I’m a big fan of Mirror’s Edge. I remember playing through the first one almost non-stop, and I was thrilled to get the chance to try out the alpha when we went to EGX last year. So when I got the email that I’d been chosen for the closed beta of Catalyst, you can imagine the first thing I did was frantically load up to try it out. Any fans waiting to see where Faith came from and where she’s headed in the upcoming reboot Mirror’s Edge Catalyst should read on.
First off, I should stress, this is a closed beta. We’re still not dealing with the full game here and the beta was purely to stress test the social features of the game (more on those later!) so don’t expect a full spoiler filled review. However, if you’re on the fence about whether or not to pre-order this might give you an idea of which way to go.
So, starting with the differences from the alpha I played, we have a much more detailed story to work with. Not only are we seeing much more of Faith’s story, we’re seeing a lot more of her world. The alpha contained only a short intro sequence wherein a new character by the name of Icarus assists you in going ‘off the grid’ to avoid being tracked by the organisation K-Sec. This time around, we get a tad more explanation. We get to see Faith being escorted out of prison, as well as a bit of context about why she’s there, but sadly there’s no specific reason given. All that’s said is that she was caught while helping someone named Dogen on a run, and now owes him cash. I imagine the full reason will be explained (or possibly playable) in the full game, but for now we’re left with the question of “What did she do?”.
After escaping K-Sec, the City of Glass’ big brother police force, Faith meets up with her friends and mentors, raring to get right back on the job and start running through the city of glass. Of course, she lands herself in more trouble on her first time out, but hell if she’s gonna be this impulsive and stupid at the beginning of the game; I can only imagine what her character arc will look like by the end!
Truth be told, I can’t blame Faith for wanting to get right back on the job in the City of Glass, because this place is absolutely gorgeous. People have said they were expecting more, but honestly I can’t see the problem. Maybe it’s because I was lucky enough to play it on a super computer, but not only did everything look fantastic, there were effects such as reflection on every glass window that made it look that much better. The art style is as distinctive as ever with a bit more colour added since the Alpha, but still keeping to the same minimal design that makes every colour in the stark white rooftops of glass pop.
As for how we control the game, as I said I played this at first on a super computer, so I was using keyboard. However, I have to say that even if you get the PC version, I’d still recommend a controller. The controls given for PC were somewhat awkward to use with everything spread out kind of sparse, whereas on controller you only have to remember that the top button makes you go up and the bottom makes you go down. It may not seem like much, but in a game all about speed and momentum, those few seconds you spent fumbling on the keys could be the difference between making a jump and a landing or simply missing and breaking your shins.
Speaking of speed running, lets talk content! For those who haven’t followed the progress of Catalyst compared to its predecessor, the main difference is that Catalyst is open world. What does this mean for the player? Well, not only are there a lot more routes getting you where you need to go, there are a lot more things to do when you get there. Everyone you meet seems to have a side mission for you. Some of them have story content and will take you a while, but there’s also tiny speed missions that’ll take you 5 minutes between the big milestones to complete. I had a lot of fun messing about with all the extra content and, honestly, it seems fun. I’d love to get into more of it in the full game. Plus, even if you exhaust all the developer content, the online features of the game now allow you to create your own missions.
That’s right, there’s a feature in the game wherein you can create runs across the map using checkpoints and challenge people online to beat your times. That’s where the real competitive side of Catalyst comes in. Not only do you have to play to beat your own scores, you can create the trickiest, hoppiest and most difficult routes to challenge and test the skills of everyone worldwide. Think of it a bit like a Super Mario Maker free running game, only without a level editor. The only thing I would ask for when it comes to getting around is a mini map or better navigation system, as the one we currently have doesn’t always show the fastest possible route. However, it is reliable in most cases and I suppose once you’ve played enough to learn the map of Glass yourself, you wouldn’t need much else.
All in all, the Beta was quite short, but the content that was there is solid. The controls are fluid and easy to use (assuming you plug in a controller!) and the story is intriguing enough that I definitely want to learn more about Faith, her friends and the city of Glass as a whole.