Hands-on with the new Need for Speed and Mirror's Edge: Catalyst

Here are my initial impressions with both after getting some hands-on time.

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst

In 2008, DICE and EA released what was probably the most ambitious game of the year with Mirror's Edge. Since then gamers have been anticipating its sequel with rumors swirling of an E3 announcement almost every year. Last year, EA put that to rest when it officially announced that a new Mirror's Edge was coming and fans from everywhere rejoiced.

That being said, no one knew what the project was until this year at E3 it was announced that the game wasn't a sequel, but instead a reboot of the title. You still play as Faith, who uses parkour to scale the roofs of the city, and you are still trying to take down an evil corporation. But so much has changed from that Mirror's Edge to this one.

Firstly, the game is no longer a linear experience as Glass (the city) can now be explored openly with no loading screens. To get around Glass, you use your parkour skills by following highlighted objects while trying to keep momentum. But the devs also hinted that gadgets can be obtained in the full version which will help Faith's traversal easier.

To make this new open world feel, well 'open', the developers of the game have littered the world with side-missions and events. For example, you can take part in races, hack billboards to display your insignia, or try to deliver data to a drop-box while enemies try to take you down. Each game type presents its own unique challenges that force the player to try different gameplay mechanics.

Speaking of gameplay mechanics, Mirror's Edge: Catalyst no longer features any gun combat. Enemies will still use guns against Faith, but she won't be able to pick them up for herself. This is now due to Faith's morality as she no longer kills but instead immobilizes her enemies.

One thing I also noticed that was missing in the new Mirror's Edge is the awful comic book-esque cutscenes. Instead, we get fully animated in-engine cutscenes that show off the world of Glass thanks to the Frostbite Engine.

In all, Mirror's Edge: Catalyst feels like a step in the right direction for the IP. Instead of milking the franchise, DICE decided to step back and make the game when they felt it was the right time. Controls are more intuitive as now the run button is gone and Faith runs by default. As for the open world, it feels as if this should have been Faith's playground from the start.

After playing the game, I've become more stoked than before but the real meat of the game will lie within its story. Guess we'll have to wait and see how that turns out when the game launches in February 2016.

Need for Speed

Need for Speed used to be the première racing experience on any console to the point that EA began releasing new versions of it every year. As of recently, the franchise has been desperate for a breath of fresh air after becoming an annual disappointment in sales as well as gameplay.

After taking two years off, the franchise is finally back and has received the full reboot treatment. The game is said to take the best from Underground 2, Most Wanted, and Carbon in order to make this the "definitive" Need for Speed experience.

I got to play with the game during a 9-minute demo which threw me in with 7 other players in what was called 8 player Rep Attack. But before we got to participate in this event we, of course, needed our own uniquely customized cars. In the customization garage, the car is displayed gorgeously (in a Forza Autovista sort of way) as you look around different parts of your car while deciding what should be upgraded, tuned, or given a new look.

The customization options here are limitless and give players the ability to express themselves visually on the track. But the only form of expression that matters in NFS is the way that you express yourself in the races. Before heading out of the garage, you can also change your tuning options which will allow you to play like a classic NFS racer or a more modern NFS racer.

What this means is you can choose whether or not you want your car to have more grip around corners like the early NFS entries or drift around corners like the most recent entries of the series. Once you choose your preferred tuning options it is now time to jump into the race.

In 8 player Rep Attack players do whatever it takes to gain the most rep points in order to win the challenge. These points can be obtained by drifting, achieving near-misses, using style, and evading police. This is where I learned a tough lesson. I thought I would prefer the classic grip setting, but I found myself trying to drift at every turn and not being able to. I tried to change the settings on the fly and realized that it wasn't possible.

The event also gave me my first glimpse as to how beautiful NFS truly is. Especially the way the lights glisten off of the wet pavement. I mean it isn't on Forza Horizon 2 level, but it still holds its own.

At the end of the event, I came in a measly 4th place but I did have the most rep for using my car the best according to its tuning setup. Once the event ended, we were able to do some free-roaming. We could then find events and begin them by driving up to them and pressing up on the D-pad. But I had a problem, I was being tailed by the cops so the only thing I could do was escape from them. They weren't too aggressive like the cops in Most Wanted, but I assumed this was for demo purposes.

One thing I did approve of as something of an audiophile is the sound of the car's engines and screeching tires. But there's one aural element that I did feel was lacking; The soundtrack. Again, this was a demo but one thing most of us enjoyed about the Underground series was being able to cruise around while bumping some sweet tunes. The music in itself can be considered a critical piece of gameplay.

From what I played of the new Need for Speed, it feels as if they've finally turned a corner (pun intended) and is listening to what gamers have been asking of them. The open-world along with the full-on customization options will definitely make this the best NFS in years. If the cops are like they were in Most Wanted and they pull together an amazing sounding soundtrack, Forza Horizon will finally have some stiff competition.


EA is on track to release one of its best lineups in recent years with Need for Speed, Unravel, Mirror's Edge, and Star Wars: Battlefront all hitting the Xbox One within the next year. Out of all of those mentioned only Mirror's Edge and Need for Speed were existing IP, but they themselves are seeing the results of a renewed energy at EA with both series seeing reboots. I walked away impressed with everything EA showed me this year at E3 and can't wait to see how these games will fully play when released. How do you guys feel about this 'EA'? Let us know in the comments below!

Jonathan Dollison