We can't help loving it. Mirror's Edge may have been short, narrow, brutal, disorientating and bound in cliché, but once you learned to read between the racing lines of its serene adventure playground and embraced its economy of control, it was hard not to skip, dive and rebound across its troubled rooftops with a quantum of glee. And while there will be the usual complaints about SecuROM (five authorisations) around this belated PC port, after half a dozen hours retracing our console steps it's hard not to argue it's the best version.
Mirror's Edge puts you in the trendy first-person trainers of Faith, a messenger for a skyscraping underground delivery network that vouchsafes freedom of communication in a glimmering city that seeks its repression, and she does this by running, jumping and skidding around rooftops, guided by a traditional movement controls and context-sensitive "up" and "down" buttons, which account for jumps, vaults, wall-runs and ledge-grabs, and skids, crouches, rolls and release respectively. With little more than these and a bridging 180-degree spin button, she can navigate virtually any series of obstacles with fluent parkour acrobatics, keeping an eye out for the guiding red visual signature of the next best leap of faith.
And, for the benefit of latecomers, we do mean virtually any series of obstacles. DICE has arranged a network of wooden ramps, chest-high pipes, pronounced air conditioning units, roof-access pods, cranes, trapeze, zip-lines, scaffolds and wooden boards to assist, and within an hour of starting you can be chaining a wall-run to a trapeze to a tucked roll under a vent into a jump from a stepped crate onto a zip-line and a soft landing on tarpaulin.
Well then, this is going to divide audiences down the middle. It's an ambitious game, but it manages to match its achievements with irritations at every turn; it's bold and forward-thinking, yet stilted and old-fashioned. Some will be able to overlook the gaping flaws, but others will never appreciate its moments of brilliance, and both positions are justifiable. Ultimately there's no right answer, but there are at least two things that prolonged exposure reveal: there are a handful of the crucial parts of a masterpiece here, and the end result still feels like a work in progress.
To start on a high point, you won't be mistaking Mirror's Edge for any other games until the inevitable clones emerge. Its world - huge blue skies, and massive bleached concrete vistas shot through with perfectly placed flashes of lurid colour - is beautiful, distinctive and inviting. Given the Swedish developer, we're already seeing Ikea jokes, but it's more of a city designed by Habitat: classy, solid, and perhaps gently self-involved. It's probably only a dystopia because the bed linen costs a fortune.
And the location is a powerful enough presence to make up for the story. Mirror's Edge tells of a gleaming CCTV hell where the only freedom lies with the Runners - sportswear renegades who dash about on rooftops screwing around with their clients' parcels, like Fed Ex run by Jason Bourne - and it's an intriguing idea, but the game is too breathless to explore it properly. Before you know it, someone's been framed for murder, someone else is upset about it, and you have damp shreds of a limp conspiracy to stitch together. The characters are forgettable, the plot points are so mindless you rarely notice what you're being sent off to do, and the voice acting is patchy. Faith, the strikingly designed lead, sounds like she's seconds away from offering you a timeshare with her anodyne Californian accent, and at least one other cast-member has been parachuted in from Top Cat.