I was lucky enough to be in the closed beta for Mirrors Edge Catalyst recently and all I could do was spend my entire two and a half hours of the beta comparing Mirrors Edge Catalyst to its ancestor. While this game isn’t the sequel the fans had been hoping for, it is in itself a very fun and exciting game to play. That having been said, it’s not without it’s flaws. While these are few and between, it does diminish the overall feel of the game a little bit. This will contain minor story spoilers to Mirrors Edge Catalyst, based around the beginning of the game.
Let’s start with the game’s story. Mirrors Edge Catalyst is a reboot of the Mirrors Edge franchise, which will surely be a relief to those who never managed to play the original back on the last generation of consoles. The beta opens with main character Faith being released from a prison. While what she did to end up there is never revealed, it’s fairly obvious she isn’t liked just by looking at the guard’s attitudes towards Faith. Faith is what’s known as a “Runner”: people who roam the rooftops delivering parcels containing sensitive information behind the back of the government. Runners are trained in the skill of parkour; a sport in which individuals travel through an area in a unconventional route all while running, climbing buildings and even jumping from building to building. Runners are also trained in hand-to-hand combat and some reportedly know how to use guns, although this is not something Faith can do.
The beta, being only a teaser for what is in store, mainly revolved around Faith’s attempt to restore her reputation. I wont divulge much more of the story, but I will say this. This beta missed out on one key thing. While betas are mainly used to test sever strength and make sure the game is playable, they also serve to drum up hype for the game. As much as it pains me to say this, the beta missed out on the chance to drum up that hype. In today’s gaming world hype is key. It sets you apart from the competition and gives us gamers something to get excited for. The ending to the beta was very sudden. You finish the story mission, and a messages pops up thanking you for playing the beta. No cliffhanger, no suspense, no hype. A wasted opportunity in my opinion.
The gameplay itself is actually not that different from the original. There are a few tweaks here and there (which we will get into later on), but the core gameplay is the same. Essentially just follow red. This is either in the form of objects being coloured red with Faith’s “Runner Vision”, or in the new guide that appears when Faith is running towards a waypoint. The amount of Runner Vision can be adjusted in the settings menu. I left the Runner Vision setting on it’s default throughout the beta and found it to be a handy feature to have at times. The only issue I had with the default setting is that I found myself following the guide instead of carving my own path. However switching this setting to classic turns off this guide and resorts to just showing all free-running objects as red.
This leads me to the point which I feel is the biggest positive aspect of Mirrors Edge Catalyst. The game features an open map. Now while this is very common place these days, it is something that was severely lacking from the original. The original featured free roam linear story missions. Which while they made sense, denied a true free-roam parkour experience. Mirrors Edge Catalyst delivers the true free-roam parkour experience we have been craving for all these years. The City of Glass contains many different routes to reach the same destination, meaning that the novelty of free-running never really wore off during the beta. If the same can be said for the full game we will have to wait and see.
One issue I did find with the movement system is the mechanic for sliding down a ladder. While this sounds petty, it is rather annoying. While running around the City of Glass you will be holding the left analogue stick forward. When you come to a ladder you need to slide down, Faith will automatically begin climbing down the ladder. Partly at least. After this you must move the analogue stick down to slide down the ladder, before moving the stick back up to continue running. As I said this may sound petty, but for me this whole system really halted the flow I felt while running across the rooftops. Mirrors Edge Catalyst does have a nice feature called a Shift. By pressing R2 you can dodge enemies attacks (useful on Protectors) or you can use it to continue momentum after that long fall you took. Or the dodgy way you took that ladder.
