Game Preview: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Closed Beta

Catalyst has the potential to be the game we were hoping the original game would be.

Combat is also a lot smoother this time around as DICE has completely removed the awkward gunplay from the original game. In its place is a deep melee combat system whose biggest strength comes from the player being able to dictate the direction an enemy tumbles when they sustain a kick or heavy attack. This addition creates tons of opportunities for emergent gameplay as you knock enemies into walls, over ledges and even into each other. Keep an eye on this aspect of the game, it could very well be big time.
One thing that I can confidently say that will divide the player base is the addition of an Ability Progression system. Players now earn experience by completing missions and finding collectibles which level up Faith’s abilities. From a design perspective, you can understand that DICE is simply trying to create a better sense of investment in Faith’s character, but some of the abilities, such as the rolling when landing from large heights, were present in the first game. This makes unlocking them feel more superficial since it is something we’ve seen time and time again, not to mention that it’s kind of odd that a professional Runner would forget how to roll after being in jail.
All in all, Catalyst looks like it will be able to satisfy fans of the original game while attracting new ones to the series. Mechanically, the game is sound outside of a few oddities in ability progression and the story is way more involved this time around. It’s difficult to tell if the story will be worth investing into long term, but it is apparent that DICE has made a more concerted effort to make it relevant. Technically, the game is nice to look at, particularly on PC at full 1080p, but Xbox One owners look like they are going to be sacrificing resolution for frames-per-second. Honestly, if you have to make a sacrifice, frames should always trump resolution, so just know that no matter what platform you play on Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is going to run smoothly.

While Battlefront did manage to improve its texture resolutions (slightly) upon release, the Xbox One version was well known to be the weakest, clocking in at a final resolution of 720p. If I had to guess, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst will likely end up at the same resolution in the name of achieving a flat 60 fps. While some might argue that it’s hardly an issue, I would contend that for Catalyst, during the down moments where you are taking in the scenery of the city above, this will be more of a deterrent than for a chaotic multiplayer shooter such as Battlefront where small details like that have no time to be noticed.

Fortunately, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst handles about as smoothly as you would hope. Players of the original game will come to appreciate the many improvements in the game’s design. Faith’s running momentum is stopped far less as a result of the larger levels and the addition of “Runner Echoes”. “Runner Echoes” act as a sort of guide for the player to follow to reach an objective point. One might argue that they eliminate the puzzle aspect of figuring out where to go, but you should know that following them is largely optional as there are plenty of alternative (and quicker) paths that the game won’t show you.

The added power of the Frostbite 3 Engine has allowed for far more things in the environment for Faith to interact with, resulting in more dynamic path progression. With more stuff in the environment, creates the need to save the player time, so the addition of the “Runner Echoes” makes sense. Its presence alone is the biggest catalyst (no pun intended) for the improved sprints in player momentum.

The Beta opens up with Faith in prison and there is an instant sense of familiarity with the environment. A bright sheet of neon blue glass lines the wall of Faith’s cell, harking back to the extreme use of singular color from the original game. A voice plays over the intercom giving a bit of substance to the world’s state of affairs. Long story short, the message is that everyone should get a job. And if you don’t have a job, you end up in jail. 

For the Runners, getting a job is apparently a bad thing because of the clichéd “you’re just a part of the machine” trope. Faith, who has no plans of getting said job, is quickly released and sent out onto the rainy streets. What’s immediately apparent is how stark a contrast the streets are compared to the bright rooftops above. The environment on the ground is far less colorful, with plenty of dark shades of gray exuding a sense of gloomy banality to the everyday corporate life. 

From a technical perspective, it’s apparent that Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is striving for a flat 60 frames-per-second and although it’s not there quite yet here in the Closed Beta, it’s pretty safe to say that it will get there by release. In playing the Xbox One version, I did notice that there was a distinct amount of blurriness on the textures and draw distance, which made me draw instant comparisons to another recent DICE game built in the Frostbite 3 Engine, Star Wars Battlefront.

Platforms: Xbox One (previewed), PS4, PC

Publisher: EA

Developer: DICE

Release Date: June 7th 2016

The original Mirror’s Edge was not exactly a sales record setter when it came out (2.5 million units sold), but it was generally well regarded by critics and fans alike. Unlike most games whose hype fades as quickly as its built up, Mirror’s Edge managed to stick around. So much so that EA and DICE have decided to bring the franchise back with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. 

Catalyst is a prequel to the events of the original game and is set in a fully exploreable open world. In many ways, DICE has designed Catalyst in a way that fans were envisioning when the original game came out. There is a considerable amount of emphasis on storytelling this time around as every cut scene takes place in-engine, as opposed to the Adobe Flash-like animations from the original games.

Before we dive into the nitty gritty details, it’s worth mentioning that as a whole, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is shaping up to be a much improved game from the first one, but it’s not without its issues. With that said, let’s take a look at the Closed Beta for Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst.