E3 2015: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst marks the faithful return of a classic — but the E3 demo disappoints (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

A 13 minute presentation followed by a 13 minute hands-on demo of a pre-alpha PC build set in the game’s Centurion Yards area, played using an Xbox One controller.

Catalyst is pretty much exactly what you were expecting — Mirror’s Edge set within an open world and with a control scheme that will feel instantly recognisable to anybody who played the original. But the E3 demo disappoints, with only a handful of generic side-quests on offer, unintuitive combat and a sometimes-awkward approach to navigation.

In fairness, DICE’s approach to navigating the open world is clever in theory, with players able to set a waypoint to their next objective by pulling up a map. Once you’ve set your course, jump points, pipes and flagpoles in the direction of your objective dynamically highlight themselves in red, painting a path for players to follow towards their marker. Throughout the demo, though, I often found that the next jump or climb point was slightly out of view, and the path to my destination wasn’t as immediately obvious as it should be.

The three missions on offer in the demo disappointed, too, essentially functioning as the type of side-quests you’d see in a typical open world game. Dash is a time trial event that sees players running, leaping and sliding to a certain point as fast as possible; Delivery has you deliver an item to a particular point on the map while facing off enemies; and Billboard Hack sees you navigating the side of a building to reach a billboard on the top. Think of it as Mirror’s Edge’s twist on Far Cry’s towers but, in the demo at least, nowhere near as puzzling.

It’s also worth noting that combat seemed unavoidable during the Delivery mission, forcing players to defeat enemies located at the drop point. Collectible holograms called ‘Gridleaks’ are dotted around the world too, if you ever just want to kick back and explore.

Ultimately, though — and this is the real kicker — I never felt the same level of rhythm or excitement I got from the original game in the 13-minute demo. With the open world forcing players to learn routes rather than follow deliberately-placed paths within linear levels it was difficult to build any sense of momentum, and I often found myself stopping once every few seconds to work out where to go next. Once players have learned the layout of the city that may well be a non-issue, and I’m still optimistic that the final product will be the faithful return of Mirror’s Edge it promises to be. But in the 13 minutes I got to play around with it, Catalyst’s E3 demo didn’t leave me particularly confident that going open world is the best direction for the series.

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