After a long day of covering Nintendo Media Summit, an evening of cocktails and Mirror's Edge Time Trial was just what the doctor ordered. Held at a swanky lounge high above the San Francisco skyline and with the Mirror's Edge Euro-dance soundtrack blasting the background, gamers unwound and helped themselves to PS3 and 360 versions of Mirror's Edge.
And who should be there but Dude Huge - in town to promote his new game, Gears of War 2. At first I didn't think it was him, but after spying the Iron Maiden shirt and confirming with other games journalists, I waltzed up to the man. And apologized that I wasn't halfway across town, playing his game.
"Yeah, shouldn't you be playing your own game, Cliff?" a passing PR rep quipped.
"Play my game," Mr. Huge said to me. "You'll like it, I promise." He elbowed the PR rep. "Give me a controller!"
I'm not sure if they let Dude compete (I'm not even sure who won, since I had to leave early), but the four players with the best times went home with engraved iPods, while the rest of us scored sweet messenger bags and two MP3s off the soundtrack.
Time Trial mode in Mirror's Edge is interesting because it 1) forces you to rethink a level you've played in the story mode and b) you can see how other players thought it out. For example, you'll run through the level and slide below a railing. Then you hop a fence and race up a ramp to nail a cross-building jump. You score a time of, say, 1 min and 3 sec. The next time you play the level, you can turn on the ghost mode and race against yourself - maybe vaulting the railing, skipping the the ramp for a shallower angle on the jump to the building (padding it out by pressing the slide button so Faith rolls on impact instead of smacking into the side of the building).
Above: Doesn't this view just make you wanna jump off something? Like, in a Parkour way?
Soon, you'll find all sorts of shortcuts, bypassing stairs in favour of wall-jumping or discovering a different way to jump the fence from a higher spot. The only thing that's hard to think around is the cross-building jump; if you miss it, you're fucked. Luckily, you can pause and restart the trial, if you come a point where you know you've blown it.
The level we played was broken into four parts tracked by a line on the right side of the screen. While running, when I hit a check point, a time was given to me - turning the bar for that portion of the level red if I was behind time or green, if I'd gained time. I only got green on one part, where I found a path that lead straight up over an air shaft. If I caught enough air on the jump, I'd clear the railing and the stairs, arriving at the jump to the final building a whole two seconds faster than if I'd taken the stairs.
After three tries, I got my initial time of 1:10 down to 1:03. This was nowhere near good enough to be in the top four as I saw guys getting as few as 53 seconds (the time to beat was 50 - set by one of the programmers, I think). I think Dude Huge eventually got his time down to a minute flat.
A cool feature about Time Trial is that you can go online and upload your best time and also download other people's ghosts to race against. Seeing how other people handle the course in completely different ways really makes you re-think a level you've played a billion times.
I'm just happy this game is coming out at all. I even dragged producer Nick Channon aside for an "interview" just so I could tell him how happy I was to play a game where the main character was 1) a chick and 2) an A cup.
"That was the biggest thing for us," Nick Channon says, prompting me to stifle a laugh. He quickly realised the pun and added, "We wanted someone who stood out - but in a normal way."
I suppose that's what Time Trial is - a game mode that stands out because it's so "normal" (like, standard, with every racing game), and yet it feels... new. Dynamic. Awesome.
The game hits shelves November 11 for Xbox 360 and PS3. PC should arrive in late January.