At E3, we weren't able to check out Mirror's Edge: Catalyst due to scheduling issues. Another chance came along at Gamescom, but sadly we were presented with the same gameplay that we saw at EA's briefing before the big European show. Finally, at PAX Prime, we were able to spend a brief time with Faith and her newest adventure.
Friendly Places, Strange Faces
The demo began with a series of cutscenes, showing Faith released from police custody and eventually linking up with her old comrades right outside the prison walls. One interesting add-on to the game was the use of tech to set up the world around her. Once released, the authorities placed a tracking wearable on Faith and told her that she needed to find legitimate work as soon as possible, or else fall down the pit of recidivism. Fortunately, Faith's male friend was able to cut off the device and provide a singular contact lens that provides her with updates on missions and all available parkour paths in front of her.
Veterans of the first game know the parkour system well. Certain ledges, walls, ziplines and doors are highlighted in red, marking a potential where Faith can use her agility to evade enemies or access otherwise-unreachable places. But unlike the original Mirror's Edge, this city, called Glass, is more of an open-world system compared to the series of levels of the original. By opening the in-game map, players can select from one of the three missions available. A waypoint is then created, and the route is marked with the familiar bright red.
So Little Time
The timed demo had three small missions available: a timed run, a combat drop and hacking a billboard. As the name suggests, the timed run allows players to go through a certain route and reach the end in the fastest time possible. Every second is important, with decisions such as jumping over a ledge or going around it being the difference between the top two spots on the leaderboard. In the final game, this will obviously play a big factor in the online component, where hundreds of thousands of players will attempt to be the fastest runner in the city.
Of the three quests, combat drop seems to be the most exciting piece of gameplay. Faith must deliver a small package to a certain drop, but the route is filled with enemies that are bound to notice her, so she must fight her way through guards while still keeping her momentum going to stay a few steps ahead of the soldiers.
From the moment she tackled the first guard and continued the run, it was obvious that the combat was fixed to feel more fluid and fast-paced. In Mirror's Edge, fighting was almost considered certain death because it felt too stiff and out-of-place. You could have some sort of running start to get the jump on an enemy, but the series of punches and kicks that followed rooted the player in a fixed position, which spells disaster for someone whose modus operandi is speed and agility.
In Catalyst, combat didn't mean that you needed to fully stop and engage a guard. By crippling their legs or jumping from a higher vantage point, Faith can quickly incapacitate opponents. Approaching the last enemy in the way triggered a small cutscene where Faith performed a stylish, breakdance-like maneuver to get the enemy off-guard (no pun intended) and clear the way to the drop -- a small, exposed ventilation shaft.
Hacking a billboard is one of those things that sounds better than what actually happens during the mission. If anything, this promotes the game's exploration factor. These billboards are noticed by everyone, so they are strategically placed atop higher structures. With a combination of moves, the player needs to navigate through various obstacles to reach the summit, so to speak. Once Faith reaches the billboard, all she needs to do is place her hand on the board, hacking the corporate display into a message of rebellion to the city. As an added bonus, the descent is easier with a zipline or a high drop into a safe cushion.
More To Explore
Once you finish all three missions, the rest of the area is up for exploration. A small set of collectibles is hidden throughout the map, and you can also continue to improve your time in the timed running mission. For now, the limited space is still reminiscent of the levels of Mirror's Edge. Then again, the game is still in pre-alpha development.
We still don't know how large of a portion we'll be able to explore in Glass as well as the additional missions that have yet to be revealed. The game is still a long ways off from release, but if the demo is an indication of what's to come, then fans and newcomers alike can look forward to a huge upgrade in the sequel. The routes of exploration will yield new secrets and faster routes, while the online community has the potential to turn the city into a large racetrack, pushing the limits of their runners in a race to see who is at the top of the clan.