little bit quicker. Just a little bit - but as we were to discover, every little helps.
Once out on the rooftop, the next obstacle is a fence which you can vault over or slide under. In terms of the individual moves the slide is quicker, but you lose a tiny bit of momentum - and momentum is all important here. Faith gathers speed as she runs and links moves together. If you do something that slows her down, or perhaps make an error that brings her to a full stop, you'll lose that momentum.