When the original Mirror's Edge made its debut in 2008, it presented a fascinating new take on first-person games, putting us in the shoes of a limber free-runner named Faith as she battled her way through a futuristic city, completing missions while occasionally brushing elbows with an evil government. The game innovated in many ways, mainly by staying in first-person throughout each activity, whether it was swinging off ziplines, fighting enemy soldiers or making death-defying jumps across rooftops.
Jump (literally) seven years later, and we once again cross paths with Faith in the long-awaited prequel Mirror's Edge Catalyst. This time around, the free-runner has begun to learn her parkour skills, as she works alongside an underground network in the city of Glass, once again fending off government forces as she makes deliveries and works her way from point A to point B. It won't be easy, as the head boss, Gabriel Kruger, firmly has Faith right in his sights.
There's a bigger difference this time around, though. In the original game, Faith had to follow a linear path to get where she was going. With Catalyst, there's a bigger open-world area to explore, and more than one way to get to her objective. In some situations, she can climb across catwalks and jump across a roof to reach another building; or she can take another route leaping across to another building, then climbing a pipe to get where she needs to go. This time, it's completely up to the player to reach their destination – and it opens up a number of new possibilities for Faith.
Most of the parkour-style stunts are similar to the previous game, including running across walls (Prince of Persia style), leaping and grabbing ledges, quickly jumping over smaller objects without missing a beat, and performing a roll at the peak of a jump to avoid taking damage. It's all done in dizzying real-time, and it's truly a sight to see, based on the hands-on time we had with the demo.
What's more, Faith no has access to an overhead map. So if she wants to reach a certain objective, all she needs to do is mark it, and she can follow prompts in the level to get there. Objects will glow bright red to give an indication of her next move, although, again, the route can change depending on which way you want her to go. It's solidly put together thus far, even though we've only seen a small portion of the world.
One thing you'll notice about the gameplay, however, is that you no longer have to prompt Faith to run. She'll do it automatically, building up speed after a second. However, you'll have to keep this momentum going by avoiding running into objects. As stated above, you can vault over smaller items, like air conditioners and blocks, and slide under pipes without missing a beat. Sometimes momentum can be just the thing to save your life, especially if you have an enemy – like a helicopter – in hot pursuit.
Combat is more linear this time as well. Gone is the ability to grab someone's gun and fire it at incoming soldiers – that's just not Faith's style. In its place, however, is a smooth combat system with various moves. If you're in the air, you can press the X button (or square, depending on the version) to perform an aerial attack and get them out of the way. You can also slide kick into foes if you're running, or perform a number of combination punches, depending how successfully you counter an incoming attack. It's a smoother system this time around, and it certainly feels more like Faith's speed. Some may miss the guns, but probably not by much.
The more progress you make in Mirror's Edge Catalyst, the more the city opens up to you. This includes more missions, more dangerous enemies to take down, and more importantly, far greater space to roam around and see what Glass has to offer. Like the original game, there will be plenty of hidden goodies strewn about as well, giving you all the more reason to explore.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst is still a ways off from its release – we won't see it until February 2016 – but it looks to go leaps and bounds over what the original game offered. With better versatility in how Faith plays, a larger world to explore, and astounding visuals and sounds, it's truly a step up from the original 2008 release. Just a word of warning: be careful when you fall off a building. It's quite painful. Ouch.