The world in Mirror's Edge is a brave and shiny new place. The people have given up their liberties in exchange for safety, and every informational tit-bit and factoid comes to you pre-filtered by a totalitarian government.
You're Faith - you carry unfiltered facts around the rooftops. Your sister has been framed for murder, and to clear her name, you're going to have to run across an awful lot of rooftops. Luckily, Faith is excellent at running. And jumping. And snapping faces off with her shins.
The first triumph of this game is the look - it's undeniably one of the most beautiful settings we've seen in a long time.
The skyline is crisp. The indoor areas each have a minimal and effective colour palette - making you feel like you're traversing a colour-coded and well-organised world - with only the occasional rat to remind you that behind all of the liberal bloom effects, the city is rotten to the core.
The second is the truly remarkable sense of movement. Getting around is a combination of leaping, sprinting and clambering. You don't have to be perfect or elegant, but to chain together the moves without running into a wall, landing awkwardly, or otherwise breaking your momentum, you'll need to hone that aim and timing.
This takes a lot trial and error, but the checkpoints are generous, and the reload times quick.
Living on the Edge
It's all alarmingly simple; you have an up button, which works in different contexts to leap, wall-walk, and generally launch yourself skyward. Then there's the down button, which you'll use to drop, slide, skill roll and tuck your legs up to avoid getting snagged in the barbed wire.
With the 180-turn button, you've got all the acrobatics you need; once you've mastered the ability to turn during a wall-walk and launch yourself to another platform, you've got the skills you need to complete the game. It's just a matter of scanning the levels for how to use your small arsenal of leaps.
The first-person perspective works brilliantly. When running away, you can't look backwards without losing momentum, so the only evidence of your relentless assailants are the bullet tracers zipping by your face.
This sense of escape is exhilarating - in fact, Faith's point of view is executed so well, that it will only feel odd to anyone watching you play (who will often think you're playing a game for window-sill enthusiasts).
When you do pull it off, it feels genuinely, heart-poundingly amazing. You've pulled off the perfect sequence of jumps, slides, and broken noses, bullets whizzing around you as you leap in slow-motion from the top of a building.
But your blood pressure will have gone through the roof and your controller will have gone through the TV before you get there.
The problem is that the game seems to run out of ideas too quickly, resorting to tougher enemies, more confusing levels and peculiar arcade distractions to pad its brief running time.
This means the awe and exhilaration ebbs away and it starts to feel like trying to solve a Portal map under massed sniper fire. Later levels seem determined to make you to use guns, which are clumsy and unsatisfying, and hand-to-hand combat that feels like poorly disguised quicktime events.
Meanwhile the wafer-thin story is told through ugly, badly acted cartoons that spoil the carefully presented atmosphere.
It's much better when it dumps all this completely, in the time trial modes. Here, there are no enemy Blues - just you and the ghosts of other players. Getting one star on these maps allows for few errors - to get the maximum three, you'll be pushing obsessive perfection. This is the game's real challenge, and the absence of Runner Vision makes a big difference to the difficulty.