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Why Guns Are Gone For Good in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

Developer DICE knows what you want; everything you loved about the original, minus the frustrations.

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Few games can divide opinion quite like the first Mirror's Edge, a commercially unsuccessful curio that dared to make first-person platforming--typically a plight of the genre--its star attraction.

Dissertations could be written about how it succeeded; the courage it exhibited in building a game around the eyes of a free-runner, the raw exhilaration of dashing and vaulting and clambering across its dazzling skyline in one relentless motion, the quiet empowerment that came with play-acting a parkour grandmaster at peak physical condition. Essays can be submitted for its failures too; the anonymity of its story, the life-sapping vacuity of its world, and worst of all, the tragic moment at the halfway point where Mirror's Edge surrenders to convention and hands you a lame automatic pistol.

That final tragedy, at the very least, will not be repeated in Mirror's Edge Catalyst, a long-awaited reboot set for release in May on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. At a recent press event held at Stockholm studio DICE, Catalyst's development team claimed that first-person gunplay had been expunged entirely. Some enemies carry rifles and pistols, and later can summon armed helicopters, but returning star Faith will not be enacting her Second Amendment right.

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I ask DICE senior producer Jeremy Miller if the decision to strip out firearms is a massive commercial gamble. Guns sell games, after all.

"What do you mean?" he jokes. "The first-person melee genre is huge."

Like its predecessor at its finest hour, Catalyst will hinge combat on momentum-based melees. Press the attack button in the middle of a dash, or at the crest of a jump, and Faith will launch herself towards a nearby foe. Speed is key; attacking whilst running at full-pelt will result in a haymaker roundhouse kick, and doing the same mid-jump will trigger a pounce manoeuvre where Faith uses an unwitting enemy as her landing cushion.

"The combat is an extension of movement, so that melee attacks can be made from every single traversal move," Miller says.

The city of Glass is a glossy superstructure of skyscrapers, preposterously perfect with sandblasted concrete and shimmering billboards and a maddening lack of anomalies.

When sliding across the rooftops, for example, the attack command will direct Faith towards an enemy's kneecaps. Conversely, a lack of tempo is punished. DICE has made standing fights deliberately graceless and tedious in a bid to discourage them. Certainly I didn’t find them enjoyable. Lest enemies get their jabs in, you must play at speed. Catalyst is unrelenting in its demands that you approach it as fast as possible (I genuinely cannot remember if Faith is able to walk at a measured pace). Build up enough speed and momentum, in fact, and eventually you’ll enter a state where you’re invulnerable to bullets. The on-screen hints of where to go next, meanwhile, come via dashes of red paint that speed off into the distance. It’s almost as if the game is telling you to keep up.

Spare a second to stand and stare, however, and just like with the first game you'll come to an epiphany: Catalyst is distractingly beautiful. The city of Glass is a glossy superstructure of skyscrapers, preposterously perfect with sandblasted concrete and shimmering billboards and a maddening lack of anomalies. It is the pristine facade of a dystopian police state; the shining jewel of hyper-capitalism, striking and humongous and soulless, suspended under a cloudless, bright blue sky.

You've been here so many times before though, in Airstrip One and City 17 and Columbia and Dunwall, and frankly I'm not sure how many more fascist metropolises of totalitarian superpowers I can stomach. At its worst, Catalyst is sometimes too shallow and predictable in its message about surveillance and information-overload. And its cast of characters, the free-thinking vandals who are just dying to choose the red pill, tend to be as irritating as their IKEA-grade clothing. No wonder Faith works alone.

Catalyst has adopted an open-world mission structure
Catalyst has adopted an open-world mission structure

But there are signs of progress and evolution elsewhere, particularly with how Catalyst has adopted an open-world mission structure. Much like in Grand Theft Auto, you encounter contacts across the city to discover what missions they have for you. Some are main characters who present key objectives that drive the narrative, others are people scattered across the rooftops (y'know, just hanging out) who offer various side-quests. For a game built around the solitary exploration of a single city, going open-world is a wonderful decision.

The main missions, at least at the outset, stick to the basics. One moment you’ll be creeping into a building and hacking its computer terminals, the next you’ll be fleeing from armed helicopters in pursuit. The side-quests tend to ask you to deliver a package of some kind, or reach a certain point in the map within a certain time frame. The tight time constraints demand near-perfection and creative ways to chop milliseconds. I found them exhilarating.

Easily the most impressive technical feat is the runner’s vision; imagine a free-runner sat-nav system in Google Glass and you’re close. Place a marker on any point on the map and a route will dynamically be generated, highlighting your path by colouring key objects in red. It’s far smarter than modern sat-navs; this isn’t a line telling you to take the third exit at the next roundabout, this is dashes of red placed on pipes and ramps and scaffolding to give you just enough information about where to go next. There’s a brilliant nuance to it; you’ll be able to follow your path at speed as long as you concentrate, but you’re not blindly following an obtrusive red line either. It's not as though a giant red paint-roller has been let loose across the city.

