Mirror’s Edge was one of my favorite games of the last console generation. It managed to be cyberpunk without relying on genre’s overused signifiers, focusing on clean geometry and sterile cityscapes instead of grit and decay, instilling paranoia by providing a modern world that reads a little too perfect. In a lot of ways, its reminiscent of the EA campus, but that’s neither here nor there. The game’s fluid parkour mechanics have since been duplicated but never equalled by a wide variety of games, from Dishonored to Titanfall, and its elegant level design, which employs the use of a routing overlay to great effect, helps the player feel like a real building-hopping badass.
As you can imagine, I was incredibly excited when EA announced a sequel — Mirror’s Edge Catalyst — three years ago. It’s hard to believe that the game is finally coming out and I couldn’t be more ready. Here are the top five reasons you should be eager to get my hands on Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.
The first Mirror’s Edge was celebrated for the fluidity of its first-person platforming gameplay – Catalyst promises even more of the signature high-flying antics the series is known for. Players will again be able to jump, vault, and zip-line about the cityscape, chaining together movements in dazzling platforming combos. Players can expect to “feel it” when they’re executing movements correctly; there has always been a palpable rhythm to the platforming in Mirror’s Edge, and Catalyst seeks to expand on that with the introduction of a new mechanic called “shift.”
Bound to the right trigger, shift is meant to make movement and combat even more intuitive and seamless. “The origin of Shift is that we wanted to find something that lets you gain speed faster,” Catalyst Gameplay Designer Rickard Antroia says, “Shift lets you move sideways in any direction, and also backwards.” Shift seems to tweak Faith’s movement ever so slightly, allowing her to be more prudent and agile in her maneuvering.
No More Guns
While Mirror’s Edge got almost everything right in the movement category, the game faltered big time as a first person shooter. Gunplay felt stiff and unnecessary, interrupting the enjoyable flow of platforming segments with shootouts that felt uninspired and out of place. DICE must have realized their error — in Catalyst, players will never pick up a single gun.
Instead, players can expect to engage in a whole lot of hand-to-hand combat that builds on the flow of the platforming segments instead of interrupting them. Skilled players can fluidly incorporate well-timed attacks into their platforming lines, doing away with enemies without missing a beat. In this way, enemies are incorporated into the level design rather than functioning as artificial choke-points.
Instead of requiring the player to seek out a single line like they did in the first game, which highlighted important environmental objects by casting them in a bright red glow, Catalyst will allow the player to stake out their own path to the objective. For players who need a bit of hand-holding, the game does feature something called “Runner Vision”, which turns key pieces of terrain bright red like in the previous game, even going a step further by displaying a red ghost line showing an exact pathway to the objective. While the game isn’t open word —levels will still be linear in the sense that they’ll have a set beginning and end — individual levels will be opened up substantially, allowing players to choose whether they want to run through a building or vault over it. DICE has also introduced optional mission objectives for all you achievement-hoarding completionists out there.
This has huge implications for speed runs. While timed runs had a place in the original game, there was little variance in how they were executed. This time around, we can imagine runners and sequence breakers will be spending a lot of time developing routes that give them the edge over competitors.
Speaking of speed runs, Catalyst allows players to customize race routes on top of preexisting level architecture. This should expand the game’s replay value dramatically. Players can share these routes online and compete with friends and strangers to complete a route as quickly as possible. The city of Glass is undeniably enormous, so it’s going to interesting seeing how clever players re-contextualize its landscape via these custom race routes.
Mirror’s Edge’s soundtrack is fantastic — an ambient score with cinematic flourishes that manages to underscore the game’s sense of scale while accenting the more kinetic segments. A Swedish composer named Solar Fields is responsible for the music — and he’s back for Catalyst. His description of the game’s music perfectly sums up why our ears are piqued for the game:
In some areas of the game it’s very subtle, much more than what I produce normally. But again, that depends on how you’re playing the game. Other times it can be very in-your-face, especially when running around rooftops in action-packed sequences. As a runner, we want the music to help you keep moving. After all, your momentum is key to the game.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst will be available for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on June 7th.