Do you know the first contact I had with Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst? I was in a game shop, and a promotional display case fell off the shelf and hit me in the head. No, seriously. This is why physical media is dying out, people. A steam code can’t leave a dent in your skull, not to mention one deep enough to keep a goldfish inside.
But before long everything refocused and a thought occurred to me – how was this the first proper encounter I’d had with Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, especially in this age of rampant hyping and advertising campaigns like political movements? I quite enjoyed the first Mirror’s Edge game, at least when it was getting away from puzzle-platforming and letting you sprint through those long, flowing running tracks built into the scenery. And yet I was barely aware that this game was in the works at all. I vaguely remember something being said about the return of the franchise at E3 last year, but it got drowned beneath the thunder of Fallout 4 excitement that was all that anybody could think about that week.
And because I hadn’t heard much about the game, I decided to go and hunt some details for this Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst countdown article. And it turns out there’s a lot about it, it’s just not out there firmly in the public eye yet. So consider this your basic guide to everything glassy, colourless and mechanical, including Faith’s face. Try saying that last bit six times whilst drunk.
First off, this isn’t a sequel to Mirror’s Edge. It’s not even a prequel, it’s a full-fledged reboot of the video game. A bit odd considering there was only one other game, but quite frankly I don’t really care one way or another. I never felt that attached to the original story, and the basic idea still seems the same. The massive (and suspiciously clean) City Of Glass is being all totalitarian-Big-Brother-surveillance-state, and that’s SO not radical, man.
Fortunately, this domineering, science-fiction civilisation has a weakness, and that weakness is unarmed people running aimlessly on the rooftops and doing improvised gymnastic routines. Damn, it all seems so obvious in hindsight! All we needed to do was ban Adidas trainers and everything would be fine! Let’s see Faith perform parkour in Doc Martins or Jimmy Choos without breaking both ankles. That’ll teach her to be free-spirited.
Speaking of which, it seems that the parkour has been emphasised in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst’s gameplay, and I like that idea. The combat in the first game was a bit rubbish, and whilst it’s still there, it’s apparently been put on the back foot to make room for more free-running and the occasional bit of staring into the middle-distance. They’ve even taken away your ability to use guns at all, and installed mechanics that reward blending your acrobatics and Kung-Fu into one psychotic dance routine.
And truthfully, it’s pretty sensible of them to try to bring out the back-flipping potential in whatever they can think of. Standing around simply kicking goons in the ‘nads is boring, and anything that adds to it, distracts from it, or just flat-out replaces it is a welcome relief. If I felt the need to watch really dullblood sports, I’d contact my parents and tell them that the last one standing gets to leave the basement.
Another thing about Mirror’s Edge Catalyst that caught my eye is that there’s a hookshot device, and this made my empty void of a soul light up like a Times Square Christmas tree. Hell, if anybody can tell me when a hookshot has failed to improve a game, then I shall personally eat my laptop, battery and all, because I can’t think of an example. Hookshots increase flow, maintain pacing and inspire adrenaline rushes like tidal waves. I can think of very few action games that wouldn’t have benefited from a hookshot system, whether it’s to pull NPCs around or zip across an open world.
And is Mirror’s Edge an open world game? Well… Kind of. It’s more like Ocarina Of Time or Arkham Asylum than Just Cause 2 or Far Cry 3. From what I gather, you start off in a small hub world and unlock the routes to new missions as you go, usually by some invention or running power you’ve acquired earlier. Again, this is a decision I think might be for the best, as a completely open sandbox would make creating the best obstacle courses tricky. By cutting slightly on player agency they can steer us into some artfully designed arenas’ to traverse, which of course is the main focus.
Oh, and you know those little animations they had instead of cutscenes? They appear to be gone entirely, which I don’t feel hugely upset about. Their visual style was… Well, fine, I suppose, but considering most of those scenes were just people talking solemnly in heavily shadowed rooms, it wasn’t like the animation ever got a chance to show off. Better to just keep those moments in-engine without the jarring experience of changing aesthetic completely, like I’m alt-tabbing between Dying Light and Mark Of The Ninja.
Finally, players can start their Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst countdown as the Beta will be released on the 22nd of April. But considering it’s a closed Beta you had to sign up for a while back… Well, either you likely didn’t want to know, didn’t care, or you knew already. But I suppose if you missed it, you could watch the mountains of online footage that’ll probably pile up in that time, and see how it looks to you.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst seems pretty ambitious in scope and scale, but colour me cautiously optimistic for the time. I’m not going to lie to you – any project this experimental can go very wrong very easily – but what I’ve seen so far doesn’t give me that impression, looking closer to gold than to lead.
Catalyst hits shelves (and will probably fall off them again if I get too close) on May 24th , so start the Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst countdown timer. Prospective runners are expected to bring their own hookshots, tattoo needles, and humourless facial expressions. Those suffering from vertigo need not apply. Whilst you wait for the official release date, you can enter our Free Giveway where IGCritic will be giving away a copy of either; Overwatch, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst or No Man’s Sky to one lucky winner. Check out the sidebar for more details on how to enter the Giveaway.