|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: EA Digital Illusions CE|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: February 23, 2016|
|Players: Single-player, multiplayer|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating.|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
We have all been waiting patiently for the next Mirror’s Edge to come out. It’s been years since EA released the first game, and talks of a sequel have been flying around since release date. Now, we are finally seeing that promise fulfilled with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.
We got a chance to try out Catalyst at E3 2015, and after playing it for 15 minutes it’s clear that this is much more than just a rehash of the original. Rather, it’s an evolution and refinement of what made the original fun.
It’s obvious that Catalyst is trying to fix all the things that felt kind of wonky or out of place in the original. For example, Faith doesn’t use guns anymore. For that matter, if she ever stops and engages in a fistfight, she will likely end up on the losing end. Her best strategy for battle is to keep moving as she fights. She can drop onto enemies form high platforms, slide kick them from a running start, even vault over them as she makes her way through levels. Granted, if you mess up these maneuvers you will still be stopped and combat from a stopped perspective is still mostly just “hammer a button until Faith roundhouse kicks everyone in the face,” but at least you have an option to fight in some other way. It’s also pretty cool that your light attacks keep your momentum going, while your heavy attacks utilize your momentum to deal damage. It’s as if the game is rewarding you for speed even in combat.
The repetitive nature of the original Mirror’s Edge is also addressed in Catalyst’s new open world design. All missions take place on the same continuous map. As such, the fastest and most effective ways to complete missions aren’t really canned routes that the designers planned out for you. They feel like routes you designed specifically to get you to your objective faster than anyone else. Sure, if you are new to the game, you can still follow the glowing red line and eventually get to where you need to go, but veterans will see random overhangs and windowsills and think, “I can hang off that to shave 2 seconds off my time.” Catalyst is looking to be a speedrunner’s dream.
Parkour controls are about as simple as combat controls are. Simply press the left bumper to perform any maneuver that would make you go “up” like wall running, and press the left trigger to perform any maneuver that would make you go “down” like rolling when you fall. Everything else is context sensitive, but easy to understand. If you run at an edge, it’s pretty clear you are going to try and jump the gap if you hold the “up” button and jump into the gap if you hold the “down” button. Successful completion of your goals doesn’t hinge on mastering the controls, but rather mastering your awareness of the map. I did find myself aching for a button re-map function, however, as pressing the left trigger and bumper a lot while also moving with the left stick did cause a bit of hand cramping.
Objectives are nearly always framed in the style of, “get from point A to point B.” Sometimes you have to get there as quickly as possible. Sometimes there are enemies blocking your path. Sometimes point B is just really hard to get to. But no matter what the mission is, you are always trying to get somewhere.
The only exception is combat missions, which in the demo felt kind of dry. Enemies seemed like they were set up specifically to take the fall, and none of them presented much of a challenge. Besides, straight-up combat in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst just isn’t fun. Enemies are more like environmental objects that you use to keep your momentum up rather than blockades that you need to punch in the face.
It’s fairly obvious that Mirror’s Edge produces all of its fun via speed. As long as you keep moving, you end up getting that same rush of adrenaline that you got back when Sonic games were good. Whether or not Mirror’s Edge Catalyst ends up being a great game through and through will entirely depend on how much the missions insist that you stop. Luckily, based on the demo, it looks like stopping will be very rare and mostly tied to the skill of the player.
As for the final flaw in Mirror’s Edge 1, the motion sickness, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst does do a bit to mitigate that. The camera shakes a lot less when Faith runs around the map. It also pulls out more when you do stuff like wall running and mantling, so that it still feels like there is some space between you and the object. Faith also tumbles less in general, making fast paced movements easier on the eyes. There are still some tumbles, however, which can disorient you, and whenever Faith falls from a high ledge I can’t help but feel a sense of vertigo. In short, it’s better, but not totally fixed, and it may never be totally fixed considering the format.
The demo of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst simply felt great. It gave me a rush that few other games did. It knows its pacing and controls and understands what makes the game fun. It’s easy to pick up, easy to play, and easy to understand. “Just keep moving” is the only rule of the game, and in a dystopian world filled with corporations that seek to monitor your every movement, that seems like good advice indeed.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst will release on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One on February 23, 2016.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Senior Contributing Writer
Date: June 25, 2015