I’ll be honest, I never managed to complete the first Mirror’s Edge game. I’ve owned it since it launched in 2008 and yet I’m still unable to complete the game. But I still love it nonetheless. That being said, I hoped I’d have a different experience with the new game, a game which promises more openness, more fluidity, and more player choice. And in some respects they’ve achieved that, because in just two short days, I come out of the other side of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst filled with success.
I had a love-hate relationship with the first Mirror’s Edge. While it was gorgeous to look at and often a thrill to play, there were some pretty epic flaws, the combat to name one, and the reliant of pre-defined lines in which players had to overcome, being another. In the original game, you needed to get to grips with the controls almost instantly, and with just a few tutorials showing you the way, it ended up being a kill or be killed game for me.
And we all know how well the gun play was in the original.
So in rolls Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, a game which claims to be an origin story, the prequel to the 2008 release, but this time with enough improvements to make the most apprehensive player intrigued, and I’ll say this from the get-go, DICE has managed to improve the original games’ flaws ten-fold.
We all know that the controls for Mirror’s Edge are fairly tricky to get to grips with, but rather than offering you on-screen tutorials showing you each of the more complex moves, the game actually evolves as you do. This is done by locking certain skills behind a skill tree unlocked using skill points earned by completing missions.
Initially, the cynic in me thought that this was a terrible idea as it limits players from reaching certain areas from the beginning, but actually it was a brilliant way for me to not only learn the ropes again, but also eventually add more skills to my collection to add more trickier moves and have enough time to learn those, before another skill came along. It actually made for a really smooth learning curve and made getting about the City of Glass an absolute breeze.
Speaking of which, Glass, the new city in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst promised to be more open and much larger, and while in some respects, that is indeed the case, you’ll often find yourself coming through the same sections over and over again. But like with repetitive RPGs, it actually made for some pretty pleasurably gameplay, especially when you have to go by foot from one end of the map to another. Throughout my time in the game I ended up learning routes and finding familiar places without having to rely on the overly helpful Runner Vision.
Unlike Mirror’s Edge, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst offers more colour in the city, but not in locations reserved for jumping off, onto, and through, the city has various different areas each represented by the decor around it. For fans of the previous game, that might make you wonder how exactly you’ll know where to go if there are no bright red doors to bash through, or pipes to climb. Don’t worry, they come as part of the Runner Vision.
Runner Vision acts as a sort of HUD GPS system which highlights the way to go with fast moving arrows, the more familiar red colouring on key parts of the environment, as well as little blips to grab your attention to something you can grapple onto (more on that, later). This is what adds some familiarity to the game, but it’s worth noting that your reliant on Runner Vision can and will end up punishing you.
You see, DICE have retained the game’s puzzles by occasionally disabling Runner Vision, leaving players to look at the environment around them to figure out where to go. I more often than not stood there completely stumped during these moments, waiting the minute or so required for the Runner Vision to recharge. I’ll admit, without Runner Vision, the game would be much more frustrating, but for those who like a challenge, the option is at least there.
Now, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is considered a sequel, or a reboot, honestly, I couldn’t care less at this point. But essentially, the events of this game happened before the events in the 2008 title. So when I learned of a new grappling hook mechanic, I felt that this was a slightly risky move, especially considering it doesn’t exist in the first game. However, the mechanic itself quickly came natural to the flow of the game, and somehow DICE had managed to make it feel like it had always been a part of the game, which I applaud.
While I sing the game’s praises, there are times however where the game’s existing flaws resurface, and that’s with the combat. This time, due to weapons being biometrically connected to the shooter, Faith can no longer pick up weapons, this means you’ve got to rely on first-person melee combat to take down, or at least stun and avoid enemies. Unfortunately even eight years later, the combat in Mirror’s Edge is clunky and awkward and is frankly one of the most disappointing parts of the game.
For the most part, you can avoid confrontation by tapping the light attack button as you rush by to lightly push the enemy out of the way, however there are occasions where combat is necessary and each time I was faced with a particular sequence such as this, I let out an audible groan. DICE have tried to make confrontation easier by adding a Focus Shield, which essentially has you running and jumping around as fast as you can to avoid being shot, but in the end, you have to come face to face with the game’s various different enemies.
Combat aside, the game’s Story is also one not to write home about. Without too many spoilers, we get to learn about Faith’s childhood and how her parents were killed, we also discover the origin of her cyber-like tattoo, as well as a fairly predictable twist. You’ve got it all, a debt needs owing, salvation comes from an unlikely ally, and the game’s antagonist knows more about the protagonist than she first thought. It’s full of predictable tropes and cliches, but oddly it’s still enjoyable, though it’s mostly the gameplay which helps along with that.
Probably the most favourite part of the story is Plastic’s little robot creation who seems to take a shining to Faith.
Visually, the game’s huge city scapes and rooftops look fantastic, even if you’re speeding from roof to roof, rolling here, there, and everywhere. Graphically the game is fantastic, though I did occasionally come across some glitches with Faith’s hands, but other than that, the game is a pleasure to speed through.
All in all, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst seems to have improved almost every aspect apart from combat. Sure, the story is predictable and cliche, but paired with the gameplay, it becomes an enjoyable experience, and even if you manage to complete the main story, which took me around 8-10 hours to complete, there’s still plenty to do in the form of side-missions and leaderboard-based time trials. You can also create your own trials for other players to attempt, which is a pretty neat concept.
The game is definitely enjoyable, especially if you’re a fan of the first game. It’s also pretty accepting of those unfamiliar with the original, as it stands tall on its own, too.
This review of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game provided by EA Games.