Mirror’s Edge was a smart, critically acclaimed attempt to do something different with first-person gaming, but it never really sold the way it should have. So DICE is rebooting the concept with Mirrors Edge: Catalyst and expanding it in the process. The result, even in the closed beta form launching today and running through the 26th, is a welcome return for fans and a fresh take on first-person gaming for newbies.
The biggest change is that you’ve got freedom. Instead of the previous game’s linear setpiece levels, you’ve now got an open world filled with all sorts of parkour assisting toys to go leaping through. Fair warning, you don’t get your hand held; you can easily fall off a building if you’re not paying attention, although the game is pretty generous with letting you grab a ledge if you’re quick with your thumbs. And the movement system takes a little getting used to; the default controls have jumping and sliding on the left triggers, bashing through doors and 180 turns on the right ones.
But, oh, what movement it is. The idea of an open-world, first-person platformer, which is more or less what this game is, seems almost illogical on the face of it, but as you hit a springboard into a zipline and roll into a wallrun, it makes so much more sense in the playing. In most games, getting from here to there is a task. Here, it’s exhilarating.
They’ve also taken guns out of the game altogether, at least guns you can carry, but in return Faith has taken a few Krav Maga classes, and she’s easily capable of punting enemies off roofs and slide-kicking them into railings. The beta spends much of the early going teaching you how these new systems work, and DICE made a subtle decision that running away is a lot more fun than standing and fighting; “traversal attacks,” quick attacks you land while running that let you keep up momentum, allow you to get enemies out of the way and keep going. If you get stuck, you can handle yourself, but it’s far more fun to sail through the air and just knock the wind out of enemies before keeping your run going.
The social features are also fairly interesting. Users can design their own races using any section of the game, and can also hide beacons for other players to find. It adds flavor to the beta without being obtrusive.
Just like when it arrived in 2008, there’s nothing quite like this game. So if you missed it the first time, it’s shaping up to be even better the second time around.