PREVIEW: Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst!

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst!

The original Mirror’s Edge was a very good game. An EA title based around free-running through tightly designed environments while simultaneously sticking it to the man.

Mirror’s Edge had style.

I’ve played the first few hours of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, the long awaited follow-up to 2008’s original, and the style is definitely still there.

This is Faith, strong, agile and awesome.

This is Faith, strong, agile and awesome.

The game is set in the same unnamed utopian city but don’t expect the continuing adventures of Faith and her buddies. This is a prequel and promises to go deeper into her past and answer some questions about what happened when the population tried to rise up against their cooperate overlords, an occurrence that was referenced in the first game but never explored in any real detail.

We’re not going to step into any spoiler territory, but suffice to say that after the first few missions there is already some intrigue and driving emotions for the main characters.

For now, at least, let’s stick to how it plays.

The controls are very similar to those of the original, so those who played and enjoyed that are going to be able to slip right back in. The gameplay is based almost exclusively around traversal, and as such, is built to make that as intuitive as possible. Left and right analogue sticks move you and your sight but all actions to help you get around are mapped to the shoulder buttons. The idea being that you can perform all that you need to without the need for taking your thumb off the right stick to hit a face button, reaction time is key in both titles and those extra milliseconds count. You’ll be expected to mantle over an obstacle, wall-run over a large gap, slide under plumbing, running jump off a box over a fence, tuck your legs so you don’t catch them on the top and land in a smooth roll, all while trying to not get shot. That was mission one.

That might sound difficult but it all comes rather naturally and those are only the opening skills you have at your disposal. There is a whole slew of character upgrades, a system that was absent in the first game but is a welcome inclusion to help provide the feel of some personal improvement.

Combat has been revamped. The development team over at DICE took heavy criticism regarding the fighting system of the first game for being too complicated, the controls weren’t as intuitive as the traversal and as such ended up with a lot of unnecessary deaths. The fact that Faith could also pick up guns and lay waste to her enemies felt like a cop-out, a strong, agile female character wasn’t enough, she had to be a mass murderer too, causing a disjoint in the storytelling.

This is Icarus, he's a dick.

This is Icarus, he’s a dick.

Well fear not because guns are gone! Well, your ability to use them is anyway. Now you actually have to rely on your body to get you out of tricky situations as much as you do to get yourself into them. Every traversal move has an attack associated with it, meaning enemies could be placed anywhere along an already complicated run and still be despatched with stylish ease. If you’re stuck in a situation with a couple of guards, why not try kicking them into the walls? or even into each other? Enemies receive bounce damage when they are propelled into objects now, even other baddies. It’s tremendously satisfying when you can chip two enemies health down in hand to hand combat and then essentially bonk their heads together to finish the fight.

You can also shove people out of the way or shoulder-check them if they’re between you and the exit and you’re not in a position to properly fight, like say if there are 10 people in the room all firing bullets at you. Speed is key and most times its better to run than to fight.

My experience has been very positive with the game up until this point, but the only aspect I’m not fully enjoying so far is the fact that the game is now open-world. Performing the runs from A to B should be greatest feeling in the context of the world but the environment is pretty barren, while laden with time-attack challenges and timed-delivery missions (which if you think about it are just like time-attack challenges but with a button press at the end) it feels like there should at least be random guards around corners or something, anything to mix it up a little.

Of course, this is very early in the game, only a small portion of the overall playable area is available and not to mention the game isn’t even out yet! Anything can happen in the next month and beyond.

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is shaping up to be a great game and early June cannot come soon enough.

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