Hands-On Preview: Mirror's Edge Catalyst
The original Mirror’s Edge, released back in 2008 and quickly became one of the quiet cult hits in EA’s catalog when it first debuted. At the time it was a new IP that managed to, in the eyes of both fans and critics, stand out on its own among the company’s bestsellers like the heavy-hitting Battlefield series or its wide range of EA Sports titles.
Yet, nearly against all odds, two years ago at E3 2013 a new Mirror’s Edge was announced in development. That title would be confirmed at this year’s E3 2015 under its more official title of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. The upcoming game serves as a prequel that chronicles the origins of protagonist and fierce “runner” Faith and it’s coming to consoles and PC early next year.
While on the show floor of E3 2015, DualShockers had the chance to attend a hands-on preview session for the title, and to look at how moving Faith’s story back to the beginning will move the franchise forward even more.
Set before the events of the first title, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is set to bring players into a new city and a new adventure that will reveal the origins of Faith in the city called Glass. Though it’s a new setting compared to the first game, visually it’s highly reminiscent of the original Mirror’s Edge with its stark white buildings and pops of color, not only for a distinctive visual flair, but also to alert players to areas in the environment that are climbable or used for traversal.
Like the first game, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst puts its main emphasis on parkour-like moves for players to climb, slide, vault, and run through the city of Glass to accomplish objectives. As the development team from DICE have emphasized, movement and fluidity is vital to success in Mirror’s Edge, with the key components of its gameplay providing players with strings of jumps, vaults, and slides combined with punches and kicks to take down enemies and, most of all, keep on moving.
Combining a movement style that is parkour-esque with first person hand-to-hand combat, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst already shows many of the elements that made the first game such a cult classic, while building on its foundation in some new and exciting ways.
With a hands-on demo providing about 13 minutes of time with the game, the striking art direction and visuals are already impressive, bringing back the distinctive visual aesthetic of Mirror’s Edge with current-gen polish.
Playing a pre-alpha demo at 60fps on PC, the title already looks as striking as the original title did, with new lighting effects and a nighttime scene at the demo’s beginning providing nice variety to the game’s sunny outer areas, reminiscent of a playable Blade Runner with moody lighting and shadows. Getting outside though for the game’s crucial parkour areas, the game ran with barely a hitch, with smooth gameplay and robust performance the exciting and visually elaborate demo was impressive considering how early it still is in playable form.
Much of the time we spent with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst reflected what made the original game great: it’s parkour running still feels exhilarating and gravity-defying and its emphasis on movement still rewards players for thinking on-the-fly with combos of jumps and slides over obstacles.
Combat in the demo has been refined for a bit more simplicity: though guns are now completely removed from the experience. Faith is still able to take down enemies with a flurry of punches and kicks that can be combined with her jumps and slides, along with more context-sensitive options like riding a zipline and pouncing on enemies from above.
Though combat was a little light in the demo, being able to take down enemies quickly and effectively is still going to be huge part of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, which new finishing moves being added to Faith’s arsenal that take some skill to pull off, but will offer big rewards and quick takedowns of enemies.
While much of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst shares the same DNA as the original game, the most immediately striking change that Catalyst will offer is the change to an open-world format from the original game’s more linear structure. Putting players into the city of Glass, Faith’s missions are now divided up into various missions across the city that can be completed in lieu of a more structured story like the first game, offering an experience that will be a new change of pace for players of the original game but still just as exciting.
During our time with the game, we were able to complete three different types of missions within the 13-minute demo: the first mission was a race against another friendly Runner to complete an obstacle course in a set amount of time providing the most familiar Mirror’s Edge experience, especially for those that spent countless hours in the game’s time trial modes.
The second mission involved Faith trying to hack into the city’s various billboards to remove propaganda and advertisements and instead display the Runner’s messages across the city: think something similar to the graffiti missions of inFAMOUS: Second Son. While movement and speed are still crucial to the experience, these missions instead offer more vertically-inclined platforming puzzles, with emphasis on climbing and jumping to get to the billboards in sometimes hard to reach places.
To cap off the demo, the final mission we played involved a delivery mission, where after picking up a flash drive with important files, Faith had to endure obstacles and defeat enemies to deliver the drive to its destination, combining the best aspects of the game’s movement and combat to reach a destination as quickly as possible.
For fans of the original title, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst provides both a familiar experience and a breath of fresh air for the series. Much of the original aspects that made the first title such a beloved title are still intact, with the first-person combat and parkour stunts still as exhilarating as ever. However, with the switch to an open-world structure there leaves plenty of questions left to how the game’s story will weave into a large open world: wherever the story ends up taking us, I’ll be trying to catch up with Faith no matter what for an experience as thrilling as Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst will release for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on February 23rd, 2015 in the US and February 26th in Europe.