The first thing Faith did when she got out of prison was accept a delivery job that required her to make a dash across the rooftops of Glass City. She took off sprinting towards the nearby zipline and made her descent towards the roof of the next skyscraper over, breaking her fall by landing on top of a guard and incapacitating him. Two more guards lay in wait nearby. Faith sprinted towards the first guard, leaping onto the back of a billboard and run across it, using the extra height and momentum to come crashing down on him. The final enemy was on the other side of a giant pipe so Faith kept on running, making a leap over the pipe to take him out but getting stuck in the scenery thanks to a clipping issue, helplessly unable to dislodge herself as the security guard slowly shot her to death.
Okay, so the Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst demo wasn’t perfect. In its defence this was the only bug I found in my 15 minutes with the game, and it wasn’t the only game I broke at EGX. But it gave me an acute understanding of how important momentum is to the upcoming first-person parkour game, and how much enjoyment you can get from the flow of movement, as the platforming and melee combat seamlessly blend together to create a pretty awesome, adrenalising experience.
The demo began with a brief tutorial, which seemed pointless as I had just sat through an 8-minute presentation on an iPad that showed me how to play the game. Faith has just been released from prison, she meets up with a guy who wants to take her to meet another guy, some stuff happens and you get used to the basic parkour. I wasn’t paying massive amounts of attention at this point as there was a timer counting down my demo time and I just wanted to sink my teeth into the gameplay.
Once the demo proper started I was dropped off in the middle of Glass City, the open-world that Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst will take place in, with the choice of three activities to partake in. Each of these activities offered a glimpse into the different types of gameplay involved in Catalyst, and luckily I had just enough time to complete all three. First up was the combat, of course, which was the part of Catalyst I was most interested in after the lengthy gameplay demo from this years E3.
My first attempt went pretty much as described, and so did the first part of my second attempt, minus getting stuck in a pipe. According to the iPad presentation I watched, as long as Faith kept moving she wouldn’t be killed. I’m not entirely sure how true that is, as I took a few hits while sprinting at full speed around the various building tops to take down guards. The only time I died, however, was when I got stuck. And when I jumped off a building, but that’s a different story entirely…
Parkour, environmental traversal and combat all blend seamlessly together to create a hyper-kinetic ballet of pretty sweet action gameplay. When it’s in full flow it works really well, and I had the game looking like the combat section from the E3 gameplay trailer within minutes of picking it up for the first time.
The other two activities that were available focused on showcasing movement. The first was a time trial that tasked Faith with running a preset route as fast as possible, testing my pathfinding and reflexes. The second asked me to climb a tower to reach and hack the billboard at its summit, putting me through my paces with some fairly testing platforming. As with the combat section, both of these missions showed off a game built around fast-paced parkour that flows seamlessly.
Again, within minutes of actually picking the controller up, I was already chaining together some pretty slick moves. The parkour gameplay in Catalyst is rock solid (unlike its pipes, heyoooo) and works tremendously well. It’s supported by the well implemented “runner vision” which highlights your path in red, meaning there were no awkward moments where I was running up against a wall I couldn’t climb, or trying to run through a door I wasn’t supposed to go through, or jumping off the side of a building by accident. Well, except that once…
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is due for release on February 25, 2016 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
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