E3 2015: Mirror’s Edge of Tomorrow: Run, Jump, Repeat
During EA's 2014 E3 press conference, the improbable resurrection of the Mirror's Edge franchise was the highlight of the event for me. The long wait for more information was made possible only by the idea that a new entry in the series was actually coming, it was just a matter of when. This year, it finally happened. The brilliant, blinding white city skyline returned, and so had the hero who would save it all.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst isn't a sequel. This entry offers a re-imagining of the game and its hero, Faith; one which pays tribute to what came before while presenting nearly every aspect in a new light. From the seemingly more distant futuristic setting and the focus on corporations ruling the world, to the improved melee combat and wide-open world, Mirror's Edge Catalyst is setting itself up to be everything fans wanted from a sequel while still being completely accessible to everyone that missed out on the first entry.
After watching a short video presentation on the new world of Mirror's Edge, one that appears to be wiping away the universe and backstory developed in part by Rhianna Pratchet in both the game and comics, we were given the chance to play around for 13 in Faith's new home, the City of Glass. In addition to the story missions, which we didn't get to see, but did learn a little about, there are going to be multiple types of side missions Faith can take part in. The story appears to focus on the massive corporations ruling the city and the uprising from a rogue force (supposedly) fighting for the people, Black November. You can imagine which side Faith will lean towards.
As for those side missions, we played through one of each of Dash (races), Billboard Hack (environmental puzzles) and Delivery (which combines a bit of Dash and Hack but with combat thrown in). If you ever played the old Mirror's Edge demo (where we spent hours crafting our runner skills before the full game arrived many moons ago), you'll have a good idea of what to expect from Dash. Rather than being special challenges hidden away in a separate menu, the time trial races are now built right into the game world itself. It's much more intuitive to include them this way, though since its all in game, there's less of a chance we'll see some of those more outrageous challenge courses in Catalyst.
The Dash mission didn't offer much in the way of fancy parkour, but the Delivery and Billboard Hack certainly did. The Hack in particular forces you to think creatively when it comes to Faith's skill set. The controls are nearly identical to the original, with the left bumper in charge of jumping (wallrunning, climbing, anything upward) and the left trigger handling all the sliding and crouching you can handle. The right bumper still handles the quick turns, so you're able to string together some really impressive jump-to-wallrun-to-jump-to-quick turn-leap-to-climb over a ledge maneuvers without finagling with the analog sticks much. How easily the muscle memory came back (which was a bit of a theme at E3 this year) was impressive, and after just moments with the controller in our hands, we were able to fall back into old routines like we'd never stopped performing them.
Aside from the presentation upgrades, which are fantastic, about the only place Mirror's Edge Catalyst feels different (at least as a demo) is in the combat. Fighting the security forces in the original game was often ill-advised, though sometimes it was necessary. The melee was a bit clunky and the less we say about the gunplay the better. In Catalyst, much more attention has been paid to the hand-to-hand, with ballistic combat removed all together. There are two combat buttons, Flow and Transference, which offer slightly different attacks based on how you want to fight.
Flow attacks are all about merely brushing aside or knocking enemies down to keep moving, while Transference attacks use your momentum for much more impactful blows. The combat is contextual as well, so if you're sliding and hit the Flow attack, you'll kick someone's knees out and spring up ready to keep running. Conversely, if you're jumping across a gap where an enemy is in your landing path, a Transference attack with deck them with the full force of your leap. You might even be treated to a third-person view of your finishing blow if you put a strong enough combo together.
While under fifteen minutes is hardly enough time to really say for sure just how improved Mirror's Edge Catalyst is over its predecessor, it was certainly enough time have our love of this franchise reignited. Mirror's Edge, flawed as it was, has always held a special place in our hearts. Though our time with Catalyst was brief, running across the rooftops and leaping from point to point felt just as great as it did a few years ago. We've still got a while to wait until we'll learn for sure if Catalyst can live up to the promise this hands-on demo showed, but things are looking bright for Faith and Mirror's Edge.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst will be available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on Feb. 23, 2016.