Remember that red and white coloured free running game where you played as an edgy girl with a couple of dodgy tattoos? Mirror’s Edge has made a return this month with the prequel, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, being released.
So, for anybody interested in buying Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the main question is: is Mirror’s Edge Catalyst worth buying with the AAA price tag?
If you played the first Mirror’s Edge game, you’ll know it was flawed. Really, really flawed, yet undeniably fun. Jumping 30ft off of one building and onto the next is something I can honestly say I’ll only be able to do in a video game, and that really was the initial appeal. The potential was always there for a unique and stand-out free running game, yet instead of putting all of it’s focus into wall running and stunts, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst chose to put a lot of time into story.
The first Mirror’s Edge game was definitely lacking story, and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst seems to feel the need to make up for this by offering an in depth plot and back story. The main game story itself isn’t really gripping or compelling – it’s actually really easy to lose track of. Fans of the first Mirror’s Edge game may feel differently, and actually enjoy knowing more about Faith’s origin story, but for me it just felt dull. Each cutscene slows down your frantic speed and stops the pace of the game, which I feel this could have been avoided with shorter or even interactive cut scenes, but unfortunately they just feel like a drag. Sadly and expectedly the characters are forgettable and generic too – there’s far too many of them and they didn’t seem to have a huge impact when playing, as there was no emotional connection or interest for me.
It’s also worth knowing that the core story of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst itself is fairly short and can be finished in a matter of hours. Although having said that, Catalyst has a lot more to offer than just story. In fact, there’s a decent amount to do around the city. If you wanted to boycott the story altogether, this is still a genuinely fun game to play. From side quests, deliveries, time trials, races and much more, there’s plenty to fill your time with. It’s a very pick up and play style game, that allows the player freedom to choose what to do when, as opposed to the linear feel from the first Mirror’s Edge game.
The biggest change Mirror’s Edge Catalyst displays is that it’s totally open world. This is a typical feature of a lot of games now, and I feel this was a safe decision that payed off. If you’re looking for a quick paced, parkour based game that really does allow you to do your own thing – this is it. With being open world, comes a choice system. Players can choose what they want to do, when, and at their own pace. The amount there is to do around the city scape is pretty impressive, and the way Faith’s movement flows makes it feel seamless. User created content gives an endless feel too, as you can be roaming around and stumble upon a race created by your mate. Allowing players to make their own races and time trails is a simple yet effective addition, especially for competitive players. Oh, and because the map is decently sized, there’s also fast travel points, if you want to completely defeat the purpose of a game based on free running.
As Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is so simple and easy to get used to, it’s definitely allowed itself to be marketed to a variety of auditions and ages. It flows in a very recognisable and simple format, and the actual free running works better than expected. The robotic and awkward feeling the first Mirror’s Edge game had at times has been replaced with a solid, flowing and functional bit of parkour. As you complete quests and optional missions, you gain XP. With this, you can level up and put points into your movement, combat, and gear. Leveling yourself up is fairly relaxed, and you don’t have to put too much effort into quests in order to get the best out of them – it’s also a regular affair, you’ll find yourself gaining upgrade points often.
The map is of a decent size, and being able to go whichever way you want is great, but sometimes runners vision can be a little hard to follow because of this. Following suit from the first Mirror’s Edge game, you still have your trusty runners vision to guide you across the vast city scape, just this time, it’s not as direct. Occasionally runners vision gives up altogether and goes offline, or it thinks it’s a really smart idea to send you flying off of the edge of a building. The effect this has on the game as a whole is diminishing at times, as Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is solely based around momentum, and can clash with the whole open world feel. Alongside this, the audio loops are prominent and noticeable at times, and the music can skip seemingly at random. The score of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is also pretty generic, and doesn’t scream Mirror’s Edge to me, which feels like a wasted opportunity. Regardless of those few flaws, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst didn’t have a day one update, which in itself is impressive nowadays.
One feature everyone will be hoping for an improvement on, is combat. I’m going to be honest with you, it’s not good. Oh boy, it’s not good. Instead of simplifying it, or totally removing it altogether, it’s just been made into a jumbled mess. It ranges from an easy jump off of a building, feet first into someone’s face, to an almost horde sized ring of enemies, all coming at you at once. It can feel like plain button mashing at times in order to get yourself away from the terror that is KSec. At times, it’s just about bearable, as you can simply glide past or over enemies, but for the most part, it just feels unnecessarily difficult or awkward to avoid. The combat system could work well if the extent was the occasional guy you needed to push out of the way in a corridor – but it’s just too much and too often. Also, if you’re on your way to a mission and KSec just decide to turn up, be prepared to follow your runners vision in the totally opposite direction just to escape them.
Now, a stand out trait of the first Mirror’s Edge game was its use of blocks of colour in order to get the most from its surroundings. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst takes that, and amplifies it by 10. The use of saturated, bold colours brings a vibrancy to the city of Glass. The visuals come in blocks – a whole area may be filled with slightly different shades of the same colour repeated. It honestly does look impressive whilst you’re zipping over buildings. Indoor environments also appear frequently, giving a refreshing break from solely crashing over buildings. Personally, I’ve felt like the frame rate has held up at a constant 60fps throughout the game. It continues to run smoothly regardless of the speed you’re at and which route you may be dashing through. In the way of colours, you have the ability to adjust and do slight customisations, such as changing your runners vision patterns. You can also create a pretty funky runner’s tag on the app or website, that you can use within the game and place on hacked billboards, which other players can see and adds some personality and vibrancy to your version of Glass.
Is Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Worth Buying?
If you can get used to the undeniable flaws, Catalyst can be a pretty gripping and chilled game to pick up and play. The time trials, dashes and deliveries are definitely addictive, and you’ll likely find yourself losing hours attempting to beat your friend’s times on the leaderboards. If you’re that way inclined, there’s a few hundred collectables to go around searching for, that gives the game a form of replay-ability. It runs smoothly for the most part, and the parkour genuinely feels exciting and exhilarating.
Overall, I’d say it’s worth picking up at a reduced or sale price – but not at the AAA price tag. It can be an enjoyable experience if you go into it not expecting too much from it. Considering it hasn’t moved on too far from the first Mirror’s Edge game, it’s a bit disheartening, but you’ll likely have a lot of fun with this if you did with the previous game. Basically, it’s not much better, just a lot bigger. It has it’s strengths, and if you focus solely on those, the game can be a fun experience – it just felt like it could of done that little bit more. In short, if you’re a throwing-myself-from-high-altitudes kinda maniac, and if you’ve always wanted to get into a bit of parkour but you’re not that athletically skilled, give Mirror’s Edge Catalyst a go.