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Mirror's Edge Catalyst
23rd April 2016 - First Time Playing.
Before I begin this blog I'll just make it clear that this is specifically about the Closed Beta version of the game Mirror's Edge Catalyst not the full game. No doubt I will blog about that too when the game comes out in June but that will be a whole a separate blog. Incidentally I am a huge fan of Mirror's Edge, even to the extent of cosplaying as Faith at a sci-fi/comic convention, so this blog may be a little biased but I'll try to mention negative aspects of the game too.
A beta version of a game means it's finished being created and practically ready for sale but hasn't been fully tested yet. It's usually the online features that just need a little testing or the servers themselves that control the online features of the game. It's commonplace now for games requiring a beta test and there are two types, Open Beta and Closed Beta. The first Open Beta involves downloading a limited version of the game for free and simply playing it, while Closed Beta requires a sign up first then hoping to be selected. This is the first game I've beta tested on the PS4 but I have tested a game called Seed and another called RF Online for the PC a number of years ago.
I received an email with a redeem code allowing me to download and play the game for PS4. Surprisingly they also gave a secondary code for a friend. The download itself is 9.213 Gigs which is about a quarter of the size of an average game so it's clearly a far smaller version than the full game. It took about an hour to download.
Upon starting the game there was the usual accept of terms and conditions and having to enter my EA Account name as password which was expected. It also adds a moving watermark of my EA details upon the screen so they can trace me if I upload gameplay footage, but the PS4 Share button is still fully functional.
There is no opening screen and the game simply starts in story mode. It reminded me of the game Remember Me as Faith makes her way around a prison complex being told where to go by her guards until she has the opportunity to escape. Then it's onto the training mode which has to be played and can't be skipped. Even if you fail a particular move you will have to redo it until you succeed. The loading times are slow too.
The button layout is different, the most noticeable being kick and punch being assigned to the Square and Triangle buttons. There's also a waypoint marker and moving red ghost line that tells you where you're supposed to go. At first I thought this was just a gimmick but it's invaluable as the layout of the game means it's so easy to get lost. This is far less linear than the previous game. In many ways it plays like an RPG giving Faith tasks to do before she's even finished her previous task but I'll talk about this later as I haven't fully played it yet. There's also a timed mission that will display the times of other online players once you complete it but this is integrated within the story rather than having it upon a separate menu.
The cutscenes are also completely integrated within the story, they're not cell-shaded cartoon-like as was in the first game. I personally would have preferred them that way as all too often interrupting the game action with a cutscene can ruin the entire gaming experience. Luckily the cutscenes I've seen so far are short with a character explaining to Faith what she must do next. There's also a voice communication with other gaming characters similar to the first game.
Pressing the options to open up the game menu also displays an option to report a game bug. The only one I've seen so far is when I died and respawned facing the wrong way on a beam a long distance away from where I was supposed to be. It's not a serious bug and is likely to do with the checkpoints not being fully set out with the game yet.
Anyway, that's the first post in this blog, I will post daily about my experiences playing this game so be sure to check back later.
24th April 2016 - Second Day's Play.
I've amassed a large amount of screenshots while playing a second time. I'm really having mixed feelings about this game. There is still the excitement and thrill of free-running around the top of high-rise buildings, jumping and grabbing a drainpipe to use it to swing around corners is fun, and Faith is still a kick-ass tough character so early in the game. But the way the story flows and the open-world environment gives a messy feel to the game with having to traverse the same locations multiple times. The scene were Faith found a tape recording made me cringe as that cliché has been done so many times before. (The Last of Us, Rise of the Tomb Raider.) I love the missions to deliver items, not quite having enough time then having to find a faster route, but that's essentially the main plot. I still love this game but it makes me frustrated knowing that it could have been a whole lot better. This is still the beta version so not everything's finished yet, but I don't think much can be changed before the release next month.
Tags are a pleasing feature, Basically you can custom a graphic and tag certain locations with your symbol that others can see online. This isn't fully implemented yet in the beta version, with no way to fully customise the design just yet, but it does give you a taste of what you can do. (Addendum: This was never fully implemented in the final release, instead tags had to be selected via EA's website which allowed them to work within the game).
Many of Faith's friends aren't very nice, they are more colleagues than friends and while they will assist her in certain ways they don't necessarily like her. The game won't let Faith hit them though, she will perform the move but inflict no damage without even causing them to flinch.
You'll be pleased to know, as I was, that there are still yellow bags hidden around the buildings with the same Mirror's Edge symbols nearby revealing their secret location. Theses bags are separate from the delivery missions and are purely for fun. I'm not sure if they effect your XP boost or not as so far I've only found one. I'm sure you'll get PlayStation Trophies for collecting them all.
I don't really want to say too much about the graphics as this is still a beta version and for all I know they could have been toned down a little for the sake of testing. Graphics aren't as important as gameplay so it doesn't bother me too much but visually this game is pretty average. Baring in mind this is a PS4 I'm playing it on, not a PS3, there is clearly room for improvement. Faith looks great by the way, a little older maybe than she did in the previous game, which is a good thing. Her personality has matured too.
The location of the city isn't mentioned but even though it looks similar to the city in the previous game there is an import thing amiss, There is no Japanese signage. Doors, electric fences and basically everything that had a sign was written bilingually in the previous Mirror's Edge but everything here is in English. It seems Faith is the only Asian in the city.
Delivery missions take the form of a character attracting your attention then asking for a package to be delivered to a particular person at a particular location with no questions asked. This reminds me of quests in RPG games. If you accept the delivery you will have a set amount of time to deliver the package. The red waypoint will tell you the direction but it's not always the best way as sometimes you will make no mistakes and still fail to deliver on time. The person assigning you with the delivery will talk to you on the radio as you make your way to the recipient. If you fail you simply have to abandon the mission or replay it. I certainly enjoy the fun of running around rooftops finding the quickest route but it doesn't fully immerse me into the game. Why can't the package just be late instead of me having to replay it? It takes the story element from the game and should have been a separate play mode.
