Leap of Faith

Many, many moons ago, the wonderful people at DICE gave us a high octane, first person parkour title called Mirror’s Edge, exclusively for the Xbox 360 and later Windows (and, eventually, the PlayStation 3). Gamers who took the opportunity to explore Faith’s luminous and white world were rewarded with wonderful and tight gameplay, and one of the most unique games of the generation. Years passed without as much as a word for a sequel. The game received fairly positive reviews, and it was loved by a rabid fan base. It was to everyone’s glee that DICE announced a reboot for Mirror’s Edge in the form of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. We at Bit Cultures were given the opportunity to play the closed beta – and, man, was it enjoyable.

The beta opens with Faith, the strong and agile protagonist, awakening in a prison-esque cell on the day of her release. According to the brief backdrop, Faith was caught by security during one of her missions, and it’s assumed some sort of foul play was afoot. As soon as she exits the security terminal, she’s met by a mysterious man, Icarus, a new member of her Cabal – the organization she works for – who takes her off the security grid and points her home. Unfortunately, once her connection is cut from KSec, Faith become a wanted fugitive; and thus, the tutorial begins.

Mirrors Edge parkour

For Mirror’s Edge veterans, gameplay will feel natural; not much has changed from the basic parkour action that worked surprisingly well. Sprinting is accomplished by holding the right mouse button, and you can vault objects and jump with the space bar, slide under bars or low walls with control, and fight with either the left mouse button or the F key. As you progress and upgrade Faith, more parkour and combat actions become available, making her a deadly adversary for the cocky and unsuspecting security forces. Once you’ve succeeded in the tutorial, you must guide Faith to the hideout of her Cabal and its leader Noah, who sends you out on your first mission.

From what I’ve played of the closed beta, missions are split in a few directions. Main story missions have you running mostly unique objectives (though the first few missions appear to be tutorials and have you completing side task objectives). Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, however, maintains a completely open world map. That’s right, the entire city is open to your hardcore parkour fetish. Side quests can be found via your map (opened with the tab key), and they, from what I’ve seen, consist of timed speed runs and data collection and drop offs. I imagine there will be plenty more to choose from upon full release. Faith can also sabotage security by stealing chips from electrical panels, and she can collect other collectibles throughout the map.

This is how Faith finds her paths

This is how Faith finds her paths

But honestly, if Mirror’s Edge provided a meager story and nothing to do but parkour, I think I could find myself venturing the city for hours. DICE really nailed the parkour gameplay style – something no other developer, to my knowledge, has been able to do well (think Brink). All of your actions flow smoothly together, and the more you upgrade Faith, the more creative and fluent your parkour will become. I cannot speak highly enough about the gameplay mechanics in Mirror’s Edge. Oh, and let’s not forget – the game is beautiful. From character models to the immaculate city, DICE’s famed knack for incredible graphics shines.

To play the devil’s advocate, however, I will point out one frustrating piece of gameplay: combat. As I mentioned earlier, the F key allows Faith to attack regularly; however, not all enemies will succumb to a simple barrage of the F key. More advanced enemy types require Faith to dodge around attacks (requiring an arrow key and the right mouse button during combat) to land successful hits. Others still will require you to get creative, especially when battling more than two soldiers at once. On the bright side, Faith can induce parkour attacks where she executes an assault as she exits parkour. For example, when wall running and jumping, if you click the left mouse button right before you land on an enemy, you will one shot him with a drop kick. Other parkour attacks involve a slide kick (left-clicking at the terminus of a parkour slide), a body drop, and a side kick (where Faith can kick one soldier into the next by choosing a direction). Some missions require Faith to never break from a sprint, meaning she must utilize her parkour attacks on the entire run (if she stops, the mission is failed, and she must try again).

Faith punch

To summarize, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst’s closed beta offered just a mere glimpse into what looks like to be an expansive, gorgeous title. Tight controls and a large set of upgrades lend to extremely enjoyable gameplay that, at least for me, won’t get stale anytime soon. Set to hit retailers in the U.S. in early June, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is shaping up to be a hit. Look for our review once we get our hands on the final copy.

UPDATE: Closed Beta Gameplay