Preview – Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

MEC

After a solid experience with The Division, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is my 2nd AAA rendez-vous of the year. I want to thank @SonicDX12 for delivering the fateful access code for the beta, allowing me to test it ahead of its June 9th release.

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The story background, more or less known by now, features a younger and unruly Faith. Actually the young girl is straightout wild, talking back to her comrades and getting cocky in front of the authorities.

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This prequel shows a tendency to display the characters’ feelings a lot more and bringing them together as a team. Several sequences put a great emphasis on frienship and respect. It’s quite a big difference with Mirror’s Edge PS3 since the latter had cutscenes in first-person view only, so the player, not the heroine, was at the center of the game. This choice of a rough narrative made a lot of sense because the focus was a dense free run experience and nothing else. I’m OK to elaborate a bit on Faith’s personality and stuff, but a big hollywoodish blowout might only water down the experience.

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Mirror’s Edge Catalyst nevertheless embodies its view of today’s society by open criticizing the “all-connected” trend. The judiciary system, which can collect whichever personal information it wants and issue a warrant against somebody for a trifle, suggest an ominous technological future. The first interface Faith is connected to, with its dashboard full a critical personal data, leaves no doubt : it is the extreme edge of the Société du Spectacle as philosopher Guy Debord saw it. DICE pushes a comprehensive logic, without making it the full story focus for now. That could, because the name of “Dogus” that was cited repeatedly in thi beta leaves room for darker development.

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The futuristic atmosphere is remarkably illustrated in this new installment : the near-future is striking by its sprawling and state-of-the-art architecture, flying cars and high speed trains running through the city. It is a magnificent urban view, and light effects live up to expectations. That can’t be said about the environment near you, because rooftops and interiors are roughly as unsophisticated as before.

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The gameplay stayed the same, and a bit too much the same, I’d say. We indeed are in an open world, but the use of which hasn’t been very revolutionary so far. The map is pretty large, you can go wherever you want, but in the end the heart of the gameplay is still about running around in a very closed area. We do see the now famous red objects (but you can deactivate that) to guide the player so he can go as fast as possible from rooftop to rooftop. In brief, nothing new.

Combat has evolved a lot though. Firearms are now out of the picture (what a shame, those rooftops were perfect for sniping) and everything comes down to CQC, which has grown more complex. There is a light combo, and a powerful strike that can be inserted in whatever movement for more impact (after a wall run for example). You also can give a direction to your kick with the analog stick, which is used to throw a guard into another one. But big problem here : as you’re always running, your analog stick is always pushed forward, so that action can only be achieved when halted. There’s alos a strafe system to slip behind your opponent, etc. Sincerely, I don’t think all that karate-like things are a plus. Worse, that might slow the flow of the gameplay and reduce its intensity. Before, there was just a counter button, and it was perfect like that…

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Time attack is of course back, with a very well-made report of the various social results. Still, I had some problem with the delivery missions, in which the direction to take wasn’t displayed. It’s very confusing and you have only 1 or 2 minutes to reach your goal, so I’d really need to know approximately where to head to.

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The only point of open world in the beta was to search for collectibles. You’ll be asked to steal electronic chips everywhere in the city, as well as documents, secrets bags (like in the first one) and strange shiny things. That will ask some searching and there’ll probably be some nice trophies but I do expect more in terms of exploration.

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Interesting idea, we can hack a billboard o display an emblem, which will be your own customizable one in the final game. Once the display completed, your PSN friends will see it in their game too.

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Surprise! Mirror’s Edge is now an RPG! Every action, quest, rewards experience points that can be used to unlock new moves and gear. I was appalled to see there was a grapnel : such a device can only ruin this game if it is widely used… But let’s wait and see if this progression system provides serious steps in the gameplay or if it’s just to make the game a bit longer.

Unsure. That’s my state of mind after playng this beta that hasn’t shown how Mirror’s Edge Catalyst would go beyond the original. The open world seems misused, the intensity feels a bit down and fighting looks tiresome. I hope I will be proven wrong in June.

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