Return to the rooftops for the first time in 7 years with DICE’s free-running, parkour title Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. EA and DICE ran a closed beta for the game April 22 – 26 for choice members to relatively high success. Those that were lucky enough to be a part of the beta are praising the game for its massively improved visuals, control, and invigorating combat system that removed the sequence breaking style of the original.
Fans of the series will be glad to see much of what made the original a success is still present and improved upon. This provides a game that is fresh, yet familiar. Equally impressive is how the game tutorializes the player, bringing them into the new world with relative ease but not taking an extended period of time for veterans of the series. This creates a low barrier to entry for new players while also refreshing those already familiar with the new controls and gameplay.
Open world design coupled with enhanced graphics and visuals
Graphics are a major improvement from the previous title with the design focusing more on realistic design over colorful artwork. Models have received a modern update, bringing the overall game design into the current generation of consoles. Graphics are quite a few steps up on the PC version of the game with 4K resolution possible for the proper machines. Comparing the two consoles, PS4 and Xbox One have the expected results with the PS4 boasting slightly higher model density and design.
Quality of the graphics was a bit of an issue during the beta with frame drops and shaky visuals seen both in cutscenes and actual gameplay. Hopefully these are just signs of a lack of polish and will be fixed in the final result – framerates were generally stable around 50 FPS for all scenes. There was some graphical tearing seen during the cutscenes and the anti-aliasing seemed a bit off but these are items that can easily be fixed with a bit of polish. Overall, the design and graphics were incredibly impressive and worthy of the current generation.
Gameplay is much of the same from the original with some extremely improved controls. Jumps and runs are much smoother than before and transitions between areas is well designed. One of the major feature changes for Catalyst is making the game an open world, which works well. Bringing up the map, the player can set a waypoint which generates a “run path” – lighting up the proper areas with a red line as well as highlighting the necessary items to climb or jump from. This makes transitioning between areas easy and simple to do but it does get old relatively quick.
Some of the new features seen in the game include the redesign combat system. This new combat works to maintain the flow of the game while still being useful and systematic. Combat techniques include a strong and quick attack system, directional combat (allowing players to knock enemies into walls, objects, or other enemies) and situational combat that maintains the flow of the game. As players jump along walls they can execute quick attacks on enemies and maintain their focus.
Overall gameplay is similar to the original game with a lot of polish. Missions are started through interacting with individuals or picking up a side quest throughout the world. These can be found randomly or selected in the map menu system. Other notable features include being able to create time trails and targeted runs to be posted online for others to attempt.
While Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is mainly a single-player game, the network features allow time trial competitions between other players online. This can be maintained through finding random time trials or selecting them from the menu screen; players may also post their own time trials for other players to compete with. Beyond the time trails and sequenced runs there isn’t much in the way of online or multiplayer play which was a bit disappointing. Given the open-world environment and standard “online always” gameplay of the modern generation, a larger set of options for online play would have been nice (like live competition for example). These may show up in the official game or be patched in down the line but for now it’s focused on a single-player experience.
Overall the beta was a lot of fun and presented a well-designed game that seems to have taken into account all the feedback on the original. Graphics have a modern feel, design is improved from before and the gameplay is a well-polished result. Gameplay is familiar to veterans of the series while introducing new elements to keep things interesting.
While there were some polish issues with the graphics and maintaining a stable framerate, these are elements that could easily be improved and fixed before release. Furthermore, the small issues in the beta did not deter from the overall game and still presented a polished result.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is the sequel players have been waiting for and deserve, adding to the already successful formula and bringing it into the modern age, creating a game that is well deserving of a recommendation upon release.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is currently targeted for a June 7, 2016 release by EA and DICE.
Check out this impression video that outlines some of the features as well as showcases the beta gameplay from the PS4: