The original Mirror’s Edge launched way back in 2009 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was a wonderfully stylish and an impressively slick game, but not without its flaws.
Fast forward to 2016, and we finally have a second game in the series. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst manages to avoid most of the problems that hindered its predecessor, but unfortunately picks up an entirely new set of troubles.
For the uninitiated, Mirror’s Edge combines a first person viewpoint with fast paced combat and platforming parkour action in a near future dystopian city.
When all of the gameplay elements properly gel together, Catalyst is an absolute revelation – leaping across rooftops and vaulting over obstacles to boot guards in the face is a blast, and the intimate viewpoint makes for a truly immersive experience quite unlike any platformer since… well, since the first Mirror’s Edge.
A lot of work has clearly gone into making you feel as close to being Faith (the game’s protagonist) as possible. You hear her trainers squeak as she slides across glass roofs, or the sound of her panting as she builds up speed. Her arms and legs swing into frame as she leaps across chasms and the camera sways from left to right as she walks across narrow beams.
Visually speaking, nothing in Catalyst ever had quite the same impact on me as the first Mirror’s Edge did back in the day.
That’s not to say it’s an ugly game at all. The city is beautiful, and the focus on bright primary colours makes a nice change of pace from your typically drab and dour modern FPS games. The character models on the other hand (especially the faces), range from okay to downright weird looking.
Mercifully I never experienced any performance issues while playing on the PS4. I had my concerns after the beta, but everything seems to be ticking over smoothly so far.
Sadly, the combat is a drag, and often brings the game screeching to a halt whether you want it to or not. See, Faith’s combat prowess comes entirely from her speed and free running skill – building up enough momentum to slide into guards or smash them over railings can take them out.
As such, it just doesn’t work when the game insists on throwing you into arena style areas with a set number of enemies to defeat (and it happens way more than it should). Without any room to manoeuvre and utilise that key momentum, you’ll have to rely on spamming one or two moves.
Compared to how satisfying the game can feel when it’s firing on all cylinders, it’s so damn disappointing to end up stuck in such plodding battles – especially when the game prefers to increase the challenge later on by adding more bad guys to pummel rather than introducing more intricate level designs.
This is a real shame, because the platforming in Catalyst is superb. Where its predecessor was an entirely linear affair, this time you’re thrown into an incredible virtual playground where you can hunt for collectables, enter into races, or even just get lost and fuck around so that you can test your skills.
Of course, you’ll need your skills to be on top form, because this game can get hard. Leaping across buildings can require some ninja like timing – fuck up, and you’re street pizza.
Thankfully, you’ll always have the ability to toggle a “Sat Nav” like feature which will show you the best way to make your way across the cities rooftops in an entirely unobtrusive way that keeps the action flowing. The route shown won’t always be the best route though, so you’re encouraged to go off piste and experiment.
Annoyingly, you’re forced to unlock skills from an entirely pointless upgrade menu as you progress through the game. Essential skills that should absolutely be there from the beginning, such as the ability to quick turn, are locked until you progress to certain points in the game’s campaign.
It feels tacked on and in the way. You’ll probably have everything you need to really get cracking unlocked in the first hour or so, but if you can do that then what’s the point of having an unlock system in the first place?
My suspicion is that they needed something to entice you to play the actual story, because God knows you won’t be playing Catalyst just to see what happens next.
I haven’t really talked about the story much before now because it’s so by the numbers it’s almost insulting.
Faith is an an off-the-grid courier in the corporate-controlled Utopian megacity of Glass. There is a conspiracy. Faith is the key to everything. I’ve seen rulers with more twists, frankly.
It doesn’t help that the cast of characters are absolute generic non-entities. I feel like I forgot who they were every time I looked away from them for more than two seconds.
Obviously, this made it much harder to give a crap about the campaign. Oh, and it’s a prequel to the original game, so by the end you know for a fact that your actions haven’t actually changed a thing.
Still, there’s a fair bit of replay to be had. Perfectionists will find themselves going back to the time trials over and over to shave seconds off their time and get top scores, while the wide variety of side quests and extra missions offer a nice distraction and some enjoyable set-pieces.
Ironically, my final verdict on this game would pretty much mirror (sorry) my opinion on the original: If you can look past its flaws, there really is a lot to enjoy in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.