There's also a curious new RPG system built into Faith's repertoire. Players earn XP as they progress and spend that on various manoeuvre unlocks such as quick-turns and skill-rolls (don't worry, I'm told there's no microtransactions used to expedite upgrades). Miller explains that one benefit in locking away skills and tools for later in the game is they tend to be given more consideration once opened. "The interesting thing about the quick-turn is when we gave it to players from the beginning, they didn't use it so much,” he said. “But when we allowed them to unlock the skill, there was a big upturn in how much it's used."

Mastering advanced skills will be crucial in Catalyst's new social feature, which allows you to create your own parkour race courses.

Mastering those advanced skills will be crucial in Catalyst's new social feature, which allows you to create your own parkour race courses. You place markers and checkpoints across the city and upload that route online, along with your fastest time. On paper it seems like a bullet-point addition, a way for DICE to shoehorn an online feature. But in practice it’s utterly absorbing, stripping the game down to the fundamental joy of fighting against the clock by running as efficiently and fluidly as possible.

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I suppose that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Like with its predecessor, freerunning in Catalyst is entrancing and, when in flawless free-flow, quite irresistible. From the three hours of the beta build that I played, much of the game strikes me as a second attempt at the original. Its world and objectives and gameplay loops are so familiar that one might mistake this for a next-gen remaster. And while I agree that sequels should usually try to be distinct, in this case some familiarity is welcomed. Developer DICE knows what you want; everything you loved about the original, minus the frustrations. Just how far the studio has gone in achieving that goal will become clear in a matter of weeks. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is due to ship on May 24 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. A closed beta for the game will be deployed on April 22.

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Now Playing: Can Mirror's Edge Catalyst Fix Problems From the Original?

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crossleyrob

Rob Crossley

Rob Crossley was GameSpot's UK Editor between 2014 and 2016.

Mirror's Edge Catalyst

Mirror's Edge Catalyst

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Rezerlius91

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The only question I have why did dice decide to reboot Mirror's Edge? I really do feel like it was unnecessary to make a reboot I actually liked the first one better because of its gameplay unlike Catalyst I don't like it's gameplay because they kind of force you to fight Kruger sec soldiers that has guns and you are unable to disarm them unlike the first one you was able to disarm an enemy I don't get it why did they remove it? I have the game on the PS4 I would rate this game 4 stars and 8 out of 10 I still think it was unnecessary for them to make a reboot instead they should have made Mirror's Edge 2 anyone agrees with me?

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fawfulmark2

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On point. I always felt picking up a gun slowed down the flow of movement to a standstill, and because you had to cycle from counter>disarm>drop gun constantly it left you open to potshots.

I consider this a boon :)

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jedikv

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@fawfulmark2: A refinement of that process would have sufficed. Completely taking away the feature seemed like an extreme.

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Renoo27

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I didn't see the problem with having guns in the first game. Dudes are shooting at you, you take one out, it makes sense to use his gun. Taking that out will make it feel unnatural.

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Trogdor8freebir

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@Renoo27: imo it makes it feel less natural. She's a runner, not a cop. If we were playing as Kate or something, then sure. We're not though. I've always felt that the guns in Mirror's Edge made the gameplay feel unnatural due to how out of place they were when compared with the rest of the gameplay.

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jedikv

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@trogdor8freebir: It was an optional route to use the guns and getting shot at made you plan your runs from one place to the next. Never saw any complaints about their presence at the time of release, seems like an unnecessary feature removal.

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chriss_m

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I love dystopian fiction. It's a major theme of much of sci fi, regardless of the genre. Not sure why the write of this piece takes umbrage with the fact that we get a comparable number of games exploring the theme. Not less dystopian fiction, *more*.

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yoda12284

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Can't believe its been 7 years since the last game. Really looking forward to this.

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does286moss403

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Having her chase and ride a drone is genius. Does it have difficulty settings? would be a great game to have 4-5 difficulty settings from very easy on up.

Also let's recall the very first trailer for Mirror's Edge 2 that has a wonderful Uncharted 4 vibe and a delicious variation in rhythm from slow to fast to slow again. If this game is all fast-fast-fast without variation, that's going to a problem. Go back and watch that first trailer if you can find it.

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waelse1

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Kudos to the team for trying something different, it looks interesting.

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cpuchess

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Edited By cpuchess

So it's immersion breaking right from the start, great. I see a gun lying on the floor, people are shooting me yet I will ignore the gun, makes perfect sense..

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youre_a_sheep

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I did a pacifist run on the original, but there were a handful of points that were maddening to get through that way. Glad this one will be designed to be played the way I want to.

The only major issue I had that got no mention here is puzzle elements. There were a few times where I was stuck in the original with no idea how to get out of an area, which destroyed the momentum. The whole game should be fleeing danger and bewildering enemies with blinding speed and evasion. In fact it would be great if an apparent path got cut off when an enemy steps into the way and you suddenly have to change course.

