Spotlight: Can Mirror's Edge: Catalyst Restore the Faith?

In the inaugural edition of our new and improved Shacknews Spotlight, we let you in on our private chats about this weekend's Mirror's Edge: Catalyst beta.

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Welcome to the inaugural edition of the new and improved Shacknews Spotlight. Every week we'll select a topic and host a chat in our company Slack room, and then let you all in on our shenanigans. 

Steve Watts: Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst feels like a game willed into existence from the sheer demand of fans, and EA always seemed hesitant about it. Have we reached a point that all the buzz will help make it a hit?

Daniel PerezI'd say that would vary on the audience. I know some people didn't enjoy the original Mirror's Edge due to its complete first-person nature and how it could possibly get the player sick from how it moves. On the other side, I think fan reaction to EA announcing a new Mirror's Edge title may give it a boost for those who didn't enjoy the original, or never played it.

I mean, I didn't hear one negative thing about Mirror's Edge Catalyst when it was first announced. My social media feeds were filled with tons and tons of excitement.

Steve WattsYeah. The hardcore crowd that has wanted this game for years is super-engaged, but I think the struggle for EA is going to be communicating what it is to a broader audience. That’s part of where the first one struggled, right? It was presented similarly to a shooter, and that went for the game itself too. It’s really more like a rhythm game, and that’s hard to communicate.

Daniel PerezThat's a good point. While the perspective is first person, Mirror's Edge doesn't feature some of the same tropes as first-person shooters. There's no diving behind cover, nor are there any weapons to reload. The original, as well Catalyst, strips down the first person genre to its core and delivers a unique experience that those looking for an FPS may not understand. 

Brittany VincentIn a way, I'd say it's even more accessible to players who may not be as familiar with FPS tropes or the violence and carnage traditionally associated with them. While there's combat, it's nowhere near the level that you'd expect out of first-person games, and I think it offers a very unique experience much like an adventure game, flipped on its head, with open-world elements sprinkled in.

Steve WattsYeah, speaking of, let’s talk about the combat. I know I for one was really impressed with how they integrated the kinetic pace of the movement into the combat itself. You can always just hit triangle to slap a guard around, but it’s clear they want you to use the contextual heavy attacks. It gives it almost a Tony Hawk feel, as you combine stick movements with buttons to pull off a certain “trick” when it’s appropriate.

And I can see that playing into the speed run culture, which is what Mirror’s Edge is built for. It’s not a game where you have this cool movement-based traversal and then the flow gets interrupted by combat. They’ve found a way to let you use takedowns as part of your momentum and just keep going.

Brittany VincentThat was something the first game dropped the ball a bit on. It encouraged you to avoid combat if you can and even handed out an achievement for it if you could avoid using guns as well. It felt like an annoyance to have to stop and confront guards if it felt unavoidable, but in Catalyst it's been fine-tuned for speed so it feels much more natural to tangle with enemies than having to stop, take someone out, and start moving again.

Steve WattsMirror’s Edge stages feel like traversal puzzles, which is the whole point of parkour. You want to get from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible. The combat angle adds another wrinkle to the puzzle, because there’s obviously a right way to engage these enemies. Two next to each other, you knock one into the other one, things like that. So when players are mapping out their perfect line, guards will just become another part of the puzzle, like a ramp or a wall-run.

Daniel PerezSpeaking of knocking guards into obstacles, while I like the idea behind it, I feel like these guards, with all of their training and protective gear, go down way too easily when they get kicked into an air conditioning unit or into a wall.

Although, now that I think about it, I've never been kicked in the face from a 130lb Asian woman running at full tilt, so what do I know?

Steve WattsI have to expect that’s something that’ll be tougher in the full game. The guards will definitely have to have guns eventually, and a tooltip mentions that sometimes it’s better to run. The ones in this beta sort of wait their turn. They’re very polite fascists.

Brittany VincentYeah, I felt it strange that the prison guard was pushier than the actual guards in the game when you can just knock them into a wall, but I'm sure that's going to change, especially having looked over the enemy types that'll be appearing later in-game.

Daniel PerezI was able to reach a point where there are guards wielding guns. They aren't as deadly as you'd expect as Faith has a built-up guard that fills up as she free runs. She can take a number of shots from these guards, although they don't shoot nearly as frequent as you'd expect them to.

Steve WattsSo she has armor at that point? Or are we just assuming she’s getting shot and walking (running?) it off?

Brittany VincentI guess when you're a Runner you can take bullet damage because you're, like Sonic, too fast to be shot.

Steve WattsFaith, she can really move. Faith, she’s got an attitude. I sure hope people get that reference or I’m going to feel so old.

Daniel PerezIt isn't armor. It's her stamina meter that can be seen at the bottom-left portion of the screen. When you're attacked, you can see your stamina drop a bit. Obviously, getting shot takes away more of Faith's stamina.

Steve WattsOh okay. So she’s just incredibly tough.

