E3 2015: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Hands-On Preview – Keeping the Faith
When the original Mirror’s Edge released in 2008, I was immediately infatuated with its new approach on the first-person genre. Not only did it offer the player the ability to experience movement in gaming in a completely different way, it also forced players to relearn how to interact with the world.
Now, seven years later, the franchise is back with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Set as a re-imagined prequel to the original, Catalyst centers around the origins of Faith, the series protagonist, and how she can become a catalyst for change. With a dark secret laying below the City of Glass, it’s up to her to face an evil corporation and the ruling elite. Working as a disposable runner, Faith can parkour around the whole city in an open world format in a first for the series.
Raising the Bar
During the hands-on event at E3 2015, Catalyst had three available types of missions: Dash, where you are challenged to a time attack race across the city, Billboard Hack, which tasks Faith with trying to destroy billboards across the city and Delivery, which is about trying to reach a set location. Most of the missions were designed as a tutorial to teach players how to move around the city, but were far from touching upon the true potential of Faith’s mobility. As I was able to complete each well within the allotted 15 minutes and have enough time to explore the city.
The visuals behind Catalyst raise the bar set by the original Mirror’s Edge, but cleaner and on a much wider scale given its open world format. This is especially apparent when running around the City of Glass, as its highly sanitized visuals give it militarized and white washed look it has become known for. Not only does this give the game a sense of style, it also allows it to use its usage of the color red as environmental markers, as it is starkly different than anything else. Running around the world, you will notice red doors, red pipes and even red ramps littered about, as these are there to quickly inform you of their intractability.
Guns Not Required
Having played the original extensively, it was only a brief moment before I was running up a walls, springing off of them and even spinning around in mid-air to grab ledges behind me. Understanding the motion in Catalyst is based around the concept of understanding momentum. This means that Faith can go high, low or even cross an elongated gap by running along a wall as long as you can understand its unique control scheme and keep up enough built up inertia to carry you forward. While it is understandable that new users may find this style of gameplay difficult at first, but it is that learning curve that makes the game what it is.
Much like learning an instrument, learning the controls in Catalyst let’s you conduct a performance across the city as you hop from one spot to another. Flowing though the environment like it was designed specifically for you, and performing stunts you would never have thought possible. This will require quick reflexes and good judgment to properly make it around, but it does seem a bit more forgiving this time around. Thankfully, unlike the original. Faith has lost her ability to to use guns, which means that there does seem to be a greater emphasis on her ability to quickly move from enemy to enemy.
New animations can also be seen, as well new takedown maneuvers which allow her a much more natural interaction with the environment, and based off of the limited hands-on time, a much better realization of the character. One new animation that stood out was when I shorted a jump and collided with a wall, causing her to trip and fall down. Not only did this add more weight to each jump as it added a slight penalty, it made her feel more fallible. On top of this, new advanced attack animations have been added, but their execution was a bit awkward, as it just required me to follow an onscreen prompt to match up my analog to the indicated direction, I think. The only time I was able to successfully execute the move, caused Faith to spin around an enemy before taking him to the ground.
While the playable build of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst was still very early, it really did feel like it held very true to the original gameplay but with enough advancements to excite fans to see how it comes together when it launches on February 23, 2016.