When you’re not running around the rooftops of the city, you will more than likely be squaring off with some of the KrugerSec guys. KrugerSec are the everyday enemies of the game, who will attempt to stop Faith whenever you encounter them. Which admittedly in the beta wasn’t very often. In fact not once outside of a mission but that may have just been my experience. KrugerSec has four enemies types. First are the Guardians (top left). These guys are the run of the mill KrugerSec guys and very easily taken down. Next are the Protectors (top right). These guys are resistant to damage and will counter repeated attacks. Enforcers are next (bottom left). These guys specialise in range fighting (with guns) but are useless when approached in close quarters. Finally are the Sentinels (bottom right). I encountered one of these guys during the beta. They are well trained in hand-to-hand combat and my only encounter was during a cutscene, but this was enough to make me weary of them.
The actual combat itself feels very smooth. Combat is split between heavy and light attacks. The light attacks were the bulk of my fighting style. But these attacks quickly became useless against the Protectors. I had to begin using my heavy attacks to take these guys out. The heavy attacks can also be used to direct enemies into other enemies, which I found to be effective against Protectors. Knock one into the other and follow up with light attacks. Repetitive and somewhat tedious, but it worked. I tended to avoid Enforcers where possible. If I took them on I made myself a moving target and hit them hard and fast from close range.
Now we have to discuss the bad parts about the game. During my two hour gameplay I encountered two bugs. Which while it sounds bad they were fairly minor, but that doesn’t stop them being annoying. The first bug was honestly hysterical. As you can see from the video below I jumped from a ledge and seemingly kicked a KrugerSec so hard he glitched into a wall.
The second bug was one I had to double take on. This scene isn’t a spoiler, but if you want to see the first time Faith encounters a Sentinel for yourself don’t watch the video below. It may seem minor but it irritates me that a game that is going to cost me £55 here in the UK isn’t polished to the point that Faith doesn’t bug through falling metal floorboards.
But the one biggest things which frustrated me during my playthrough of the beta was the game’s experience based progression system. Not because I had any actual issues with the progression system itself, in fact in terms of skill trees it’s fairly bog standard. The skill tree is divided into three sections; combat, gear and movement. The combat section consists of general combat improvements you would expect such as increased damage against certain enemy types. Very useful for those difficult looking Sentinel guys. The gear section had some cool gadgets to help Faith with her general day-to-day life as a Runner. These included the MagRope (a rope that can be used to cross large areas and to pull objects down to free an area) and the disrupt ability (allows you to hack the headsets of enemies to throw them off attacking you, as well as hacking drones). The movement tree contains very generic abilities such as increased climb efficiency and longer slide duration. However the most annoying part of the movement branch of the skill tree is the fact that abilities that were included, and were quite honestly a huge part of Mirror’s Edge, need to be unlocked. Abilities such as the skill roll, used to roll and continue momentum after a high fall, and the coil ability must be unlocked. Admittedly this happened early on in the beta, but it raises the question: Why? Why the need for a experience based skill tree?
My personal opinion is that the progression system should be entirely scrapped. Instead this should be replaced with cutscenes after key missions in the game. For example, completing the mission “Savant Extraordinaire” unlocks the first MagRope variant. You must then use experience points to purchase this ability. Why? Simply have the player return to the Runner base, which starts a cutscene in which Faith receives the MagRope. Abilities such as the skill roll and the coil ability should just be included in the game from the start. After all, Faith is an experienced Runner. Reportedly the best in the city before her time in prison, so why wouldn’t she be able to skill roll? It’s safe to say that I personally am not a fan of the skill tree in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and I believe that this skill tree will be the factor that divides those who play this game.
To sum up, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is an amazing game. It provides a fun and smooth feeling free-running experience mixed with simple to execute combat. For those who never played the original Mirror’s Edge this game will be an absolute marvel for you. But fans of the franchise who played the original game on last-gen will not be as overwhelmed as we had hoped. Catalyst somehow takes what was an amazing free-running game, builds upon the mechanics a small amount while simultaneously removing key abilities that were in the original and adding them to an unnecessary skill tree. But the strangest thing? Even with these flaws, I’ll still buy Mirror’s Edge Catalyst in a heartbeat.