We finally have it, folks! After months of previews and beta testing, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is released. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a reboot of the 2008 game Mirror’s Edge. A sequel had been teased for many years since the games inception. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that we were actually given a confirmation. 3 long years of development have culminated in some high expectations for fans of the original game. Mirror’s Edge left some pretty big runners to fill, having released in a market where parkour games were far less popular, and developers were unwilling to take a chance on new ideas. However, with today’s market flooded with all kinds of aerial acrobatics, it will be interesting to see if Mirror’s Edge Catalyst can still retain their edge, so to speak.
First things first, let’s look at the actual gameplay. I’ve talked about this a lot in other articles. The beta’s shown to press contained little other than gameplay. But that’s what you would expect from a game like this. The gameplay was the core aspect that drew in their audience. The idea of free running through your problems rather than shooting them up was unique. So of course they want to show off and focus on free running. Thankfully, by comparison to the original Mirror’s Edge, they’ve definitely made some improvements. One of the main things that annoyed people in the original was the fact combat felt shoehorned in. In Catalyst, DICE seem to have put the focus more on how you get around more than who you punch to get there. As a result, the movement feels quite fluid and responsive. While there may still be occasions where you find yourself plummeting to your doom, such cases get rarer the longer you play the game.
That said, with all the improvements they’ve made for switching their focus to movement, there are still some combat hiccups. For example, I was somewhat stuck about a third of the way through the game. I’d focused all my time up until this point on levelling up my movement abilities so I could run from fights. That was until I found myself stuck in a fishbowl filled with respawning waves of enemies. The sequence annoyed me, not only because I had been led to believe I could run away from fights, but also because I was horribly unprepared for one. The entire sequence was spent struggling to find things I could jump and run on to deal extra damage. I did eventually beat the section, but it was by no means the last one. No matter how much you try to run, eventually you have to stand and fight. Perhaps that’s a metaphor for life, but honestly, it just seems irritating.
Now, the thing that most intrigued me in Catalyst was the story. Faith is a fairly iconic character and a lot of emphasis was put on learning her story in EA’s PR. Mirror’s Edge was sadly lacking in much story, so adding a backstory to give some reason to your running seemed logical for Catalyst. There was a lot of talk about where Faith came from and why she runs, but in the end I don’t think a lot of this made it into the final product. We do find out about Faith’s family, but only through small snippets. In the end if you ask Faith why she runs, she’d just reply with “I like it”, which is fine at times but not exactly something I’d get excited over. Not to mention a lot of the plot is just plain predictable. There are points in the game where you’ll find recordings which straight up tell you a vital piece of information. But regardless of having found these, Faith still acts shocked when she finds out.
However, it should be noted that while the story is lacking, the world it’s set in is not. The aesthetic was one of the main things that drove Mirror’s Edge and thankfully that hasn’t changed. The city of Glass is still a landscape of stark contrast and stunning visuals. While more colour has been injected into the white background of Glass, the theme remains the same. The colours are sharp and give the city a definitive look that really helps the player create landmarks for their runs. What’s more, DICE has put in some hard work to make you feel as if the city is living and breathing, adding NPC’s into offices, other runners on the rooftops and more than a few drones floating around your head. Glass is a well designed, well executed futuristic dystopia and kudos to the team for making it so.
You might be wondering whether you should go for console or PC on this one. Well, there are arguments for both sides. When I first played the closed beta, I played on PC. I found that the controls were easier to use when I plugged in a controller. As the keyboard controls are a little bit awkward for quick movements. Time being of the essence here, consoles win out. However, I also saw plenty of people complaining about the graphics. At the time I had no idea what they were talking about. The game looked beautiful to me. However I definitely see what console users were complaining about after playing on an Xbox One. While you wouldn’t think the difference is so staggering, characters went from highly detailed to ‘pudding faced’. It was as if someone had smeared their features into a lumpy mess that just doesn’t sit right after you’ve seen their HD PC versions. The environments had some changes too, though not as drastic. Maybe you’d see a pixelly edge here or there, but on the whole it was still pleasing to the eye.
All in all, I enjoy Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. While the market may be flooded with parkour lately, Catalyst manages to still separate itself from the herd. While there are definitely some points it could improve, I’d say this is a strong successor to the previous game, and well worth a try if you’re new to the series.