Honestly I’ve taken awhile to think this over partly because I’m lazy but also because I really don’t want to get this wrong. But if the beta of the next installment in the ME franchise is anything to go by, Catalyst looks to be a decent, if not underwhelming title by DICE. Now granted, the game is in beta, so take any graphical qualms I have with a grain of salt. I’d also like to point out I’m not going to be talking about any story elements since there’s not enough for me to draw a conclusion on. That being said, I’ll jump right into it. First, the parkour still works very well, if not better. While the skill tree that locks certain moves feels needless in a game meant to be minimalist, its a great way to introduce some of the more complex moves to newcomers. This especially applies to combat.
While a lot of people are talking about how the combat feels clunky or how DICE wants you to try and avoid combat, I felt as if the combat was one of the more entertaining parts of the game. Rather than waiting for your opponent to attack you and then countering him, the combat system now allows, and encourages you, to go on the offensive. While you can perform simple combos by simply pressing the attack button repeatedly, you can also direct your attacks so enemies can stumble into each other and even fall off of any nearby ledges. But the highlight of the combat is easily in the traversal attacks. For those looking for ways to enjoy combat and not get swarmed by a dozen guards, traversal attacks allow you to do a huge amount of damage to an enemy by utilizing both your freerunning and combat skills. This involves running on a wall and stomping an enemy’s face into the ground (there’s this wonderfully satisfying crack as you break a guard’s helmet on impact) to gaining enough speed to slide into and connect your foot with your opponent’s shin. The combat system alone makes me look forward to jumping back into the game.
All that being said, my biggest issue lies in the world design. While the original ME had this wonderful canvas of stark primaries painted against otherwise polar buildings, this city seems to lack some of that color. In fact, a lot of the time it just feels…blank. And that’s my biggest issue with the game from what I’ve played. The collectibles such as data leaks or security chips don’t feel important or rewarding enough to actually collect, the few people on the rooftops that could give them life seem to do little but stand in awkward silence, and the extra objectives like delivery missions or races never felt interesting, and a lot of this is because the city itself doesn’t seem like one that rewards exploration. It just feels lifeless, and in turn the game itself seems to lack life. All that being said, the side missions are actually very fun. From what I’ve played they involve anything from breaking into apartments to infiltrating a private security firm and chasing down runaway drones. If the game can apply the fun and adventure of these side missions into the world around it, the game has a chance to improve drastically.
In the end, Mirror’s Edge has some interesting gameplay mechanics, but those mechanics aren’t enough to make the whole of the game interesting. DICE has been making linear shooters for so long (if you exclude the poorly received Battlefield: Hardline), its possible they just don’t know enough on how to make an interesting open world game. If nothing gets improved however, the game is decent, if not a bit flawed.