It’s been a long wait for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the sequel to a decidedly low-key success. Free-running through a high-tech city, suitably named the City of Glass, was an incredible joy. The mechanics of running, jumping and generally defying gravity were’t perfect, but it was a surprisingly fun game regardless. The sequel builds appropriately on that and gives us more control and a far more open world in which to explore.
It also update the graphics engine to the latest in Frostbite technology, giving the City of Glass a much needed graphical makeover.
Does Mirror’s Edge Catalyst play as smooth as the underlying engine suggests it should?
It’s a big and potentially beautiful world out there in the City of Glass. Frostbite was a natural choice and the care taken to recreate the original color scheme and art-style is seen throughout. The original was a lesson in how to make a beautiful vista and use static lighting to the best of the ability of Unreal Engine 3. It ended up looking quite good, if a bit less dynamic.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, on the other hand, suitably upgrades the lighting system to be just as dynamic as the game itself professes to be. DICE has instituted a true time of day system and true physically based rendering. The specular and diffuse lighting models are incredibly realistic as a result of the transition. Of course, Frostbite itself has featured physically based rendering since 2014. The lighting is far more realistic, and looks great when viewed from any situation. They’ve even instituted accurate reflections of the environment as well. They’ve implemented a novel tiled deferred lighting system that should prove to increase performance handily in those heavily lighted and shadowed areas.
To help tell the story with the visual style, the game camera has been given properties similar to a real-life camera. In any given scene the ISO, white balance, shutter speed, aperture and exposure can be set to give a computed visual difference. Everything interacts with light in this game, and it shows. It does so in a very realistic manner, at least as far as the eye can generally tell. The sky itself has an added Rayleigh scattering filter applied that seems to accurately depict the scattering of light in an atmosphere, as intended.
Underneath, the textures and models are all made with the attention to detail that we’d very well expect from DICE. High resolution, many polygons and some very smooth animations. The game is a testament to the flexibility of the engine and the expertise of the developers at DICE.