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Mirror's Edge vs. NFS:Undercover

Posted by Kyro Sk On 2009-04-04 6 comments

Since these games are clearly in the same genre, I felt that this would be a perfectly valid comparison. A completely reasonable, totally neutral set of categories will be used for this assessment. I'll be abbrv. in the artcl. so I don't have to type words lngr. than 5 ltrs; ME = Mirror's Edge, NFSU = you get the point...

Hotness of Main Character
In ME, you get to play Faith. She's got this cute Eurasian look going for her and a twin sister. In NFSU you're you. That's right, you never actually see yourself in the cut-scenes so you can suspend your disbelief of the fact that you'd never be caught dead in any of the situations the game puts you in. In NFSU's defence though, you do get to work with an attractive undercover policewoman played by Maggie Q, none-the-less, advantage ME.

Cut-scene Wickedness
In NFSU the cut-scenes drag you through this plot about gangs of master auto-thieves and illegal car smugglers etc... It's straightforward and comes across very dryly, especially compared to the actual driving which is very exciting and rip roaring (like a good NFS game should be). ME is unfortunately pretty similar, predictable story with an obvious double cross you see coming from about 24 miles away - maybe from those vantage points you can see everything coming... hm.. What ME has going for it though, is a neat delivery using a cel animation style that sets is apart. Maybe the next NFS game should have cel animation cut-scenes (ironically, the characters might seem a little less cardboard). Advantage ME.

Longness of Section That I Wish Was Shorter
This always happens to me in every video game, a section of the game that I feel has been made long or difficult just to lengthen the game play (okay, maybe not every game, Heavenly Sword had no such section, nor did Little Big Planet, but those are exceptions). In NFSU, somewhere around driver level 10 or 11, I was sorta wishing I magically had more game money so I could advance quicker and buy some faster wheels and bloody beat the game already. Thankfully this was a very short lived feeling in NFSU (around an hour or so of play), and quickly I was into a decent Lamborghini and on the way to wrapping up. Sadly, in ME, there were two such sections (SPOILER ALERT). The first was the atrium in Chapter 8. I must have fallen 30 times trying to figure out the intricacies of how to get up to the top. To make it worse, sometimes I'd fall and NOT die by catching some piece of girder when trying to grasp an edge. This would result in my having to re-do sections I had JUST completed. This went on for hours. The second section was one of the very last bits of Chapter 9 - where you must dodge an assault team AND a sniper team to reach the objective which is itself one of the smallest ledges you have to jump a distance to in the whole game. Again, this took me over 90 minutes and replaying the same section of a level 20 times to get and by the end I was pretty frustrated. Advantage NFSU.

Tag Line Bizarreness
ME: Once, this city used to pulse with energy... blah blah.... can you get any more pretentious?
NSFU: You're not good, and you're not bad, you blend and you listen... WTF does this crap even mean? I had imagined this section being a longer diatribe about the senseless little bits of text that end up in games, but I don't feel like it. As long as my complaint about that weird shit in NFSU about "you're not good, and you're not bad..." is out in the open, I'm good.
Okay, the lines in both games have issues, PUSH.

Music (or, What Really Makes Any Game/Movie)
I'm sure it's no surprise to anybody who knows me that music makes a huge difference to me. I've often found that my opinion of entertainment properties is strongly influenced by the quality of the music (and the amount of fromage/action content vis a vis Bruce Willis/Liv Tyler scenes, which I also go for). Okay, enough pre-amble, onto our competitors. In ME the music is a completely original score complete with fully developed character themes (the city even has it's own theme and is treated like a character, how cool is that?). The music is deeply engaging and feels strongly influenced by modern electronic scoring (Mark Snow, etc...). NFSU has some original background music, but what stands out is the cleverly inserted cuts by (wait for it!): Nine Inch Nails, Recoil, Puscifer (the legendary Maynard from Tool) and Pendulum. The cuts used are not the standard radio edits, but super wicked (rare) remixes and b-side cuts that stand tall above the bland typical use of pop music in movies and games these days. Wow, this is a super tough one because ME was so well scored, but I'm going to have to say advantage NFSU.

(hey, it's got NIN -AND- the main guy from Tool, what am I supposed to do?)

Relative Fun Index on the Latex Scale
Jeez, what am I supposed to put here? First of all, I LOVE racing games, and NFS:III was one the first 3-D games I was ever able to run on my old 16MB Voodoo Banshee AGP card (wow, talk about ancient history). NFSU has all the thing that made NFS games of yore great - sweeping courses through awesome looking locales, cop chases, thin plots. I knew what I expected with NFSU, and I got what I wanted. ME took me to new gaming heights (literally) even making my balls ache in parts when I was dropping from high areas to other less high areas. It was thrilling in ways I didn't think games could be - dodging bullets (seriously, I'd be ducking in my chair when the shots would start going off in 5.1 Dolby Surround cranked up) while vaulting over obstac... okay, you get the point. All my bullshit criticisms aside, both of these games were fantastic to play and I loved them each a shit-ton. I can't pick, PUSH.

The Big Lebowski (aka "Conclusion")

Well, when I add it all up it's a tie. That's a damn good thing too, because I don't think there's a sane argument I could make about either game that would clearly make it better than the other. Lots of haters out there gave NFSU a really hard time about something or other (the police SUVs are an easy target). An I've heard critics of ME bitch about linear this and that (which is crazy, there is multiple ways across all the roof-top levels). I think people have just become desensitized to awesomeness in general (I could go into this, but if you know what I mean then you probably already agree to some extent).

Why oh why the head to head you ask? Well, I've been deathly sick* for most of this week and found time on my hands where I wasn't able to do anything actually productive, so instead I started writing this and today I felt well enough to finish it.

* sick enough that I wasn't able to go to D.C. this week as planned freeing me up to write bullshit video game reviews :P

PS: If you have a PS3 and want to try Mirror's Edge, I'll gladly lend it out (but I'm keeping it since I doubt they'll sequel such a unique game and I'd like to have this one to refer back to). I've already sold my copy of NFS:Undercover though and I'm excited for the next installment (hopefully they don't change too much b/c of the haters that crawled out of the woodwork for this iteration).