Faith is back in Mirror's Edge Catalyst, a franchise reboot from DICE of the first person free-running (now free-roaming) action title. With a larger story, a larger world, and a closer look at Faith, herself, Mirror's Edge Catalyst looks to up the ante considerably from the original title.
To be honest, it's been a long time since I played the original Mirror's Edge, so when I got my hands on the controls, I had forgotten a number of gameplay elements that were (according to the game's Design Director Erik Odeldahl) standard to the original game; particularly the up/down free running button selection control. Soon I began to pick up the gameplay again, however, and began to traverse the city with what nevertheless did feel like a greater sense of free flow than the original game.
Partially this is related to how the game handles combat, and Odeldahl told me that this was by design, that Faith was a better martial artist in this entry, who would be able to handle herself—and won't get shot—as long as you kept her within that flow. He also added, when I pressed further, that Faith wouldn't be handling any guns, either.
In the gameplay demo, we were dropped onto an open map of the city and given three missions. Fearing I wouldn't have enough time to get through them, I rushed through the time trial, combat, and billboard missions. The race was a simple matter of getting from part of the map through another, following the red guides laid down as soon as I accepted the mission, and placing a waypoint anywhere on the map will create the red path-finding markers across the city rooftops to guide Faith anywhere she wants to get to in the city. Combat had Faith doing a delivery that put her into the crosshairs of security enemies, whom the final was felled with a special move that went to a third-person view in which Faith dispatched the enemy with an impressive display of martial skill. The final mission had Faith climbing up to a digital billboard to hack it and replace it with her insignia (the same as her eye tattoo).
In all cases, the dynamism of motion and speed was exemplary. Each of these emphasized the way that Faith moves, refining the gameplay of the original fantastically and giving the player a clear direction on how the game is meant to be played, and where future gameplay will be directed. Some context-sensitive gameplay was so natural that there were no tutorial elements necessary as I simply performed the tasks naturally simply by keeping Faith moving in the right direction (like wall running or mantling over low obstacles). Combining this with the constant motion of the running free flow made for a superlative first-person parkour experience. It felt absolutely exhilarating.
In terms of story, Mirror's Edge Catalyst has a broader narrative, but one that gives us a closer look at Faith. The story element of the demo began with Faith being released from a 12-month sentence (under probation) for a crime that I never quite made out, though it was mentioned during the presentation that she had been making a living as a courier and cat burglar, all told in third person cut scenes. Odeldahl later confirmed that you would get to experience Faith's gameplay as a cat burglar during the game. During the video it's mentioned that the City of Glass is under the rule of corporations and those by the game's antagonist, Gabriel Kruger, owner of the police/security force, KrugerSec.
Harassed by the guards as she left the prison, Faith meets up with another runner who who gave her a contact lens which displays a futuristic visual overlay, and after he disables the overly busy hook-up it has to the grid, it presumably becomes your HUD. Then I was off to meet contacts and presumably start a journey in which Faith winds up embroiled in a revolution. While this is about all we saw of the story, it gave a pretty fair indication of where things were going.
All in all, Mirror's Edge Catalyst is highly impressive. It takes the gameplay of the original and refines it, with a great deal of polish. The city rooftops remain spare and clean, making it easy to see paths, but Faith has become an immediately more relatable character—even from the small bit I played—with nuance. However, it's the refinement of the free-running gameplay for a much larger sandbox that really shone through in the demo.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst releases on February 23, 2016 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.