Daniel PerezWhen she's outside of combat, she gains more stamina as she free runs without slowing down. It's a pretty interesting feature as it rewards really good free runners by recharging their stamina.

Steve WattsI just have this image of her losing a massive amount of blood and continuing to run somehow. Maybe that’s what the red path is? Other runners weren’t so lucky.

Brittany VincentYou're always encouraged to opt for the best solution you can while using free-running as the best way out of any situation, and I appreciate that about Catalyst, as guns are kind of seen as an afterthought.

Daniel PerezAlthough, now that I think about it, that might not make any sense. If I run 10 feet, I'm extremely winded. There's no way I'd become stronger by running.

Steve WattsYou don’t have Beats by Dre, though. Beat 2.0. BeatLink. Whatever they call it.

Brittany VincentYou do get your "runner's high," after all.

Daniel PerezIs that similar to an Oreo high? Because I get that quite often.

Steve WattsSilly as the Beat idea is, it’s a pretty clever way to give you a HUD in this world. The original just had a pretty sparse white world with red elements, and that was beautiful, but it didn’t make much sense in the context of the world.

Brittany VincentYeah, I appreciated the HUD as well, and while I preferred the aesthetically pleasing minimalistic style of the original game, having a little more information was helpful.

Daniel PerezOne aspect of the new HUD that I appreciate is knowing where guards are located around Faith. That makes planning your attacks, or escapes, much easier.

Steve WattsI laughed a little when the HUD first popped up and it was this insane overcrowded thing. I feel like DICE might’ve been poking fun at other games there.

Daniel PerezI felt like I was playing World of Warcraft for a second.

Steve WattsI think the trail of red is a lot more specific to help guide you. Sometimes I would get a bit stuck and then click my runner vision and it instantly made sense. But the beta also really smartly hand-holds less and less as time goes on, so subtly that I almost didn’t notice it.

I’ll confess, when I first started, I was awful. I kept losing momentum, missing jumps. I wasn’t getting it. But then as they take the training wheels off, I was finding my groove more and more, and by the time I was actually doing things well I didn’t even have many HUD elements guiding me at all. It just vanished progressively and made me feel like I accomplished something.

Daniel PerezSpeaking of the trail, did you guys spot the customization options? I'm looking forward to changing the color of my trail when the full game releases.You'll be able to change the runner's trail, the color of your Echo, and your emblem

Steve Watts: didn’t see that, Daniel, but that’s a nice feature.

Brittany VincentI didn't even notice it either. That's going to be interesting to be able to change things up though for sure. I always got a little tired of red everything.

Daniel PerezThere are also hackable billboards that will show your emblem and I think color in your friends' game.

Steve WattsRed streak, speeeeeds by.

Daniel PerezSo you can essentially hack into your friends' games if you're able to keep those billboards hacked.

Steve WattsYeah, let’s talk about these social features. This is a beta, which implies testing, and the recent delay was said to be so they could respond to feedback from the beta regarding the social features. I get the feeling they’re attempting something similar to Dark Souls here, where it’s a single-player campaign but messages from the community can be tucked away anywhere. Does that fit Mirror’s Edge?

Daniel PerezThat's a good question. I bumped into a friend's echo last night, and it felt kind of strange to see him jumping around. Maybe it doesn't make sense right now, but it could be better explained when the full game releases. I mean, there has to be a reason for the echoes to be visible to Faith.

Steve WattsAlternate dimensions!

Daniel PerezOr maybe even in the beta. I was able to get around 3 to 4 hours in yesterday, so if the answer to that is in the beta, I'm sure those playing this weekend will find out.

Or, as you suggested, it could be alternate dimensions. I mean, this is a video game, right?

Steve WattsIt was a Quantum Break prequel the whole time.

Daniel PerezConsidering the delay, it seems like EA and DICE want to get the social features just right. It's interesting to see both companies focus so much on multiplayer features when Mirror's Edge, at its core, is more of a single-player experience.

Brittany VincentI would always prefer to play Mirror's Edge as a single-player game because it seems made for that over anything else, and the social features cheapen it a bit for me. So I hope that's something that doesn't change much going forward. It's special to me in that way.

Steve WattsMaybe you can just turn them off, at least for your first run. It would make sense to include that as an option. Or you could just play offline, I suppose, but that workaround seems like a pain.

Daniel PerezAt least it looks like they're not just injecting multiplayer into Mirror's Edge. The last thing I want is a team deathmatch mode against competing Runners. I can't even begin to imagine how the combat would work. It would just look like a complete mess as players are jump kicking everyone and everything.

Steve WattsIt would be a very stylish WWF match. We’ll all be playing Mirror’s Edge over the weekend, so we’ll be able to see how those social hooks in a live environment.

That’ll do it for our inaugural chat. Thanks for reading, and remember: Faith is the fastest thing alive, the fastest thing alive, the fastest thing alive.

Daniel Perez: Was that what you were referring to in our chat?

Steve Watts: Yes! Obviously! YOU CHILDREN

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