Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (PC) Review
- Wonderful world traversal that offers a real feeling of freedom
- Huge map filled with side content and friend challenges
- Looks great with a wonderful design aesthetic
- Great sense of freedom
Not so much?
- Tedious combat spoils the flow of the game
- Frustration comes in many forms throughout eg Drain pipes!
- Adds little to the original concepts
- Couple of hitches here and there likely due to loading resources
I’m satisfied enough with this sequel to one of my favourite titles of the previous generation. Satisfied… Not something to scoff at, but not really what I was hoping for after all this time.
irror’s Edge was, in my opinion, one of the best titles that EA put out during their experimental phase during the PS3/X360 era. Along with titles like Dead Space it offered up a new experience that gamers ate up.
Dice, the developers behind the Mirror’s Edge series, were begged for years to put out another one. Fans of the original clamoured for more information on Faith and her roof-top adventures and I was one of them. So it’s with a heavy heart I have to pick through Mirror’s Edge Catalyst as the game so nearly offered the sequel I’d been looking for.
In Mirror’s Edge Catalyst you reprise the role of Faith. This is a semi-reboot with the storyline filling in Faith’s origin story and setting things up for the events of the first game. Here, Faith has just been released from juvenile detention. She soon mixes back in with her runner crew and is visited by a flunky of local crime boss Dogen whom she owes a lot of script (the in world currency) to. The story follows Faith and her unravelling of her parents demise whilst skirting through the class war and totalitarian underbelly of Glass, the city she resides in.
The story dives deeper than the first game, yet is still really fails to engage. Yes there are some twists and turns along the way but every one is signposted way before and a lot of the time it just feels like a trudge to unlock new areas of the map or abilities.
Story, though, was never really the main draw for the first Mirror’s Edge. It was the city and your ability to traverse high above hustle and bustle below that drew you in. The speed of Faith, her ability to traverse so fluidly from rooftop to rooftop. Mirror’s Edge had a certain locomotive ballet to it that nothing else could come close too.
Thankfully, for the most part, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has retained this wonderful sense of freedom and movement. Faith moves with speed and grace over objects with relative ease of control. Whether that’s by mouse or by controller (and, to be honest, I’d recommend a controller for this game as I would most platform titles on PC) a simple button press will have Faith jumping, mantling, swinging, grappling or sliding on command.
Similarly combat, never a favourite of mine in the original and doubly so here in Catalyst, is simply a case of light or heavy attacks. The added layer here in Catalyst is that your surroundings have an impact on combat. Yes you can still maneuver your enemies to kick them off a building or high ledge, which is a swift way to get past the unappealing combat. Though the real change comes from knocking them into things – walls, crates, each other etc. Doing so will add impact damage. So for instance if you round a corner and see two baton wielding Kruger Sec chumps you can side kick them into each other likely doing double the damage you’d have done with a solitary kick. This adds a bit of strategy to the fights and I was at least heartened to see that Dice didn’t put a gun in Faith’s hands this time out (there was a brief option in the first to dispatch foes with a stolen gun – you got an achievement for not using it).
Unfortunately no matter how many tweaks Dice put on the combat it still feels tedious and breaks the flow of the game. It just doesn’t feel any more than tedious to stop and fight – one lengthy battle about half way through the game almost had me quitting and walking away for good. I don’t want to be fighting waves of enemies, I want to run, slide, jump and explore.
Production values are high once again. The city of Glass looks breathtaking in its minimalistic design and sparse use of colours. Ther’s a greater use of colour here than in the first title, but it’s still used with restraint in most places and used to accent things in others. Saturated pinks and purples often fill spaces that back on to advertising boards etc – it helps make the game look even more appealing. Frame rate was a silky 60 plus frames per second on my GTX970 in 1080p with everything turned up to Ultra. There were a handful of moments the game slowed down but it never seemed to be from the action on screen so I’d point my finger at some form of streaming from disc to load in a new area. That said I housed the install on my SSD so it really shouldn’t have hitched.
The game does have a few rough edges here and there though with some low quality textures used for places you’d not normally look or for close up things. Having come off the back of playing Uncharted 4 and the Ratchet & Clank reboot things seems needlessly rough for such a high profile release.
That said nothing else plays like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst does, with the exception of the first title. It’s just a shame that you have to wade through so much of the story drudge and tedious combat to open up the map fully. Once opened the map is huge and full of a multitude of things to take on. Strictly timed deliveries, races, audio logs, collectibles, billboard hacks and friend challenges form a small part of the selection on offer and really encourages you explore the city. It’s the times when you’re using every skill in Faith’s parkour trick bag to reach the top of a building that the game really clicks. Gaining XP as you take on missions and challenges helps you to unlock more of Faith’s abilities (double wall jumps etc) but I found I managed to unlock more than two-thirds of the abilities just by doing the story and finding a few of the items in the world.
Yes, some of the detection is downright frustrating at times. Having managed to traverse a tricky area only to jump at a drain pipe and not latch on can leave you uttering expletives. Or following the now more aggressively obvious Runner’s Vision trails leads to you throwing yourself off a building as the path finding takes you a way you can’t traverse.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is like nothing else on the market, barring the original game. It’s not something you’d expect from a large publisher like EA and it certainly isn’t something you’d think Dice would get a chance to do, especially a second time.
It will offer thrills and exhilaration of movement. You’ll grin at the ballet-like traversal of the gorgeously designed environment. Fans of the first game will feel immediately at home, and that’s both a good thing and shows how little progress has been made to refine the experience in 8 years.
A languid story that doesn’t engage and some frustrating combat all pull at the joys to be found in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. When the game lets you run and climb and explore it’s at its very best and I arguably had more fun after the story concluded than I did before – although the timed deliveries are needlessly strict at times.
I’m satisfied enough with this sequel to one of my favourite titles of the previous generation. Satisfied… Not something to scoff at, but not really what I was hoping for after all this time. It’s unlikely Dice will get a 3rd bite at the cherry which is a shame as I think there’s still a way to go in refining this idea.
So, occasionally frustrating fun for the 10 hours the campaign lasts and then a huge amount to discover in the world after (or before if you like). It has it’s issues and fails to really move the series “forward”. But if more in a similar vein is what you’re looking for then this should satisfy. New players will also appreciate that speed and feel of freedom that Mirror’s Edge Catalyst offers that makes it play like no other game.
Family Fiends Findings?
- PEGI 16 / ESRB T for Teen ratings – Mild language and violence. Thinking the 16 PEGI rating is a little harsh for something that contains less violence than your average 12a movie
- First Person platform adventure title – heavy on the parkour and freerunning.
- Weapons such as batons, pulse weapons and automatic rifles are used by opponenents but not protagonist
- No sexual content
- Online play is non-interactive time trials and challenges