It has been two years since EA first teased their trailer for a new Mirror’s Edge during their press conference at E3 2013, and questions of what DICE would be doing with the game and speculation of release dates have been buzzing around different gaming sites and forums. Could Mirror’s Edge be followed up with anything that would live up to the hype, and would fans be satisfied even if it did? These where questions on everyone's mind going into this year’s E3, yet when EA finally did show off what they had in store, people cheered as if to suggest that none of the excitement had faded. This was the game they wanted, an open-world title set in the universe of Mirror’s Edge. The real question now: does it play as well as it looks?
Set before the first 2008 title, Mirror's Edge Catalyst is the origin story of Faith as she grows from a typical runner into something more meaningful to the world. Capturing the same aesthetic first seen Mirror’s Edge, Catalyst is a visually striking game. The vibrant colour palette consisting of whites, reds and bright blues all work to capture the feel of a modern world, and the stark, clean look helps to convey the oppressive nature of the security state that frames the game
Faith starts out in the demo with no knowledge of what is really going on. As with many protagonists, she is a reluctant hero. Upon her release from jail, she is faced with the decision to return to her old life or become something more. It may be a well-established trope, but it is no less enticing as a hook. It is clear that she wants to heal her world, yet until this point has not had the tools nor ability to do so. This opportunity is what sets everything in motion, but also serves the role of tutorial for the game.
Movement is very similar to that of the 2008 Mirror’s Edge. As Faith runs, she has the option of jumping, vaulting off of, or running along anything with a bright red colour to mark it. The vibrant colour contrast works not only as a stunning visual element, but when moving quickly across rooftops, it functions as a visual cue that quick reflexes can allow for some incredible aerial stunts. This fast movement plays into combat as well. As you come across guards, you can use your momentum to slide under or even charge them. It should be noted that gun combat is absent in this installment, and it is up to you, the player, to take on the guards with hand-to-hand combat or opt to evade and escape entirely.
As stated above, Mirror's Edge Catalyst boasts a fully open world. The game features a map and a series of markers that act as objectives, though in the demo there were only three to choose from. The options on offer were a race, tagging a billboard, or a more combat oriented objective. Each section only lasted around five minutes and went by quickly as Faith ran across the rooftops at a breakneck pace.
It should be noted that although the controls felt intuitive for the most part, the need to constantly push in the thumbstick to run was awkward. Running around an open world game while needing to do this felt clumsy and I can imagine it being very tedious during longer play sessions. Most of the time the controls worked as I would have expected, and when anything failed it was typically due to not running fast enough or the simple orientation of the character to the objective. Even with this issue, the feeling of speed was omnipresent. Faith has power behind all of her actions, from running to combat, and it all worked well to define her character and explain how she became so important within her society. The combat was an aspect that I felt worked particularly well. Although there was no guns to be used, I never felt unable to tackle what lay before me. Running from the rooftops as I jumped onto the guards below was exhilarating and the ability to perform non-lethal takedowns was refreshing and fun.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst will really stand out if it manages to blend all of these elements with a compelling narrative. The game needs more than just checkpoints and missions that are loosely connected. Catalyst needs to be a story about Faith, where she comes from, and who she will inevitably become. As it is now, even in spite of the control issue, all the elements are working well together. The feeling of speed and movement has never been more exciting and the world is one I yearn to explore in detail.
All the aspects of a great game are in place. The great challenge is whether or not DICE can merge them into a cohesive whole that will draw players in. From what I have seen so far, they are on the right track, and launching in early 2016, Mirror's Edge Catalyst is looking to be one of the first must-own titles of next year. It will be released on February 23rd, 2016 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.