Preview: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Beta Impressions

Mirror’s Edge was a title that is popular, yet under the radar from last generation. The game took the first person view and threw some new mechanics at us. Instead of shooting everything in sight we were jumping on ledges, punching bad guys, and free running across skyscrapers. I personally loved the game so to say I’m excited for Mirrors Edge Catalyst is an understatement. Then I got my hands on the early beta and I must say that Mirror’s Edge Catalyst takes everything the first game did and polishes it for one great, and thrilling, experience.

This is just early impressions of the game, not a total review, but with early tests we can see the new mechanics at work. In the previous title there were frustrating moments where you would jump at ledges or do certain moves and it just wouldn’t work. Some areas became a clunky frustrating mess, but once you got into that groove things totally flipped and the experience became fun.

Catalyst so far feels like that flipped experience, the free running and fun experience. What really hammered the revamp home for me was coming across my first fight sequence. In past titles you were pretty much told to avoid fighting at all costs, but those that wanted some action in their lives were met with a stale performance. Fighting in Catalyst feels like it has a few new mechanics to address that.

Fighting in Catalyst is just outright fun. If you decide to come across enemies and fight them head-on you have a few moves at your disposal including a light and heavy attack. A light attack can be combo’d to take down certain enemies, while a heavy attack will blow enemies backwards or knock them down. By doing that you grab yourself some time to perhaps target another enemy, or back off and regain your ground. Another fun aspect of the heavy attack is the ability to outright blow enemies off the edge of the building!

That isn’t all, Catalyst also throws in the mechanics of the main game and blends them into the fighting. This means you can jump off walls and nail enemies, or slide under them for a double attack. In many instances you can simply be free running, knock out a few enemies along the way, and never lose your momentum in a run. In fact a game mode in the game throws this mechanic right at your face and it became thrilling. This also allows the fighting to be more of a puzzle nature when you come across groups of enemies. How you approach them will determine how hard the situation will become.

That being said enemies can almost always be avoided still, it is just a matter of giving you the opportunity to actually fight. The entire game then focuses on, of course, parkour. Unlike the past title which was a linear experience, Catalyst is an open world of parkour at every turn. You will be finding missions, side quests, and other activities by running around. The nice thing about Catalyst is the fact that everything is focused on parkour so you are constantly jumping around buildings and trying to get places as fast as possible. The game even stresses that there are multiple routes to every objective.

That being said I found the parkour to be more fluent than the previous title. The game has a “coach” aspect that tells you where the best route is, or what to do, so it’s rather hard to mess up. There were a few instances in my game time where my character simply failed to grab a ledge, but overall it just took one retry to get it. Basically unlike the previous game, the “groove” of dashing around everywhere isn’t too hard to find at all.

Another new aspect is the upgrade tree which was rather lengthy from what I could see. The part that interested me is that the game locks a lot of standard moves behind the tree. I would have preferred it if the standard moves (a 180 jump for example) were just there, and perhaps upgraded over time instead. Other items in the tree include combat related perks, or defensive perks. This further enhances the idea that you no longer are completely forced to avoid combat because you can gear your character to head directly into combat if you want.

Lastly the game has social features, but personally I didn’t pay much attention to them. The game doesn’t have a real world multiplayer, instead it is basically shared stats between everything. There are time trials, or player scores at the end of missions, and that is about it. The only other addition was “ghosts” that you can see when facing another players time trial, but the ghosts are not available for all modes. If you ever played EA’s latest “SSX” title then you know exactly what it’s like to have random player supported icons around the map.

Overall I was really impressed with my early entry into Catalyst as there was really nothing I could complain too much about. I think they changed the game just enough to make it awesome, yet kept the feeling of the original in-tact. It’s also nice that the game is getting a stronger story driven experience.