Occasionally, a video game will reshape the way gamers see virtual worlds.
Much like "Wolfenstein 3D," "Super Mario 64" and "Half-Life" before it, the stunning first-person action-adventure game "Mirror's Edge" (Electronic Arts, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $59.99) smashes the conventions of its predecessors.
As a superagile courier named Faith — who's usually being chased by bad guys — players can run, walk, leap, hop and slide across rooftops, within warehouses, through sewers and inside office buildings.
Faith's goals are never more complicated than getting from Point A to Point B. How she accomplishes that is where "Mirror's Edge" comes alive.
Created by Swedish video game developer DICE, "Mirror's Edge" mimics real-life running — complete with panting sounds.
There's no on-screen meters, so the minimalist display lets players' eyes focus on the game's parkour-inspired moves. (You know, that froggy style of movement made famous by "Casino Royale" and all those soda and sneaker commercials.)
Luckily, the free running isn't disorienting. It's liberating, especially when players gain enough momentum to acrobatically parlay a series of maneuvers into an impromptu ballet, resulting in a spring from a construction crane or lunge toward a helicopter.
Of course, the fear of going splat or being shot to death by your pursuers is omnipresent.
To keep the action moving, objects and surfaces that Faith can bounce off of or use to her advantage glow a distinct shade of candy apple red and are usually easy to spot within her sterile urban environment, which resembles what it might look like if Ikea erected a city in Japan. Once you get the hang of the light-footed game play, it's strangely blissful.
Players can also tackle what few foes get in Faith's way and apprehend their firearms.
However, guns sorta seem to slow her down. Ultimately, this game is all about the chase.
So, with the tap of a button, she'll toss weapons aside and continue on her way, making "Mirror's Edge" a surprisingly nonviolent yet continually adrenaline-pumping affair.
"Mirror's Edge" isn't perfect. The story line is pedestrian and the wannabe anime cutscenes aren't compelling.
Tapping the bumper button to vault or wall climb don't always seem to elicit the desired response, which can send Faith tumbling to her death — and force players to restart the sequence.
Those issues aside, the game's 10 chapters will definitely leave players craving more places to lunge and run. Innovative games like "Mirror's Edge," with a sleek "Fifth Element" aesthetic and "Run Lola Run" sense of urgency, don't come around very often.
It would probably be a mistake to let such a visionary piece of work pass you by. Four stars.