Probably one of the most anticipated games of EGX this year was undoubtedly Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. With a line stretching well past the booth allocated to it, the competition to get in was fierce, and honestly, after having played it myself, I can definitely see why.
Mirror’s Edge, for the uninitiated, was a game unlike any other of its time. It’s a game that focused solely on parkour, and traversing your way through the city of glass rather than smashing it to pieces, leaving a trail of bodies like other games. Most people would also agree that combat in the first Mirror’s Edge was not only clunky, but disruptive, and without it the entire game would flow like water in a stream. So obviously, having seen in all the trailers that combat is again knitted into the mechanics, I was anxious to find out whether or not Catalyst would follow that line. What I found was actually surprisingly smooth. For me, the game has finally found a balance between the combat being disruptive enough to make you worry about your situation, and smooth enough that should you wish it, you can just use the armored bad guy as a springboard to get to where you need to go. Even during the combat section of the demo, where the finish line is standing right beside 2 unavoidable enemies, I didn’t feel as if I was being punished by the system by taking them down. I ran right past everyone on the way there, and used my momentum from the final jump to floor one guy before pulling off a rather impressive flip on the other. God knows how the rest of the game will fly once it’s out of Pre-Alpha, but for now the combat seems so much more streamlined than it was previously, so I’m a happy runner!
Speaking of running, don’t worry, it hasn’t been replaced by springboarding baddies. There is still just as much flow and fun to the free running aspect of the game as ever. If anything, they’ve only added to it as the City of Glass feels much more open world than ever before. When performing tasks, it actually, legitimately feels like there are multiple routes to accomplish your goals, and you can experiment to your hearts content trying to shave those extra few milliseconds off your route. During the demo, one of the first tasks you’re given is a speed run through the city. Now, I was very aware during the demo that I would only have 13 minutes to test out everything, and having previously run out of time during a demo, but even still I managed to do a few tries at the speed run, working until I’d managed to get my time down to about 30 seconds for the full course, and that wasn’t even good enough for the top spot! I have a feeling that when the full game releases, I’m quite likely to be consumed in the fires of perfectionism and trying literally every route I can until I can look at Faith’s new sidekick Icarus and dance around him singing “Loser!”
Speaking of Icarus, there’s also much to be said of the story expansion in Catalyst. Not only are we learning more about Faith and her life leading up to the previous game (did we mention it’s a prequel?), but we’re also learning more about the world around her. For all its stunning visuals and striking minimalist colour design, the City of Glass is more than just a pretty backdrop for you to swing around in. There are real issues, and problems to be solved surrounding the Pirandello Kruger security company and their iron grip on the city, which the runners are attempting to rebel against.
Lastly, while the City of Glass might not be just a pretty backdrop, it’s certainly a sight to behold. With the upgraded graphics from the Frostbite 3 engine hitting hard in Catalyst, the city looks better than ever. Using the same minimalist styles as previous the city now shines in a sea of white and reflective glass, giving you only the smallest hints of colour to not only fill out and define the world but also help remind you on your way to the next objective, a feature for which I’m quite grateful.
So all in all, if you ask me if I liked this game and whether I’ll be buying it on release, I’ll tell you that I’m already salivating and counting out my pennies for the collectors edition. This game not only looks amazing, it seems like something I could genuinely get a lot of use out of as I painstakingly put myself through the repeated motions to master each stage and every enemy encounter. Because really, when you’re playing Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the enemy isn’t the guy in body armor with a gun, or Kruger and his multimillion dollar corporation, it’s time. That and your own clumsiness!