Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst Closed Beta
PS4, XBO, PC
Mirror’s Edge is a title that I’ve spent only a few hours with since its release in 2008, having relegated it to my pile of shame for many years. Being given a chance to check out the Closed Beta of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst was a welcome opportunity to re-familiarise myself with the first-person parkour mechanics that the original was praised for. Catalyst occupies an odd space in regards to its predecessor and presents itself as a rebooted prequel of sorts, detailing protagonist’s Faith Connors ‘origin story’.
The Closed Beta includes access to four of the opening Story missions, a few side missions and a decent amount of time trials which is enough to get a feel for the overall flow of the game. DICE have made some major changes to the formula, the most noticeable of which is the move towards an open-world setting rather than linear levels. However, traversing rooftops is not as straightforward as moving across the ground and is restricted in a number of ways by the developers. It’s hard to tell based on the Beta, but I wouldn’t be surprised if sections of the map are locked off in a similar fashion to PS2 era Grand Theft Auto ‘islands’, opening once story milestones have been hit. As it is, getting from one section of the map to another is controlled through careful placement of walkways that span the gaps between buildings, with some too far away for Faith to reach successfully.
While the option is locked in the Beta, Main and Side Missions can be replayed in the full game to refine completion times and find collectibles, such as intel which provides further backstory on the world and characters. As they were in the original Time Trials are extremely fun but the extensive loading times can be maddening when you make a mistake and need to reset. This may just be a symptom of beta, but I’m inclined to believe that when DICE promised there would be ‘no loading’, they simply meant when traversing the world. Rather than a being equipped with a complete set of abilities from the start, Faith’s Combat, Movement and Gear skills are unlocked with points earned through completing activities and missions. This might sound simple enough, but I think it’s going to have a profound effect on the way Time Trials are approached given that many of her most useful Movement skills, crucial to shaving times down, are locked. This leaves players chasing the best times in the lurch until they’ve at least cleared the Movement skill tree. Compounding this, Catalyst allows players to create Time Trial courses for others to attempt. One change I’d like to see is the option to limit the abilities players have access to when undergoing a user-created Time Trial – this would really open up the floor for more creativity in traversal.
Combat makes a streamlined return and now incorporates well into Faith’s parkour movement. It’s entirely possible to leap over a fence, Mario-stomp an enemies head and simply keep moving forward – or slide into a kick that will knock them off a skyscraper roof. It definitely feels like a failure on a players’ part when you trade these sorts of slick attacks for hand to hand combat, which is painfully slow and clunky.
Playing on the PS4, the graphics seemed a little rough around the edges, with low-res textures and occasional frame drops during in-engine cutscenes. These drops were made more when moving quickly through the environment, which is a disappointment given how much more enjoyable Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst feels to play at speed. I’m not personally a fan of the bright, minimalist visual design but given the totalitarian setting and the need to highlight running lines for players it serves both story and mechanics. That said, this IS a Beta and DICE still have time to address frame rate drops before release.
If anything, the Beta has left me intrigued. The free-running traversal is more refined than it has ever been and is easily the strongest element of Catalyst. What remains to be seen is whether DICE can utilise it to effect over the course of an open-world narrative without becoming stale.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst release in Australia on June 9th for Xbox One, PS4 and PC