Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst Review
Mirror’s Edge is back! After an eight year break developers DICE have put their running shoes on and brought back protagonist Faith and the City of Glass once again in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. Featuring the same parkour-inspired first person gameplay and expanding the game from linear levels to an open world environment, Catalyst looks to improve on its predecessor’s legacy on the latest batch of console-shaped videogame boxes. Excitement!
Similar to the first title, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst takes place in the City of Glass, which is home to a highly stratified population where there are clear societal castes and inequality in abundance. High above the streets, Runners brave the ire of security forces and the ‘big’ company surveillance apparatus to carry messages, acquire and sell information and generally get into all manner of mischief. The curtains open with the protagonist Faith being released from prison, going through her paces and making a few new acquaintances and learning a few new moves before finding herself back in a runner’s outfit and at the attention of the authorities once again.
As with the original, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a first person adventure game that focuses on finding fast and efficient routes through environments using parkour or free running. Climbing pipes and ledges, jumping, and spring boarding from an assortment of wall-mounted or rooftop objects, wall running/jumping and high speed sliding across, under, through and over all manner of obstacles. Whilst the core parkour gameplay has been retained from the original, Catalyst also spices things up a little with a few new pieces of gear for Faith to make use of including a grappling hook which can be used to swing from anchor points between buildings, pull up to ledges above or pull down some walls and weak obstacles to open alternate routes all of which can be used whilst freerunning to maintain Faith’s Focus.
Whilst free running, Faith will build up a ‘Focus’ bar which appears at the bottom of the screen. The Focus bar acts as an extra shield against enemy attacks and gunfire as it will take a hit in place of Faith’s health points. Once Faith has stopped moving or taken too much damage, the Focus will quickly drain, leaving Faith open to taking health damage from aggressors. In the early portions of the game, fleeing from defenders is often Faith’s best bet for survival (at least until players get a handle for combat system). As such, it’s important to maintain the Focus meter at all times when enemies are present.
Much like its predecessor, combat in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst can be tough. Unlike the previous game though, Faith is unable to pick up and use enemy weapons and as this is the case, she needs to make use of a range of quick and heavy melee attacks. Fortunately, her arsenal of attacks has been somewhat expanded. Her main damaging attacks are the result of environmental attacks whereby she can springboard off objects to launch a flying kick, hop down from above to attack an unsuspecting enemy below or attack by launching at an enemy mid-wall run or a range of sliding and dodging manoeuvres that will allow Faith to move behind an opponent for a damaging strike. Fortunately, outside of a relative few encounters, the combat is often entirely optional with the game permitting you to continue running past defenders towards Faith’s next objective.
Another new addition to the game takes some inspiration from recent Far Cry titles. By finding collectibles, completing story and side-missions players are able to earn experience points (XP). With sufficient XP, players will earn an additional skill point which can then be spent in one of three different skill trees to earn themselves new parkour moves, handy passive bonuses such as increased damage to enemies and a larger health pool, additional combat abilities and expanded uses for some of Faith’s gear.
The game’s campaign is comprised of 20 missions, 15 of which can be played through again from a mission select menu that materialises after completing the game. The game also features Dashes – point to point time trial, gridNode infiltration missions to unlock fast travel, Security hubs to test out your combat skills and a range of Delivery and side-missions to give Faith’s freerunning a workout. Whilst this sounds like a lot of content, with the exception of gridNodes and security hubs by and large, despite the different objectives they are all quite short and essentially the same thing – get from point A to point B (or a series of objective markers) either as quickly as you can or without taking damage. Outside of the main missions, this content grows old very quickly.
Alongside the single player content sits the game’s social features. Each of the major campaign missions, side-quests and Dashes has leaderboards listing the best times achieved, allowing you to challenge friends or tussle against the best in the world for rankings. Players are also able to create their own user generated Dashes/time trials by placing waypoints along a set route for other online players to find and attempt. Beat L.Es are the other user-created content and allows players to place a beacon/waypoint in a hard to reach location for others to find. The leaderboards and user-generated content are excellent additions to the game that help to bring a degree of replayability into the mix.
The visuals are sharp and have a unique feel that does not stray far from its predecessor with the entire city embracing a sterile white colour with splashes of colour thrown around on boards and billboards as embellishment. The zones are varied as well ranging from subterranean tunnels, to construction sites, affluent apartment blocks and an assortment of high-rise buildings. Whilst the rooftops where you spend most of your time can feel barren and lifeless at times, the game’s interior sections are much more detailed with an abundance of glass walls shows plenty of activity going down.
The audio side of the equation is quite well done with music generally fitting the gameplay suitably from moments of slow, quiet beats during exploration rising to adrenaline pumping high intensity rhythms during pursuits and action sequences. The voice acting is decent enough but is unfortunately wasted on half-baked dialogue and an altogether forgettable cast of characters.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst has its fair share of flaws. The combat system feels entirely clunky when using Faith’s array of melee attacks and can be hard to get the hang of and may be a little off-putting. Whilst there is an abundance of side-content, the majority of it feels very much cut and paste with very little variety outside of 2-3 different objectives. The story is also pretty forgettable with some unlikeable and uninteresting characters, a predictable plot and some subpar dialogue to help prod it along.
Overall Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a game for fans of the original Mirror’s Edge hankering for a little extra from the series after an eight year hiatus. Although it certainly has its flaws, the parkour and first-person action gameplay is a lot of fun, with a decent sized world to explore, loads of collectibles, plenty of optional content, plenty of social features, leaderboards and user generated content to keep player entertained for a long time. Whilst Faith’s latest adventure is unlikely to win over any hardcore shooter enthusiasts, its distinctive world and gameplay style makes it a unique game worth checking out.
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