Game Review: Mirror’s Edge – Catalyst (Xbox One)

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst has been a long time coming. The first game in the series launched back in 2008 to fairly favorable reviews and gained a small, but passionate following. When EA announced that a new Mirror’s Edge was in development at E3 2013, it was met with excitement from eager fans looking to once again take up the role as Faith, while running, jumping and parkouring all over that pretty white city. It’s just a shame that all that excitement was kind of wasted on this average at best title.

You play as Faith, a runner, who for some reason has ended up in Juvie, a run gone wrong, or something like that, since the story is within a comic book not released with the game or found within it. This title serves as a prequel to the original game, showing the events that lead to Faith earning that iconic digital grafting down her right arm. I enjoyed the story when it focused on the personal tale that Faith gets caught up in, but anything else this game offers is mediocre and unfortunately average. There is a twist later on in the game that you see coming a mile away, I mean, it’s not even well hidden, and you’ll know it when you see it.

The main story that Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst tries to tell is about control, using a program called Reflection to do so. You’ll meet up and take missions from a figure of Faith’s past, discover new friendships and bonds with those that run with you. Noah Kekai as your boss is a fairly ok character, and used to good effect in a few later story moments. Icarus and Rebecca are throw away characters, even if Icarus started to redeem himself a bit later on in the game. Plastic is easily my favorite character in the game as her story beats and dialogue are some of the highlights of the adventure. Kruger and his daughter Isabel have some nice moments later on, but Kruger as a villain just didn’t have the impact he needed to have. I enjoyed the Dogen character and wished that the game used him far more and in better circumstances than a last resort narrative device.

Mirror’s Edge is a game about running, jumping and parkouring, and they’ve added a grappling hook mechanic called the Mag Rope that shoots a rope up to specific points in the environment, allowing you to either zip up to the ledge above them, or swing across large gaps. Dying in the game can be pretty intense at first as you plummet to the ground, but considering how many times I died, I just got used to it and it lost its edge.

The mechanics for running and jumping are fairly easy to master with a few issues I’ll talk about shorty. You can run up walls, across walls and spin around quickly to grab on to an opposite ledge from your initial wall jump. Most of this works really well except for how precise you need to be on some angles, with messing up leading you to plummet to your death. The swinging and Mag Rope moments are thrilling and work extremely well, making them feel like they’ve always been part of the series. Other types of movement consist of climbing pipes either on the outside of buildings or within elevator shafts, with the latter happening far too much later on in the game.

You’ll find various jobs awaiting your skills from dozens of civilians that for some reason are chilling on rooftops. They mostly consist of time trial events and get boring extremely quickly. There are numerous collectibles to find, everything from glowing yellow orbs, computer chips, sound files, briefcases and more. They mostly just add to earning experience and building up your skills and after a while I started to just ignore them.

As you level up Faith she can learn new parkour moves, deal more damage against certain types of enemies and more. After completing the game I was missing maybe four or five upgrades, but nothing that was really required to progress in the game. You can also change the color of your runner AI, but as I rarely saw it, it didn’t impress me as much as I wanted it too.

You’ll earn icons and various unlocks for creating a runner emblem, but the most puzzling part of it is that you need to visit a website to do so, as there is no designer program built into the game. I would see the unlocks I earned on the map, but as I had no real interest in using my Microsoft Surface to log into the website to make an emblem for Faith, I merely left them. For those who want to get their emblem fix, you’ll earn various icons and objects by completing certain tasks in the game.

For a game that is designed around running fast and defying death on the edge of extremely high buildings, there sure is a lot of combat here. While most fights are over and done with quickly, or bypassed by simply running by them. You can kick at enemies to defeat them, but combat just never feels incredibly fun. You can kick forward and to the left and right and cause the enemy to fall to the side, sometimes over the edge of the building, a platform rail, or into another enemy. My favorite thing to do was knocking them into another enemy by the edge and having them both tumble over, but that rarely happens.

There are essentially four types of enemies. Close range basic, close to mid range shocker, long range rifle and close range heavy. Close range basic can be defeated easily, shockers require a little finesse, or just a door frame to lure them through and then kick them, in fact bottle necking works for every type and almost breaks the game, that is if you can find a door. Rifle types are ok, but as the dodging is somewhat useless, you’ll take a few hits taking them down. Heavies can take a while to put down providing you don’t have the luxury of a door frame, but combine those with a few rifle types and you’re in for a world of hurt. What comes across at the game’s biggest sin is when enemies attack you while you are down. In one scenario in the game you are facing two of the hardest enemy types in the game and if you get knocked down you are open to attack, and rest assured, they will constantly keep hitting you while you are trying to get up.

You can create trial runs around the map for other players to complete and some of them are extremely well designed and brutal. You’ll see them appear everywhere on the map and if you enjoy them, you won’t ever be starved for content. I would recommend tackling these later on in the game once you have unlocked the Mag Rope mechanic as many players have designed their trials to use it.

The visuals are very uneven. Faith looks fantastic in cutscenes and then everything else just looks decent. The aesthetics of a very white city with dabs of color here and there does make the game stand out and look very pretty, but it’s not as clean as I’ve seen developer DICE pull off before. Some textures, especially those with letters on them, look blurry and just don’t come off as impressive. All that being said, the game can at times look gorgeous, just don’t expect a huge variety within each location.

You can activate runner vision that shows a path leading to your goal, this will highlight key areas in red that can be used to proceed to your destination. I found that I had to constantly keep clicking the button for that vision mode to pop up as it can be very easy to take a wrong turn and move farther away from your goal. There are some thrilling missions in the game that rarely need this mode used but they are sadly few and far between. When you are in the thick of it and require runner vision to show you your path, it can become frustrating when you lose the red trail and have to stop and look around for it. It is these delays in the game that stop it from being an enjoyable parkour experience when speed is supposed to be the nature of the game.

Mirror’s Edge is well known for bright white locations with red highlighted sections that indicate where you are to progress to next, but these bright white areas are only on the surface as the game has many indoor and underground locations to shake up the variety. I also enjoyed the more wealthy locations around the city that offered some nice color changes and greater detail in the environments.

Overall I would have to say Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is average, at best. Nothing about the game is impressive, other than the detail given to Faith in the cutscenes. Gameplay mechanics can be fairly solid, but the unforgiving nature of missing a jump by an inch just results in too many cheap deaths, especially when you see that her hand is practically touching the area you need to grab onto. I really wanted to love this game as DICE is a fantastic developer and the original Mirror’s Edge was a memorable experience. I wanted to end this review with some sort of play on Faith’s name like “having a lack of Faith” or “having too much Faith.” but I’ll leave it at this: It’s great to see Faith again, because she is such a wonderfully designed character from an artistic standpoint, but sometimes Faith just isn’t enough, haha.. I did it.


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