Let me get this out at the front of the review: the original Mirror’s Edge is one of my favorite games of all time. The first person parkour in a washed out 1984-esque city letting the flow of running take you over enthralled me. However, it didn’t initially sell well but over time has gained a cult following hence the miracle of Catalyst being made. Unfortunately, this is likely the nail in the coffin for what began as an incredibly promising franchise.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, like its predecessor, is a first person action parkour game from developer DICE. However, the main difference is that Catalyst is set in an open world across the rooftops of the city while the previous game consisted of self-contained levels. Much of the core movement has carried over such as slides, wall runs and rolling but there are some new additions as well. A major one is a grappling hook that can only attach to specific objects but is a lot of fun to use.
One of the biggest complaints about the first game was the combat including some very clunky gunplay. In this game, Faith cannot pick up a gun at any point. The game compensates for this by having more melee enemies and fleshing out the melee combat. Faith can still perform a sliding kick, a jumping kick, punches and so on, but now there is more nuance. She can kick a soldier in a specific direction which is especially great if there is a ledge that he can be flipped over. There is no disarming anymore, but Faith can also dodge in any direction to avoid an incoming melee attack.
However, there are still some enemies that carry guns. To combat this seemingly unfair aspect, the longer Faith is running and flowing from move to move leading up to combat, she will gain a Focus Shield. This basically acts like a shield in a game like the original Halo where it will take the damage until it runs out and then your health will decrease. It actually works pretty well and the guns aren’t an issue.
Unfortunately the combat can be clunky when you are forced to fight in a room with a bunch of guys. Unlike the movement, when forced into combat with multiple foes, it just isn’t a whole lot of fun. Trying to dodge around five melee enemies without getting hit is frustrating and tedious. Some of this can be remedied with the upgrade trees for Faith that consist of Movement, Combat and Gadgets. However, that is flawed as well as basic movement abilities that she had from the beginning in the last game like the coil or the roll to soften your landings are initially locked. The whole system feels arbitrary. Beyond that, the combat as a whole still wasn’t nailed but the parkour feels more polished and better than ever.
Story and Modes:
This is a reboot of the franchise but deals more with Faith’s past than the previous game did. As the game opens, she is being released from prison after the events of the prequel comic series, Exordium. Once she is out, she meets up with a hot-headed runner named Icarus, a new member that had joined the group she was a part of headed up by a man named Noah. They make it back to the hideout and proceed to not do normal runner’s jobs like delivering confidential information outside of the watchful eye of the Conglomerate that controls the city. But Faith ends up taking on the Conglomerate directly by angering Gabriel Kruger, the leader of a major corporation and one of the Families that control the dystopia.
The story in the first game fell flat for many people. This was due to characters that weren’t all that compelling, a plot that devolved into a generic “whodunit” as well as the style of the cutscenes. Well in Catalyst, at least they fixed the way they look. Cutscenes are in-engine and look great. However, the cast is still made up of unlikable characters that I know I didn’t care about as the game went on. While the tension and quality seemed to improve toward the end, it was too little too late with an ending that has at least one, if not more, sequels in mind.
There are no other dedicated modes but there is asynchronous multiplayer through leaderboards for a bunch of time trials scattered across the map both from the game and those that users can create. However, as someone who doesn’t necessarily enjoy racing the clock, I’m indifferent toward them. It doesn’t help that the open world fodder in the game consist mostly of time trials and timed delivery missions. There are some billboards to tag and fast travel points to unlock, but all in all this feels like a very basic open world with little depth to it.
Visuals and Sound:
What was striking about the visual aesthetic of the original Mirror’s Edge was threefold: the runner vision which was bright red, the almost all white sterile buildings that made up the city and the vibrant interiors where people tried to show personality against the overpowering government of the area. Runner’s vision is still here, however, the version of it from the original game is now called classic. The default setting still highlights objects in red but also directs you on not always the fastest path to your objective but one that will work. The white buildings are still here but don’t pack the same punch as before. In the original game, the way the city looked felt like it was oppressed and not necessarily what the people wanted while in Catalyst it feels like people are indifferent and mindless. You don’t necessarily see all that many people, but that is definitely the vibe that I had. Other than that, the characters look fine with the only memorable design being Faith.
Most of the music in the game is understated while you’re running but cranks up when combat is happening. It’s fine with no real memorable tracks. The voice acting is serviceable. Faith is the only returning character from the first game but is voiced by a different actress. Overall there were no standout performances from a less than memorable script.
Since the original game has been released, first person traversal has been done such as in Dying Light to a certain degree of success. However, Mirror’s Edge is still the king of first-person parkour in games. The story of the first game was a case of lost potential much like Catalyst where some interesting things could have happened with this totalitarian regime in place.
I completed the main story and about half of the bigger story-centric side missions in 8 hours. Once you complete the game, you are thrown back into the open world to complete any of those bigger side missions or the aforementioned time trials and delivery missions. All of the collectible gridleaks that net you experience are also revealed on the map as well for those completionists out there. Overall, this felt like more of a lateral step than a productive step forward for the franchise.
On a personal note, myself and many other fans have waited eight years for another Mirror’s Edge game. When it was finally announced after countless rumors, I was hysterically happy latching on to every piece of news that was released and every quote that was uttered. I preordered the collector’s edition and had it preordered for a long time before the game was released. I then played the beta and felt like something was wrong. The open world felt empty and desolate and the focus on online leaderboards that could have gone toward the story rubbed me the wrong way. I then canceled my pre-order and bought it digitally on Origin. This is one of the most disappointing video game releases, for me, ever. This reboot feels soulless. After saying all of this, you may think the score here seems high. However, much like my Destiny review, those stars come from the gameplay. When you get into a flow running from place to place, it’s still one of the most liberating experiences in gaming. But it stumbles and falls enough to all but guarantee that this is the end of the Mirror’s Edge franchise.