- EA DICE
- Single Player
- Xbox One
- PC, Playstation 4
“Only play if you’re a fan of the previous entry” feels like the laziest criticism you can give when reviewing a game. It’s basically you going “liked the last one? You’ll like this one too”. You haven’t given the game the chance to stand on its own feet, be an entity onto itself to be judged accordingly. It hinges on a previous experience that the reader might not have had and will leave them with more questions than answers over whether to buy the game. However, in the case of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the first quote at the start of the paragraph is possibly the best consumer advice that I can give.
Released way back in 2008, Mirror’s Edge was an intriguing title for the time. It featured fast paced first person parkour which from the onset sounds like a recipe for potential motion sickness fueled vomit. But it was pretty fun for what it was. It wasn’t the perfect game, with most criticism focused around its weird combat options and the longevity of the title. It received cult status with a set handful of gamers enjoying it beyond just the initial gimmick and really making something special out of the parkour mechanics. Mirror’s Edge was a niche game, at the end of the day. Not a lot of people really clicked with the parkour mechanics and since that’s what the game relied on the most, it was dead in the water if you didn’t.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst comes to us a full 8 years later with the promise of continuing this ambitious experiment and attempting to do something new with the formula. However, the game has befallen the same fate as its predecessor. If you’re not a fan of the high pace parkour and all of the expectations that come with that, then the game really isn’t for you. The running and the quick decision making while you run is the central, unmovable core that the game relies on. If you dig it, you will find an enriching and populated experience that will consume your life. If you do not, you will find a mediocre slog that will not hold your interest for too long.
Thankfully, I’m one of the people that likes the fast-paced parkour. It’s incredibly fun to zip along a rooftop, calculating an optimal route on the fly and receiving that satisfaction that comes along with nailing a particular route. So the game didn’t have to worry about me not enjoying the freerunning elements so I could comfortably evaluate all of the other things that it has going for it. And it has a lot going for it.
You return to play as Faith, an ambitious young runner with a troubled past concerning her parents and upbringing. She lives in a city called Glass that is run by a bunch of shadowy government organizations that want to exert complete control over the citizens by monitoring everything and anything they do. It’s futuristic sci-fi dystopia where citizens are ruled by a totalitarian regime that outlaws any form of crime, making the city extremely peaceful. But some people aren’t satisfied with having their personal freedoms stripped away in order to ensure an illusion of peace. Faith is part of a revolutionary sect called the Runners that make deliveries around the city and try and disrupt the shadow government in any way they can.
But Catalyst isn’t focused on the macro societal struggles within its narrative. It instead follows Faith and her personal story through all of this. However, during the first few acts of the game, there wasn’t much rhyme or reason for what you are doing other than “this person told you so”. I felt like an outsider instead of an active participant in the story, sometimes feeling like a glorified errand boy (girl), doing a bunch of tasks for some lazy people. There were no stakes during the first acts and I didn’t feel like I was doing anything to further something. There was no outward antagonist that I had to overthrow or a larger goal that had to be reached. However, it does come together at the end, but it felt rushed. The time spent in the first few acts could have been a much better setup for the later parts of the story. It felt like a graph where the line was flat for a long while and then suddenly jumped up out of nowhere. Almost like the search trend for twerking.
The story was serviceable, with a gaggle of interesting personalities each with their own quirks and motivations. Some can be seen as a bit cliche, but they’re likable in their own unique way. The voice acting and the cutscenes are competently put together with passionate acting and great cinematography. While not the major strength of Catalyst, the story is interesting enough to hold your attention or even just as a way to progress. Like I said, the beginning acts are really slow and detached, but they’re not offensive in any way.
Let’s talk about the core gameplay. Catalyst follows the same freerunning formula that was present in the original with you being able to vault over stuff, wallrun, use objects as jumping pads, roll when taking a high jump and all of the other related parkour stuff. It’s fast and you need to have a keen eye for momentum and forward planning when traversing. Like I mentioned earlier in the review, the gameplay is very subjective. You can either be a fan of the fast-paced running and decision making, or it simply doesn’t interest you. Personally I found the running to be very satisfying, especially when I get into a groove and nail an optimal sequence of actions. It has an “easy to learn tough to master” element to it with the initial mechanics being simple to pick up, but if you want to excel, you have to be on the trigger and really know what you’re doing. It’s easy to run from A to B in the game, but it’s another thing to do it as fast as you can with no mistakes. It ended up being compelling and addictive, and I constantly sought out ways to improve my play throughout the whole experience.
