All of my experiences with the original Mirror’s Edge went badly. It takes a lot to make me motion sick, but the first game and Super Mario Galaxy are the only two titles to make my stomach flop. I’d attempt parkour, thing I’d make the jumps, somehow fail and feel mentally and physically horrible as a result. This meant I was less than excited about Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the prequel Dice has been putting together for EA. But, the duty fell to me to learn about and play it at E3 2015 and, in retrospect, I’m glad it did. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is far more welcoming than Faith’s original adventure.
I realized things might not be so bad during the presentation. Before the hands-on preview, players watched a brief Mirror’s Edge Catalyst video explaining the controls and premise of the game. Faith is a runner just being released from a Kreuger detention center. The city of Glass has three factions, Kreuger, Runners and Black November. Immediately after being sprung, Faith is freed from the propaganda being piped into her brain from Kreuger and takes to the skies again.
One of the first things we were told was that we really only needed to focus on two controls. The left bumper makes Faith perform an up action in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and the left trigger is assigned to down actions. Maintaining momentum is everything. The right trigger will allow her to open doors, when they appeared, and two face buttons are assigned to combat. Certain opponents will even require specific attacks to get past their guard and win, but it still remains simple and, as long as she keeps momentum, she won’t be hurt. Going with the flow is key.
The E3 2015 demo began with a tutorial to ease players into Faith’s shoes and perspective, while also getting her up off of the streets. I was unsteady at this early segment, perhaps because the unpleasant memories were holding me back. I kept remembering what it used to be like to walk in Faith’s shoes, worrying it would carry over to Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, even in this early stage, was smooth in a way the original wasn’t. Within moments, I was able to master the controls, get Faith up to speed and have her off the streets.
It was then that Glass opened up to me. The Mirror’s Edge Catalyst demo was about 10 minutes long and had three missions available, though exploring the city was an option as well. I decided to try and go through each task, seeing how much I could accomplish before time ran out. I figured I’d complete at least one, maybe sample two. I didn’t expect to do it all, which bodes well for the full release.
The first mission I went through was called Billboard Hack and was billed as a puzzle experience. Faith wanted to upload her tag to a Kreuger billboard, but first had to climb up to it. Speed wasn’t a factor, so I figured it would be a good starting point. My assumption was accurate. While it was a simple enough mission where I wouldn’t have had to speed through it, I found Mirror’s Edge Catalyst naturally welcoming me into a faster pace. It was easy to shimmy up to the heights, thanks to the left trigger and bumper. Faith didn’t fall once, even though there was ample platforming.
It left me feeling confident, so I decided to go with the Delivery mission next. This one was billed as an opportunity to test the combat in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Since I was still uncertain about speeding through an obstacle course, this seemed like a safe bet. Yes, I’d have to make sure Faith kept moving, but hopefully two more buttons wouldn’t be too much more to keep track of.
And again, I was right. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst wasn’t pulling any punches, because Faith definitely could take damage if I slowed down. I even allowed her momentum to pause to test this out. Why? Because I was so comfortable with the controls and things were already smooth enough that I wasn’t faltering when faced with Kreuger guards. The game was welcoming and intuitive enough to ensure even a novice could blunder her way through and succeed on the first try.
This left me feeling so confident that I attempted the final mission in the Mirror’s Edge Catalyst demo, Dash. I was most afraid of it, as it involved speeding through an obstacle course in an attempt to get a “best” time. This is the only task where I had trouble, mainly because the path wasn’t immediately noticeable. I wasn’t sure where to go, and found myself going the wrong way twice before I realized I had inadvertantly gotten myself turned around.
Once I did realize what was required to get it right, I was disappointed to see my time was up. Even though my coordination and dexterity aren’t the best, I believe if I’d had more time, I could have aced that Mirror’s Edge Catalyst mission as well. The preview build felt that natural.
Within the span of half an hour at E3 2015, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst went from a game I had no interest in to something I can’t wait to see. The prequel is so exciting and welcoming, so much so that it almost made me want to give the original a second chance. I can only hope the full 2016 release will be as engaging.