mirror s edge catalyst gegner

In a game about parkours, the sound of touching materials is more than a gimmick

The usual press presentation of a new game at gamescom goes as follows. The developer slash publisher pr person shows off some pre-defined set pieces of said game, accompanied by an assortion of snack sized, ready to print mouthfuls about the ahhs and ohhs of the title at hand. In this regard, the reveal of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst  was a surprisingly quiet one – alas, there was plenty of interesting things to hear. And I am not talking sales jibber jabber.

I should have known from the start that I was in for a special treat with this one. Unlike usual, we weren’t greeted by a pr person but by James Slavin, audio director at DICE. It’s no wonder then, that sound design plays a grand role in this parkours jump & run action game. In it, obviously, it’s all about movement. In particular, about jumping, running, sliding, grapping, letting go, spinning, rolling and fighting – ideally without loosing speed and finding the perfect flow to merit all together. 

It’s an exhilarating experience for our ears and a rare occasion in video games, that sound outperforms visuals at creating the illusion of velocity.

Allthough called city of glass, the game’s location offers a truck load of different materials to parkours about. Usually nothing to call the game out for, the different material styles or – more to the point – the sound they make brings this otherwise quite sterile environment to life. Sliding over glass makes a satisfying squeking sound, pulling a quick 180 on a concrete surface gives us the expected dull slide while climbing gutters sound distinguishable lighter than, for example, a metal pipe. If material design is a thing in web design, it should be in audio too.

It gets even more interesting when we see – or rather hear – Faith, the game’s happy footed heroine, catch up speed. Her soles touching the ground in ever greater rate and determination. Accompanied by picking up wind and the changing rythm of her breath. It’s an exhilarating experience for our ears and a rare occasion in video games, that sound outperforms visuals at creating the illusion of velocity. It is remarkable how Slavin and his team created a world of sound that let’s you allmost navigate the city with your eyes shut.