The first Mirror’s Edge felt like it was released so long ago it might have been in the last century, along with the invention of the combustion engine and sliced bread. But now it’s spawned a sequel, or a very fashionable prequel, for the new generation of console. I loved the first game with its groundbreaking use of parkour mixed with a very attractive level design and a fascinating female protagonist. Well the good news is that all these elements are back, and playing the new game feels so very familiar that your finger memory easily remembers how it all works.
But does Catalyst still have the appeal of the original? Does it still have its edge? Sorry about the pun. Well it’s a mixed bag…
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a 1st person action/platformer/combat adventure set in the future. You play as Faith, a runner who plies her trade across the rooftops of the city of Glass; delivering messages, illegal contraband and causing all sorts of problems. Faith has just been released from prison with a warning, but goes straight back to her world of running on the rooftops. You have a base of operations from a man called Noah and you earn script (money) for doing missions. The main city of Glass is run by a sort of fascist dictator who controls a brutal security force whom like nothing better then shooting you down or beating you up. It’s an open world structure with the main story missions, some side missions from supporting characters, time trials, deliveries, fragile deliveries and the online challenges. It’s a very different direction from the first game which was much more of a linear structure, and I think this open world format doesn’t do it many favors. There are a load of things to do granted, but the rooftops do get a bit bland and boring after a short while.
The actual gameplay is a mixture of the sublime and the tedious. As before, you are always running, jumping, spinning and climbing. This is all done in 1st person, and it looks amazing with each turn and twist.The colour red is a guide to where you should run and objects in red are things you should spring off or climb up. These are suggested routes, but you find this red line to follow really important because without it, it’s very easy to get lost or jump of the edge and die. When it’s great, it’s brilliant and you feel like the coolest person in the history of things being very ice cool indeed. Then there are times when you fall into a gap, or wander off the edge, or get stuck in a rut when you just can’t make that jump and someone is shooting you and help… please make it stop!!!
Sorry, but there are moments when this game is very frustrating and becomes tedious very quickly.
Combat is different from the original by not giving you access to weapons anymore, there are guns but they are not for you, you have to rely on your fists and legs. The combat is a simple light and heavy attack to begin with, but more open up as you progress through the game. You can kick enemies into each other or over the edge of buildings and you can duck and dive away from their attacks. This all works well and is quite fun to do, especially when you get a run of combinations going, but inevitably as with all of this game, it falls a bit short from being perfect. Sometimes you can’t lock onto whom you want to attack, which really doesn’t help matters when there are loads of enemies and the guns seem to be able to shoot you from anywhere. As you progress through the game you gain upgrades and some new bits of kit that help you access new areas, like a swing rope and a grapple hook to pull yourself up to certain areas. You can’t use these all the time, only in certain hot spots.
The side missions in Catalyst get very tired quickly because it’s normally a delivery mission or a get here in a certain amount of time mission. You fail at these a few times then, repeat and repeat to succeed. After ten hours, it’s sometimes best to avoid these at all costs and ignore the pleas from characters saying “Faith I’ve got something for you”. The main story missions for Mirror’s Edge are the best-developed pieces and I enjoyed the story arc and where it takes Faith, even though some of it is very familiar and a well-trodden path, it still was really enjoyable
The look and graphical detail is of a very high standard. The city design is beautiful and the characters, cut scenes and colour grading are stunning. It mixes reality and future design effortlessly. The only criticism I would level at the design choice is that the city is very bare and under populated. You see the odd person in their flat or at work, but it’s a handful of people and that takes you away somewhat from completely immersing yourself into that world and narrative. The sound score is beautiful, a mixture of electronic and chill out tracks that reminds me a bit of Mass Effect, which is high praise indeed. The voice over work is again exemplary with some great acting and delivery from the cast. The sound effects are great as well, with my favourite being when you fall of the edge to your death, you’re accompanied by a whooshing sound and Faith’s breath getting more frantic as you plummet.
There is an online element you can get involved with this time around as well. You can get on the leaderboards for runs etc. and lay down markers saying you’ve been here and there. The most successful and interesting bit is where you can make your own checkpoint race and other online users can have a go at completing it to get on the leaderboard. This is really inventive and there are some great courses out there to try and compete in.
Overall Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is quality and there has been a lot of money invested in this franchise, which shows up on the screen. But there is something lacking and a bit saggy in the overall game that makes you lose interest quite quickly. Maybe it’s because lots of games have copied the original concept from the first game, and have sucked a bit of the life out of the originality of Mirror’s Edge. There is loads of fun to be had after the story has finished, with all the online features and hunting down all the extra side missions, it’s just whether the lure of the game will make you want to get back on that rooftop.