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gamerboy100

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Edited By gamerboy100

@youre_a_sheep: I did a pacifist run on hard difficulty. Big mistake. I eventually beat it, but damn, that was irritating.

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Fandango_Letho

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If only those edgy outfits and lame-ass emo/tribal tattoos were gone too. Yuck. And this comes from a full-sleeve guy.

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deactivated-5e7f8a21de9dd

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I don't like the little red wisp telling you where to go

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harharhar69

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@realguitarhero5: I can't imagine that it is not optional. So don;t worry about that.

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RedWave247

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@realguitarhero5: It might be optional. The first game highlighted areas that you could use, but you could turn it off.

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gamerboy100

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@RedWave247: It was automatically turned off in the first game if you played on hard difficulty.

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stewart24

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Edited By stewart24

@realguitarhero5: I was think I got the same thing. I'm sure you will be able to turn it off. Flip side, due to this is an open world now and not a linear path it might be necessary, it's not like you have a mini map and it beats a giant arrow above your head

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deactivated-5e7f8a21de9dd

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@stewart24: Maybe, it just feels like games that have prompts like that can become rote. Sometimes I feel like I get more exploration out of linear sandbox games like Crysis or Bad Company 1 than I do from actual open world games like Grand Theft Auto or Far Cry.

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wkadalie

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Edited By wkadalie

Really like the Asian female lead. So very few of those.

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Prats1993

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The skill tree will kill this game

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brownyyy

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Finally a sequel to one of my favourite 360 games. I am excited but I think I will get it on the PC.

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countofhell4321

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Edited By countofhell4321

I like this ...

" and eventually you’ll enter a state where you’re invulnerable to bullets "

This means Faith does not need guns at all. Even if she got trained how to takedown an enemy with a gun and grab the enemies gun she can throw the gun away. In Mirror's Edge 1 we don't have to fire with guns at all, there is only 2 situation where the game force you to fire with guns and no more.

and this. :-)

" Mastering those advanced skills will be crucial in Catalyst's new social feature, which allows you to create your own parkour race courses "

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gamerboy100

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@countofhell4321: "In Mirror's Edge 1 we don't have to fire with guns at all, there is only 2 situation where the game force you to fire with guns and no more."

The only part I remember that required it was when you had to use the sniper rifle on one mission. What other part are you referring to?

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deactivated-58a78a043e9d4

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@countofhell4321: Well, it forced you into combat, you didn't have to actually use the guns. I never did. It was just practically impossible to avoid beating the police up in those instances.

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muzza93

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Loved mirrors edge. Disappointed in hearing that they have removed guns. They could have kept them in but limited the use. You could only use one magazine in your weapon in the first game anyway then you had to steal another gun. That was cool

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deactivated-58b0b257815cf

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Best of all, Anita Sarkeesian was part of the team at the behest of EA. You gotta love swedes, such a gullible lot. Europe's beta males.

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Pdiddy105

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@slappy54: You should probably get with the times....that was an old rumor that was proven to be untrue.

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ThomasN7

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I'm all for trying new games I never played before but this just looks like a bunch of go fetch quests just so you can parkour around the area. If so that is pretty disappointing and boring.

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brownyyy

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@thomasn7: If you take it down to its core that is what it is. I found its game play mechanics were what made it a great game getting through a section at full momentum was the holy grail, the game always made you feel like you could cut another millisecond of your time that is what kept me coming back. But hey I totally get why it would not appeal to some people.

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TheWalkingGhost

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I'll say it....DAT AZZ!!

Take a joke people. Jesus.

3 • 
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Elaisse

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Is that Anita lady part of the project?

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dajupe

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Glad they got rid of the guns, they were just annoying!

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omotih

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Edited By omotih

the game that wasnt a game at all

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SonyPony4eva

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The snipers in the first game made me rage so much lol. This is the only EA game that I'm looking forward to besides Battlefield 5 after its 20 first month patches.

2 • 
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supermanscott

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I guarantee almost NOONE will puke playing this in VR.

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ggregd

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@supermanscott: Who is Almost Noone?

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bbq_R0ADK1LL

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Mirror's Edge is a cool game & I'm sure Catalyst will be a vast improvement but I find the first person view so jarring that I think it will be tough for me to enjoy the game for more than a short stretch. It feels like I'm wearing blinders & extending the field of view just distorts things rather than giving a true sense of having peripheral vision.

It's a personal thing, I don't like first person perspective in general. It would be great if the game was playable in third person. It would really help the roleplay element if I could see more than the hands & feet of the character I'm roleplaying too.

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colbster

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So they couldn't get the gunplay right so they gave up? Fail.

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korean411

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@colbster: considering it isn't a fps game I say it is a good decision

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Redsyrup

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Never thought I'd say this. Thank you EA.

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Dr_Josh

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That gunplay in the first one was straight up doo doo.

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