One of my favourite games of last generation is finally getting a sequel. When EA unveiled the teaser trailer for ‘Mirrors Edge Catalyst’ last E3 I became an excited quivering mess and I’m not embarrassed about who knows that! At all.
When they announced that there would be a closed BETA for it though, I instantly signed up for it and hoped to get selected. Last week was quite unpleasant for me, the BETA began and I had received no email. I feared the worst and was hugely disappointed – especially in the wake of the delay announcement – how was I going to wait until June?
Slowly but surely I came to terms with my snub and got on with my life….
….then, on the Saturday, my code arrived in my inbox. I was elated – question is though is the game worth (free) running to, or should you (free) run away from it?
Early impressions of the game were not good. That’s not entirely accurate – they were very good, the graphics are excellent and the world is instantly recognisable! I had a wave of nostalgia overcome me and I was truly excited to see what the game had to offer…
…within five minutes though that excitement was gone. I literally ran in a straight line to the first mission point – the NPC spoke to me through a door, then walked away leaving the door slightly ajar. A new checkpoint appeared; only it was inaccessible to me – I had to get through the door, but I just couldn’t.
I ran around the small area looking for another way around, but none existed. After a few minutes I was suddenly teleported through the half-open door and the quest continued. Unfortunately the first line of dialogue caused my PS4 to hard crash.
After the restart – I tried again, there was no issue with continuing the mission, the door opened as it should and I was on my way – it took about a minute to realise that I had no sound; at all. A quick rummage through the menu and it had been turned down to 0 – I turned it back up and continued, undeterred but getting a little annoyed.
When the action kicked in (evading the police) I realised that my right analogue stick was hugely unresponsive – again I rummaged through the menu and found that it had been turned down to 5%. It was here that I came to the conclusion that this was proper BETA – it wasn’t a glorified demo designed to sell copies – it was actually testing the systems in place, there were pretty severe bugs to be found here. And while it was annoying, it was refreshing to feel a part of a game’s development.
The good news is that this was the last major bug that I encountered, those first five minutes were very rough but I was genuinely over the worst of it. The game-play helped me get over this initial disappointment in the best way possible; it was truly excellent and was exactly what I hoped it would be; namely ‘Mirrors Edge’ turned to 11! The story missions were really good, excellent in fact, they were varied and challenging – everything a good story mission should be.
The real longevity comes from the time trials though, the DICE made runs are excellent, and there are so many routes to take in order to get your time down, I lost an hour to one of them shaving milliseconds off my time to get up the table. Even player made routes were fun; if lacking some imagination. I cannot wait until the community get some time to really create excellent courses. Of course all of this would be useless if the controls were awful…
…Thankfully though, Faith controls with a precision and responsiveness that puts all other games to shame, when you are in full flow there is a choreographed beauty to everything and when you mess up – you know is on you!
Combat was also a thing of operatic beauty, a few subtle changes have transformed it from awkward and distracting to brutal and graceful. You can now attack on the move which has no detrimental effect on your momentum, and with the better physics engine you can knock attackers into each other and the environment. As you run you build a “flow meter” which allows you to dodge bullets and resist any damage (except for counters), this is a little change, but it creates Hollywood-esque action sequences that more than match the visual quality.And visual quality is probably the biggest improvement seen here over the original.
As soon as the BETA got going the first thing I noticed was the improved graphics, anyone who says that the current generation of consoles is not much more graphical capable than the last really needs to get their eyes tested. The jump in visual clarity here from the original is staggering. The dynamic lighting instantly hits your eyes with its stunning beauty, right at the start of the game it is raining and you can clearly see light reflecting off every individual drop as it falls, is a beautiful lighting system that eclipses that seen anywhere else! Particle effects, character models and the environments also look excellent! And the game greatly benefits from the boost in frames-per-second (from 30 to 60) but there is some inconsistency apparent in here.
Although he game feels brilliant because of the improved frame-rate, moving around the world is much more responsive and keeping your flow high seems much easier; it is not a 60fps locked. Admittedly it is for about 80% of the time but there are moments when there is a stuttering in what you are playing. It doesn’t feel like a pure frame drop though; it feels like the game is loading something into the game – perhaps this is a side-effect from the game being open-world and it should be ironed out for release.
Another issue with the graphics is that some textures are ridiculously low-quality – it is mostly seen in the many billboards around Glass City it is jarring when you notice it because everything else is so crisp and beautiful. However it should be noted that DICE turned down the textures in the ‘Battlefront’ BETA to keep the file size down, perhaps that is the same here.
Overall ‘Mirrors Edge Catalyst’ was a proper BETA that had its fair share of issues. However judging on the game-play then it is excellent, everything here is how a next-gen ‘Mirrors Edge’ should be. Everything is instantly familiar and recognisable and although the much-lauded open world is the biggest difference between the franchise entries – it doesn’t dramatically change how the game plays. And as a result this is perhaps its greatest strength and wekaness. I doubt ‘Catalyst’ will win new fans – but it will satisfy anyone with even a passing interest of the original.
I for one cannot wait until this game launches and have pre-ordered it on the strength of what I played in this BETA!
Did you play the BETA?
Why not tell us in the comments what you thought of it!