Through the looking glass.
Mirror’s Edge is a game which never reached the commercial success to match its critical success, which is why most gamers thought we would never see a sequel. Eight years later Faith has returned, although not in a traditional sequel. Instead Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a sort of reboot of the series, starting fresh, and re-introducing the world to the idea of a first-person parkour game. Catalyst feels like what DICE was aiming for with the original game, and the City of Glass has never been more fun to romp around in.
The story of Catalyst follows our protagonist Faith as she is released from juvenile detention and re-embarks on the world of being a runner. Reuniting with old friends and getting back into the swing quickly comes to a halt when a larger plot takes shape, forcing her to ally with questionable people, and do things she thinks are right. The story falls flat most of the time, but it does deliver a nice back story for the main character. There are some likable personalities, but most are drab and uninspired. The cut scenes look fantastic and the voice acting isn’t terrible, but the stale writing does more harm than good.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is an open-world game, unlike the more linear previous entry. Faith has a map with plenty of markers on it, full of things to do: time trials, side missions, and of course a swath of collectibles to find. The main storyline takes roughly 7-8 hours to hammer through, but going back and finishing all the other tasks can easily double that number.
Sadly not everything is worth seeing. The side missions are interesting at times, mainly because the traversal around the city is so interesting. Collectibles are simple to find, but do little outside of checking off a box and giving minimal XP to level up. My favorite side missions though are the towers that Faith has to climb in order to unlock fast travel. These vertical platform puzzles are both interesting and helpful. Think of them like the towers in Far Cry 3. Each one forces players to use all of their skills to overcome.
Everything in Catalyst earns XP. Faith now has a skill tree that can be upgraded to enhance her parkour, combat, and even the new gear system. Those afraid that key movement would be locked behind this shouldn’t fret. Most of Faith’s standard moves are unlocked from the outset; the upgrades just sort of tweak them. The only key move I had to unlock was the 180 degree turn. The rest just add damage to certain enemies, longer slides, and the ability to perform more complex movement. It actually works, and had me doing side missions more often to unlock new perks.
Faith also gets a grappling hook attachment early on in the game. The attachment allows her to swing across certain gaps as well as pull down walls and up certain areas. It is contextual so it doesn’t just work anywhere, but it does a nice job of adding more ways to traverse across the world.
That is the biggest thing that works in Catalyst. Running from point A to point B is exciting. Learning how to combo moves into other moves feels great. When I had a solid run where I was in the zone, leaping over items, wall running, and piecing them together, it felt solid. Sadly, there are a few issues that plagued me more often than not.
Wall running for example is fickle at best. Oftentimes I would fall to my death because Faith didn’t hit the wall at the right angle, or worse, for no reason at all. It was sporadic; thankfully checkpoints are forgiving, but dying in the same spot 3-4 times does become frustrating. Combat is also a sore spot. Not once did I feel like I was having fun when an arena closed off and I had to take down enemies. There is no gunplay here, just hand-to-hand, but none of it feels particularly interesting or fun.
I really like the look of Catalyst. The city is clean and bright. The new Runner Vision lays out a solid path for those that get lost easy, but is also not the optimal path for those that like to experiment. One thing to note is that on Xbox One the game does run at 720p to keep the silky smooth 60fps. Sadly, when upscaled to 1080p this causes a sort of blurry effect on the otherwise unique visuals. There are also issues with texture pop-in, which can be jarring.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is the follow-up no one ever thought would get made. It is clearly a passion project for the team at DICE, and it finally feels like it lives up to its ambitious design. There is little like it out there, which makes it easy to recommend, but also it is not a game for everyone. It is never overly challenging, combat is simply not fun, and there is little variety to the mission design. Still, I couldn’t stop playing it until the credits rolled, and again there is simply nothing else like it currently on the new consoles.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.