Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Focuses on Framerate Over Texture Quality and That’s OK

While the original Mirror’s Edge wasn’t necessarily the most technically impressive game out on the market in 2008, it had enough visual flair to allow it to hold up over time. With the release of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, a reboot of the cult-favorite franchise, one might expect that there would be extreme visual improvements in store. After all, it has been eight years and an all new console generation since the first Mirror’s Edge, so it wouldn’t be extreme to hope for DICE to work its visual magic on Faith’s latest adventure. After playing through the entirety of the Xbox One version of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, however, it’s clear that DICE has put its focus squarely on gameplay as opposed to breathtaking visual quality. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all, as a precision-based title plays significantly better at sixty frames-per-second, but it is a bit staggering to play a game that doesn’t look all that different from its predecessor from the previous console generation.

As was mentioned in the previous paragraph, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst runs at sixty frames-per-second on console, with the occasional dip into the fifty-five frames-per-second range during gameplay and cutscenes running at thirty frames-per-second. In order to achieve this on Xbox One, the resolution has been locked to 720p, which is certainly a slight shocker considering how far into this console generation we are. On top of this, there are a number of texture streaming concessions that have been made, which often causes both faces and areas in the distance to appear blurry. Overhead views of the city often sport a shocking amount of texture pop-in, which again seems to be a concession in order to maintain a high framerate. While this might seem like a major issue to some, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst’s buttery-smooth framerate makes up for any texture resolution issues, as framerate is far more important to gameplay than sheer visual quality.

While it’s certainly disappointing to see a title on console sporting a 720p resolution, it’s wonderful to see a game that places more of an emphasis on smooth gameplay over aesthetics. What’s more, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst continues the surprising console game trend of including a field of view slider, which has traditionally been a feature only seen on PC games. Surprisingly, increasing the field of view alleviates a few of the background blurring issues, though it certainly doesn’t allow them to disappear entirely. Considering that we are headed towards a situation where there are going to be consoles with different power levels in the same generation, this might just be a sign that more visual customization could be coming from console games in the future.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is able to get away with a decreased focus on visual quality partly because of the sterile aesthetic that makes the franchise stand out from the pack, as there isn’t as much of a need to place super-detailed textures in a city that sports a shocking amount of plain white walls. Still, considering we saw a title last year in Halo 5: Guardians that used a variable resolution to allow it to run at sixty frames-per-second on Xbox One, it would have been nice to see DICE use a similar technique. That dreaded 720p resolution figure is going to cause quite a debate in comment sections and message boards all throughout the Internet, which is a shame considering that this particular game’s most important features are smooth gameplay and a killer art-style.