Now for the meat of the game. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is entirely open-world, a huge departure from the previous entry that was entirely linear. You’re given the whole city of Glass to run around in and it’s an almost overwhelmingly big space for you to explore. It is densely populated with activities such as delivery runs, time trials, a ton of collectibles that range from orbs to secret bags, side-missions, installations that you have to sabotage and so on. There’s a monstrous amount of content to wade through if you have the inclination and the patience. If you enjoy the gameplay then this would be a major selling point. If you’re the type that enjoys perfecting time trials or collecting until you’re blue in the face, then you will find a lot to like.
The game also has a more refined combat system. Guns are completely unusable now so you have to rely on your speed to fight back effectively. The game makes use of a number of mechanics in order to add substance to the combat. The most notable is how your parkour skills can be used in an offensive capacity. You get a significant damage bonus to your light and heavy attacks when they are used in conjunction with your parkour moves. For example, you can wallrun and punch a dude in the face or launch off a railing and smash into an enemy from above. There are enemies that shoot at you, but you counter this with a mechanic called Focus that acts as a sort of shield. The more you move around and stay on the move, the more Focus you achieve and more attacks you can repel. You can also dodge around enemies and use various combat tactics that you unlock throughout the game.
The combat, like the story, was serviceable. There’s nothing wrong with it and it’s even pretty fun at times when you get into a groove and start knocking enemies around like they’re playtoys, but it really isn’t the focus of the game. It almost felt like a diversion rather than a fully fledged feature. But it was good of them to try and make the combat deeper and worth getting into this time. They keep it interesting with various enemy types that cause you to change your strategy to defeat them and battles can get pretty intense at times.
A huge point in the game’s favour are its setpieces. There’s some incredible sequences in the game, primarily in the story missions, where you get to climb some awe-inspiring structures and witness some spectacular sights. There honestly wasn’t enough, but what we got was pretty great. The final few missions in particular were really well made and took my breath away at times. In all honestly, if the game had more of these then it would have elevated it to a new level.
The visuals are sort of contradictory. They are both underwhelming and breathtaking at the same time. The ground level objects and environments don’t have a lot of distinguishable features and the textures follow the same clinical smoothness theme that coincides with the game’s theme of emotionless totalitarian control. While a stylistic choice, this does make the environments appear to be more boring than they are. On the other hand, once you get to the great vistas that come with being high off the ground and traverse in the more affluent areas of the city, things suddenly become beautiful and cause you to stop and gawk for a second. As far as performance goes, the game runs really smooth with no framerate drops to mess you up. There was some pop-in happening with assets that were very far away, but that’s somewhat understandable. Also, kudos to them for including an FOV slider in the console version. I don’t know how someone can play a game like this and not be on 90 FOV.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has the displeasure of relying way too much on subjectivity. The game is genuinely not for everyone and its central selling point is in its core gameplay. If you were a fan of the original and the ideas that it brought to the table, then you will find much joy in Catalyst. But if you didn’t, then the game doesn’t offer enough aside from the gameplay to compel you. The massive open-world with the ton of activities won’t matter if you do not enjoy playing the game from the start. Personally, I enjoyed navigating the architectural puzzles and running as fast and as efficient as I could. My recommendation is to watch some gameplay videos and determine if the game is for you. If you have a love for the original then this will be a no-brainer.
Latest posts by MG Thabo (see all)
- Video Game Review: Rocket League Collector’s Edition – Blasting Off Again - July 21, 2016
- Video Game Review: Valentino Rossi: The Game – Riding High - July 20, 2016
- Games: Thabo’s Tirades: The Witcher 3 Puts All DLC To Shame - July 8, 2016
- Editorial: Thabo’s Tirades: Why We Are Tired Of Modern Shooters - July 1, 2016
- Video Game News: Criterion Games’ Extreme Sports Title Has Been Canned - June 22, 2016