Just recently, I mentioned how the first game in this franchise underwhelmed me but that I was still really anticipating the sequel. After writing that, ironically enough, I’ve gotten a whole lot more Mirror’s Edge Catalyst in my life, getting an invite into the closed beta and also going hands-on with it this past weekend at PAX East 2016 in Boston. Thankfully, this meant that I could test some of my theories and get a much clearer sense if this game was going to be something I wanted to spend more of my time with. Here are some impressions I came away with after my time with it in Boston.
For whatever reason, I never considered Catalyst to be available at the show, but thankfully Microsoft proved me wrong. While the Quantum Break time stopper camera booth and Gears of War 4 multiplayer took up most of the space, Mirror’s Edge was given a nice space towards the back with 8 consoles up and running (no pun intended). After having just played the newly revealed Plunder Mode in Uncharted 4, I decided to camp out and give Mirror’s Edge Catalyst a go mainly out of convenience and curiosity.
The first thing that struck me is how visually impressive the game is. For players familiar with the franchise, Catalyst has a very clean and modern look to it, dominated by the color white with little touches of color like red which is mainly used to educate the player as to what they can interact with. For newer players, it’s a great feature especially for learning the ins and outs of the city and how things work. For veteran players, the option to remove “Runner’s Vision” is in the options menu.
The controls are fairly unique as up actions (jumping, vaulting, climbing, etc) is mapped to the LB button on the controller while down actions (sliding, falling, etc) are mapped to the left trigger. Light attacks and heavy attacks are X and Y (I played the Xbox build, but I’m assuming the PlayStation setup is pretty much identical) so for you players who are used to jumping with a face button like A, it may take some time getting used to things. For me, I was quite comfortable with this setup and the game features a very well made tutorial level that eases you into these moves. That certainly helped.
One of my concerns was with combat and while I didn’t play much past the tutorial level, I got a sense that the game doesn’t want you to be a badass or pound guys like a free running Batman. Combat here is based on momentum, so the fast Faith is running, the more deadly she is. Attacks hit hard when running or jumping at full speed rather than from just standing still and fighting. What I also enjoyed was the fact that Faith can chain parkour moves with her combat skills, so players can jump off of things to perform jump kicks, or kick an enemy into a nearby enemy causing them to stumble over each other.
What I also found interesting is that you are not penalized for simply running past enemies. Mirror’s Edge is a game about momentum and speed so sometimes it’s better to simply keep running. It’s certainly a nice change of pace from the first game.
In the end, I absolutely enjoyed my time with the game. The game looked and played really well and being able to explore the City of Glass was a ton of fun. Not being restricted to a particular path really showed me what the franchise is capable of and I’m really hopeful that this sense of speed and fluidity is something that will translate over to the retail version. After playing the demo, I’m feeling much more confident in Catalyst and it has definitely moved up my most anticipated list.