I'm not sure if this is coincidence and the sign is referring to a diner with a fancy spelling, or whether this is in homage to Perfect Dark. But I found this billboard sign amusing, not that many people will understand the reference.
Here are some glitches but bear in mind this is the beta version and a lot of this will likely be fixed by the final release. Incidentally I haven't found that many so far but I'm sure to find more in future. Luckily there are no serious game crashing bugs.
I still fully intend to purchase this game when it comes out. I still have a lot of fun playing this beta version and I hope the full version contains a lot of improvements. Small things like graphic glitches and silly missions I can forgive but I hope there's a proper game with a coherent plot somewhere within this messy game. So far I would rate this game lower than the original, I hope there's something that will change my mind.
26th April 2016 - Third Day's Play.
For a game that I'm in two minds about it is still very addictive and I can play for hours at a time. I've tried to avoid what people having been saying about this game online as to not influence my opinion but I do remember speculation as to whether Catalyst is a prequel or sequel of the first Mirror's Edge. Faith looks a little older in my opinion and she does possess the same tattoos as before so I'd say this is a sequel. I think confusion arouse from a trailer showing Faith getting tattooed but I'm sure that trailer was just a teaser rather than an event that takes place within the game itself. Although saying that there is an unnamed character that resembles Celeste so I could be wrong. (Addendum: In the final release of the game Faith didn't get her arm tattoo until the end of the game. Celeste was mentioned within an in-game document be she made no appearance.)
There are a lot of shiny surfaces within this game so it's possible to get a good look at what Faith looks like. If you press crouch then crawl around she does look a little silly so you can have fun fooling about. You can also use reflections to she what Faith looks like whilst kicking and punching.
The date this game is set is never revealed but it's certainly a dystopian future that reminds me a little of Blade Runner especially enhanced by the giant billboards on the sides of buildings. While this was true for the first game too it seems more emphasized in Catalyst. While everything is clean, other than occasional graffiti in the safe houses, the atmosphere is gritty in a violent police state.
I'm fascinated by the shiny glass roofs of the buildings. I think the programmers took a lot of care giving everything a glossy feel. While many areas still aren't finished yet and some of the graphics below par, what there is so far is highlighted with lots of white and gloss.
Drain pipes on the sides of buildings allow Faith to turn without slowing momentum. It's not too difficult but if you don't get the timing right she will plunge to her death. It is a satisfying feeling to run at full pelt and grab a pipe and change direction, turning 90 degrees with no slow down.
So far I've never seen it rain within this game. There are puddles however and the sound of Faith's footsteps will cause a splashing sound if she steps into them. I often like to look down at her feet as she makes her way around the rooftops, first person games don't often show feet.
The game plays pretty smoothly and I've noticed no slowdown even when Faith is running at pull felt chased by bad guys. The only problem I've noticed along those lines was when a new mission was being explained to me and the music in the background started to stutter. It may have been a simple bug rather than lag, but I'd thought I mention it anyway.
On a final note in this blog entry I thought I'd mention something that I detest about this game. The first Mirror's Edge was a first among gaming, in many ways a pioneer among games. It's not many games that are like that and was a gaming first. I expect the second game of the series to me more of the same or another first in terms of playability and game style. But the totally unrealistic idea of characters accidentally misplacing their recording devices containing all their secret plans is laughable. That said this tired cliché has been done, over and over again, so many times in other games that it's beyond a joke. Why did the game designers felt stealing such a bad idea is beyond me.
27th April 2016 - Error Message.
It seems I can't play today, I'll try again tomorrow. I'm not really sure what this error message means, but it could have simply been a glitch on the servers because I was certainly connected to the internet at the time with no connection problems from other games. This is the PS4 version and generally speaking game consoles don't get these kinds of error messages. Hopefully these sort of things will be ironed out before the release of the full game next month. There is a grammar typo within the error message itself and I wonder if I should report that as a glitch in itself.
28th April 2016 - Summary.
It was a very short beta test and sadly it's ended already. As I said before I'm sure this test was more about testing things at their end, the online features and such, rather than the game itself as the only glitches I noticed were minor. I never experienced a single game crash for instance. If I had known is was going to end so soon I would have spent more time playing missions rather than exploring the city but I'm the kind of person who tries to get to jump onto out of reach locations just to see what's up there. So I never got to finish all the missions within this game, and there was even a bag delivery that I had yet to achieve as I hadn't yet round a faster route.
I'm still in two minds about this game. I certainly had a lot of fun, playing for 2-3 hours each day, but it's far from the style of the first Mirror's Edge with an open world style of play.
The combat, utilizing the Square and Triangle buttons with the right analogue control was messy but I did get used to it pretty quickly and was able to fling one bad guy at another quite often. It also works with crouch so slide kicks were still possible. The AI of bad guys was pretty low so hiding when injured was often successful.
I loved the city, there's plenty to explore, and enjoyed the dashing about finding the best routes to deliver items within their allotted time. I noticed Faith didn't fall to her death as often, but I'm not sure if this is down to level design or simply that I'm better at playing the game. In fact in the first Mirror's Edge this was a common occurrence.
To sum up what I think of this game I will say that it's a lot of fun, it's certainly an addictive game to play, and if you've never played the first one you will certainly enjoy it. But if you have played the first Mirror's Edge you'll likely be subconsciously comparing the game whilst playing it and debating with yourself which is the better version. Just accept that it's different and play the game for what it is, lots of fun.