As an early 40’s, slightly overweight couch potato who sits around in his underwear playing computer games all day, I’ve never really understood the draw of parkour. The free running scene has however exploded in recent years with kids, teens and young adults all seemingly trying to better themselves, and their mates, with all manner of risky manoeuvres, big jumps and forward rolls. All for no reason other than the kicks and adrenaline rushes that accompany it.
Personally, I can just about manage the latter of those movements, but even then the old back threatens to give way and my knees constantly creek.
So the chance to go free running with Faith, star of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst was perhaps my only real opportunity to show the world, or at least myself, what I could do. With EA, DICE and Faith herself pinning sales hopes on the recent closed beta, should we be looking forward to picking up Catalyst in just a few short weeks? Or has the latest beta killed all enthusiasm for the full product like another recent showcase did? *cough* Homefront *cough*
I was already a fan of Mirror’s Edge. After playing through and thoroughly enjoying matters many years ago on Xbox 360, as soon as I heard that EA were thinking about throwing us into free runner Faith’s shoes once more, my ears perked up and my eyes glistened. I remember fondly of navigating my way through a minimalist, utopian world in first person view, with little in the way of violence, bullet spraying or gore to stop me. The original game may have served as a great little opener for what can be done in the parkour stakes, but as many people know – it’s all about that second album. Will it flop or will it bring further delightful tunes to the masses?
Catalyst therefore has a lot to live up to, but the world, and indeed the gaming scene has changed over the last eight years. We now need a more open world to explore. We need a whole ton of pickups and collectibles to search out and we need multiple routes to victory. If there is one thing that the closed Xbox One beta for Catalyst told us, it is that come June 7th 2016, we need not worry one little bit. It will deliver all of that and more. In spades.
Yes, there are currently visual issues but this isn’t the full product and we are warned of that prior to falling into Faith’s beautiful world. I’d fully expect DICE and EA to sort any graphical oddities by the time they go gold but for the most part, the star protagonist, all compatriots and the world as a whole has been lovingly created. It may still be pretty minimalist, but for a story that is set in the city of Glass, it delivers in more ways than one.
With the iconic red waypoints that Mirrors Edge fans have become to love navigating us to roughly our next destination, the open world structure allows us to send Faith on a journey across rooftops, down drainpipes and across huge chasms as her free running skills come into play. Vertical and horizontal traversal is all key to the free running nature and it’s fast, fluid and pretty damn smooth. In fact, it is quite easily the closest thing you can get to real life parkour – at least if all those Youtube videos I’ve been watching are anything to go by.
Occasionally, we may find that Faith needs to sort out some of the guards that get in her way (I’m not going to go into any narrative here – you’ll have to play it to find out why they are there) but if I’m being honest, the fighting mechanics are simplistic at best. Yes, you can attack by going head on, but the clever ones out there will ensure they strike from a distance; sliding or jumping into action as they attempt to catch one of the heavily armoured opponents off guard. Basically put, it won’t do Faith any good to hang around getting into an in depth battle and it is here that she must use your speed and cunning to the very best effect.
But I’m not here for the fighting. I’m here for the placid, no nonsense sense of point of view speed, giving me the chance to feel each and every jump and actually, occasionally, give a damn when I send Faith to her death. Momentum and focus play key roles in helping you hit each ledge and without them, plunging from the rooftops is a rather common occurrence.
The missions included in the beta may be a little repetitive and there could indeed be the worry that the entire game may befall that issue, but there is only so much that can be done when the main focus on everything, quite rightly, are the free running mechanics. I’m not sure I’d be happy to judge a game on repetition when that is the very key to its success, but a fairly large range of unlockable skills and abilities should see that issue go by largely unnoticed. That is something however that we’ll only really be able to tell once we get the chance to put the hours required into Faith’s adventure.
So, has the Mirror’s Edge Catalyst closed beta condemned the full game to a critical hell and a bargain bucket placement like the Homefront offering certainly did?
Not at all. If anything, I’ve been mightily impressed by what we’ve been shown and I’m now even more excited about visiting the city of Glass than I was previously!
Many thanks go out to both EA and Xbox for giving us the opportunity to check out the closed beta of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst.