E3 2015: Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is Beautiful, Mesmerizing, Simple

After years of neglect, the Mirror’s Edge franchise is finally getting a second game. For the second outing, Dice is focusing on what made the original such a cult hit, and shaving off the parts that fans and critics weren’t so fond of. I got to go hands-on with Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst at E3 2015, and found the game to be visually arresting and far simpler than its predecessor.

For Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, Dice wanted to focus on what made the game such a classic: the parkour. The focus on running and creating momentum is the heart of Catalyst’s gameplay and Dice have made it easy for a player of any skill level to pick up the controller. Faith is always running and picks up momentum the longer you press forward on the joystick. This momentum can then be chained by tapping the Left Bumper to perform upward motions (jump, wall run, climbing, etc.), or by tapping the Left Trigger to perform downward movements (crouch, slide, roll, etc.) It’s a simple, but intuitive control scheme that kept me in the action throughout the demo.

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Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst not only refines the gameplay, but also the story. Catalyst is not considered a prequel, sequel or reboot, but rather a story about Faith. This is her battle against antagonist Gabriel Kruger, who is the CEO that controls the City of Glass. The first section of the demo showcases Faith being set loose from a detention center owned by Kruger and ended with Faith escaping.

After this I was set loose in the open-world of City of Glass, which will have no loading screens by the time the game launches. Here I was free to choose between three different missions: Race, Delivery and Billboard Hack. Once selected, Runner’s Vision becomes active and will lead Faith to her objective. Like in the original game, the correct path is highlighted red.

Race is self-explanatory; Faith needs to get to an objective as fast as she can. This time trial mode was extremely popular in the original game and Dice is making it easier for players to enjoy this mode. This time, players can access Race in the main game, rather than having to exit the game and enter a different game mode.

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Delivery allowed me test out the new combat. Here, Faith is tasked with delivering a data stick to a dropbox and dealing with any resistance along the way. Something interesting to note, Faith is invincible in mid-combo. Gunplay, which many hated in the original game, has been completely removed from Catalyst. The mission was extremely short with few enemies, and I was not able to go in-depth with the combat. For the most part, I just pressed the X-button. At one point I was able to trigger a takedown, which pulled the camera out to a third-person perspective to show Faith pulling off an elaborate finishing move. I wasn’t sure how I did it, but it did look cool. More hands-on time will be needed to fully understand the game’s combat.

The final mission is Billboard Hack. This is very much like Far Cry’s Radio Towers. Faith must ascend a hard-to-reach area and hack a billboard. Successfully doing this replaces Kruger’s propaganda with Faith’s Runner sigil. It’s a neat little mode that offers up a nice challenge for parkour junkies.

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Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, like all EA games, is powered by Dice’s Frostbite 3 engine. No, the game doesn’t look as good as the in-engine trailer, but it still looks great. The unique art style from the original Mirror’s Edge remains intact and is gorgeous running on Xbox One. The City of Glass looks clean and sterile, a stark contrast to the splash of red created by the Runner’s Vision. The white, symbolic of personality being stripped away, and the red, symbolic of Faith’s personality, clash together to create something beautiful.

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst could be the Mirror’s Edge game that fans have been waiting for. Dice has truly gone back to the drawing board with Catalyst and have crafted a game based on the elements that fans loved. The gameplay has been streamlined to be fluid and natural, gunplay has been removed, and the City of Glass is an open world. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst will be a good game, especially since I barely got a taste of the combat. Still, I’m optimistic that Dice can deliver the experience fans have been waiting years for.

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is out February 23, 2016 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.