Taking place before the events in the first game, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst explores the origins of Faith—the game’s protagonist—and the relationship she shared with her sister. The setting is the City of Glass, a metropolitan wonder being suffocated by the oppressive business tyrant Gabriel Krueger. A dystopian city under his control, only two factions operate outside Krueger’s self-appointed rule: Runners and a mysterious organization called Black November.
Runners are couriers that make their deliveries through parkour, using the city rooftops to avoid Krueger’s patrols. They want a City of Glass free from Krueger’s clutches; using their athleticism and information networks to do so. As for Black November, little has been revealed about their goals and motivations. All that we’ve been told so far is that they are a terrorist group opposed to Krueger, and will do anything they can to stop his reign. Faith is a Runner, and in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst we discover what it was like for her starting out.
My hands-on time with Catalyst began with a scene showing Faith being released from what appeared to be a prison. As she walked out a series of doors, she heard someone call to her. He told her he was a friend and that she should join the Runners. After some back-and-forth between Faith and the new mystery man, Faith decides to go with him and the demo begins.
Three missions were presented as options to explore during the demo. First was a time trial—using your parkour skills to move through the environment as quickly as possible to beat target times. Second was a billboard hack—walking up to a digital billboard and holding down a button to change the propaganda to Faith’s eye symbol. Third was a delivery mission—taking what looked like a USB drive from point A to point B and fighting enemies along the way. The time trial was simple and short lived, but was able to be replayed until achieving top target time. The billboard hack was laughably menial as an isolated mission. The delivery mission was by far the most interesting, but I wish it had been a little bit longer to get a good feel of the combat system.
Outside of the three missions, you could simply take your time exploring the new open world, figuring out what is and isn’t climbable, and finding new paths to move through the environment. From what I saw, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst seems to be taking a page out of the Assassin’s Creed and Infamous franchises—large, vertical open worlds that are filled with side missions. It would have been great to have played the opening main story mission to get an understanding of how the story would progress, or how the story missions would stand out from delivery missions, but it seems that DICE is still keeping that card close to the chest. Hopefully it’s a high card.
Similar to the first game, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst focuses on staying in “flow,” aka keeping your momentum going. The longer you manage to stay in flow, the quicker Faith will be able to navigate through the environment. Flow is also treated more uniquely in Catalyst when it comes to combat. As long as you stay in flow—or don’t slow down—enemy bullets won’t hit you, but if you come to a stop to engage an enemy while his friends are around you risk getting shot. The most effective way I found to maintain momentum while engaging during my brief time was to slide towards an enemy, kicking out their legs, hitting them while in the air, and then continuing on. While it may be best to avoid as many enemies as possible, Faith has a variety of new combat moves and cinematic finishers that make it hard to pass up watching her be a badass.
My one main complaint that could easily be remedied, is having the two most important buttons mapped right on top of each other. In order to make Faith vault or jump while running you must press the L1 button. In order to make her slide while running you must press L2. While much more awkward on the Xbox One controller used during the demo—considering the bumpers stick out much farther than the DualShock 4’s shoulder buttons—it still feels clunky using the same finger to quickly switch between the two when the whole game is focused on speed and efficiency of movement. Hopefully the final version will allow you to remap those controller inputs to L1 and R1, or L2 and R2. A minor complaint, I know, but having the ability to adjust to personal player preferences would be greatly appreciated.
Overall, the time I spent with Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst left me hopeful for the future of the series. Everything great about the first game is back and refined, and much of what I found personally disappointing seems to have been corrected. As someone who places story very highly in games like Mirror’s Edge, I wish I could have found out more about its direction, but I guess we will all just have to wait and see.
Are you a fan of Mirror’s Edge? Are you excited for Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst? Sound off in the comments below!
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is expected to hit store shelves on February 26, 2016, and will be playable on PlayStation 4, Xbox 1, and PC.