We have been lucky enough to be able to play the closed beta of DICE’s new first person parkour title: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Is it good?
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (tested), PC
A closed beta is still a beta and you know what I’m going to say: It only lasts for a few days, it is openly advertised as unfinished and incomplete, it may have bugs, glitches, you know the drill. Catalyst is, at the very least in that department, a pretty much already finished game: we were able to play what it apparently was the entirety of the first few hours of the completed game. No bugs. No glitches. Ridiculously smooth. It was just too good.
With a soon release in early June, this is really good news. Catalyst looks pretty much finished, with stunning graphics. DICE is still using the Frostbite 3 engine (Star Wars: Battlefront) which already proved to be able to deliver breath taking graphics.
Our protagonist is Faith, just like in the previous title. We were just released out of juvie, and we are part of a group of runners. So far so good, nothing new. Most of the game takes place on the rooftops of a futuristic open world city: The City of Glass. Objects of interest are highlighted in red: a pipe, a bridge, a wall, or anything our dexterous protagonist can make use of to keep running, delivering goods or escaping from the supposedly good guys. The visual fidelity to the first title is strong, and I really liked it.
The gameplay also seems to be the same, at least on the surface. We still run and jump thru the city like we did almost eight years ago, but when you take a deeper look you can spot some really interesting differences. The most obvious difference is the combat. Faith never wields a gun: she avoids combat and keeps running, or delivers a few hits to escape. We are now able to knock out a guard without losing our momentum. We are even rewarded for keep running with a new mechanic: the Focus Shield. It ensures you won’t take damage while it’s up, and allows you to focus on the environment and to make sure you don’t simply suicide by jumping to the wrong roof.
Borrowing some activities from other open world games, we now have the ability to create our own time trials and have other people play them. Catalyst has no traditional multiplayer, but we can spot some good touches here and there. For instance, we are able to hack adverts and put on them our own logo for our friends to take a look at it. It doesn’t make a big difference, but it is a welcome feature. If you don’t care about making trials for others then don’t worry, the beta had plenty of its own in-built races and challenges.
Catalyst also features a skill tree. There are some mixed feelings about this, and with good reason. Some basic moves such as swinging on poles and making an instant 180° degree turn are locked out. You are welcome to learn them as soon as you gather enough experience, and at least in the beta it took just a little less than an hour to do so. The skill tree is divided in three main categories, and we will be able to improve everything from our parkour abilities to our combat and how to keep the momentum while mixing both. The RPG element is all about allowing the player to engage in the tools, and to master whatever you have before unlocking the next goodie. You will eventually have several ways to complete different trials and missions, improving your times and creating some sort of loop.
Unfortunately, we can’t speak much about the story. There are some hints about where the story is going, that seem like they might be interesting, but the beta didn’t provide much room to discover what will happen. Honestly, I didn’t care much about it either. The gameplay was very impressive, and I was hoping for that and that only. If it is going to be the next hit or not, we don’t know. Let’s just wait and see.