I played through Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst on the PS4 and suffered a few glitches which I will talk about in the main body of the review. Mostly, it ran fine though, and the glitches didn’t impact the game too much.
In 2008, when the original Mirror’s Edge released, the gaming landscape was different. Mirror’s Edge was something new and different – a first-person parkour game, where you were tasked with running across the rooftops of a bright, minimalist city. Time, survival and exploration were the biggest parts of Mirror’s Edge – the story taking a much-needed back seat. I have replayed Mirror’s Edge a lot over the years, chipping away at speedruns and challenges – earning a few more trophies every time. It’s still a lot of fun. In 2016, and after a cult following was established for the original, EA and Dice have released a sequel…no…prequel…no reboot in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. And I was optimistic. Unfortunately, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst captures some of the original’s charm, but utterly fails to offer up anything interesting of itself, giving fans a game that seems tired of it’s own existence.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst offers up another look at Faith Connors, the hero of the original, who has just been released from prison and is looking to reconnect with her old runner friends. It is not long before she is involved in a city-wide conspiracy, as villainous Gabriel Kruger (the leader of a similarly villainous company) is out for her blood. The story is absolutely terrible, and I really couldn’t bear to spend any more time on it. The narrative is put at the forefront of this game (as opposed to the original) whereas it should have been shoved way way way back. Characters are one-dimensional mannequins, spouting trailer-worthy lines of dialogue that regularly don’t make sense when strung together. Any emotional moments are telegraphed poorly, and the only thing that could be called a twist is revealed by someone talking in your ear, thus negating any emotional impact it could cause. It is atrocious. And I have no idea how this can still be allowed to be a video game narrative in 2016, when developers have proved for nearly a decade that video games are capable of some much more. You wouldn’t be remiss for punching the skip button as hard as is humanly possible.
Outside of the story, you have an open world to explore as the City of Glass spans out in front of you. This is where some of the old magic resurfaces, as the traversal mechanics are by far the best part of the game. The city is vast and varied, and finding your way around is a lot of fun. An enhanced runner’s vision helps you out, not just highlighting your route in red (again, like the original) but also giving you an ethereal line floating in the direction you should go. In pre-release footage, I thought this was a terrible addition, and would make things too easy. But, in practice, it does seem necessary to navigate around the world (and you can always turn back to ‘classic’ mode. However, I encountered a glitch, where sometimes runner’s vision would just disappear, usually in the middle of a climactic chase or a side task. This wasn’t a situation where runner’s vision was actually turned off (sometimes in missions, you are left to your own devices to find a way around), the line just disappeared and nothing was red. Then when I reloaded, it’d be back. Just a weird thing that killed momentum.
Outside of the main story, you are given a lot to do, although this all boils down to one thing: time trials. Dashes are time trials, deliveries are time trials, fragile deliveries are fragile time trials. I agree that time trials are mostly why I come to a game like this, but some more variety would have been nice. Things like security hubs (where you destroy tracking towers) and gridnodes (where you navigate around a room, avoiding lasers, to activate fast travel) add some much-needed diversity, but it only helps to prove that Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst only has one real draw – the movement. And it’s a good draw, but not enough to support an open world game.
When you’re not running around, you’ll be engaging in terrible combat mechanics, that somehow manage to be worse than the original. There are five types of enemies, ranging from melee to ranged, and you have two attacks, light and heavy, which you can use in a number of different ways. The best way to fight is to use your movement in conjunction with attacks (i.e. wallrunning along a wall, jumping off and falling on the enemy etc.) but it’s so much easier and sometimes unavoidable to just stand in front of enemies and press the heavy attack button over and over. When you unlock a move that can throw enemies behind you, you can just turn around and kick them in the back. Then that’s all you really need. It’s almost as bad as the story.
Yes, unlocking moves is now a thing, as the RPG-ification of everything rolls on. Faith earns XP when you complete missions, side missions, activities or find collectables, and unlock points can go into purchasing moves for movement or combat or upgrading your equipment. It’s bizarre so much emphasis is put on the story, but at the same time, Faith can’t think to put her legs up when she vaults over something until you’ve unlocked it. Also, when you start the game, and go into the upgrade screen for the first time, you will see that 11/19 movement upgrades are already unlocked. What?? I had to wonder if someone else had been playing my save file. If Faith already has those abilities, why even put them on the screen? Ah yes, of course. The illusion of depth.
I’m not entirely done with Catalyst. I’m going to try some of the time trials and maybe get a few more collectables, but I’m tremendously disappointed. As I was playing through it, I was constantly hoping for something to bring back the magic, maybe a really good mission or a really great section of the map. But I found absolutely nothing but a lack of creativity. It’s not a terrible game, not by any means, but it is incredibly generic. Which is a rather big achievement, seeing as the original was so…well… original. Now, I see no way forward for Mirror’s Edge now. It’s done. It’s dead.
And by the overwhelming feeling of this game, it seems Dice’ll be relieved they never have to make one again.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a tired game. And it really gives off the feeling that the developers were tired with it too. The atrocious story and the absurdly shitty combat drown out the one thing that is still done really well – the movement. However, the open world also manages to make this feel tired as you take the same paths over and over. While some of the adrenaline-fuelled action is still evident, most of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is entirely forgettable and strangely stuck in the past.
MIRROR’S EDGE: CATALYST