When the original Mirror’s Edge came out it was a bit of an outsider. In a gaming industry where shooters were the norm and big budget action games were making all the money, for DICE (the studio behind Battlefield) to let a portion of their team work on something new and unproven, was a pretty big risk. Overall the initial game didn’t sell as well as EA had hoped, but it quickly became somewhat of a cult classic among fans.
When Mirror’s Edge was at it’s absolute best there was nothing in gaming like it anywhere. This is what captivated the people that ended up falling in love with it and those who feverishly began bugging EA for a sequel. Once Mirror’s Edge Catalyst was announced a few E3’s ago it was like seeing lightening strike twice. Mirror’s Edge is not the type of game that should work in today’s market, so the first thing I’d like to do is thank EA for letting either game see the light of day. With that being said, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst isn’t quite what a second Mirror’s Edge game should be. Don’t take that as a sign that the game is terrible, it’s far from that, but on top of the very solid movement base and world there are some more modern items added that try to steer the game more into “what does this game need to sell in 2016” waters and out of “what should Mirror’s Edge actually be.”
The story of the game is where one of the drawbacks shows up. It’s a solid set-up, Faith is getting of out prison after over a year and immediately goes back to the runner under (or over) world by snipping her wrist link to the rest of the city, and the law. She meets a new runner, who is unapologetically cocky, and meets back up with her old mission handler Noah, who raised her following the death of her parents. Faith doesn’t heed old warnings and immediately (within the first few missions) gets right in the middle of some shady business with Kruger Holdings, run by Gabriel Kruger, the man who killed Faith’s parents. Faith steals a phone from an unnamed intruder when Kruger and co. corner him, and she flees. Faith owes a lot of Scrip (money) to a shady businessman named Dogen, so she believes whatever is on the phone is enough to get her off the hook. I don’t want to go much further, as it would get into major spoiler territory, but the story in the game feels slightly off from the charm of the first game, even with the first game having the “E-Surance” cutscenes. It is entertaining overall, but doesn’t quite work as well as I was hoping.
Gameplay and world, on the other hand, are fantastic. Where the story and side missions frustrate, the core of Catalyst glows and impresses. This game is just fun to run around in. There was a lot of worry initially with this game being open world, and how difficult it would be to build that into the parkour gameplay of Mirror’s Edge. It works great. The world is big enough, and every place you run feels lovingly crafted to work no matter which path you take. It also all looks great. Sleek and clean as the first game was, but also with the ability to see people down below. If I’d offer one drawback of the world it would be that it feels too stark sometimes. You’re on rooftops nearly all the time, so it feels barren occasionally. Thankfully the new locations you unlock change up colors and decor enough to keep you moving. The gameplay itself is fantastic, aside from the trivial unlock system DICE added. Coming right off playing Mirror’s Edge, Catalyst feels quicker and snappier when doing the same moves. I never once felt frustrated at Faith’s jumps or movements. The fighting is back, but works much better this time. I still loathe that there are segments where you have to fight, but at least now you can fight back. Guns have been removed as an option for Faith, which is great.
The second biggest negative of the game overall is the unlock system. Mirror’s Edge never had this, and it feels tacked on as if to give you something to shoot for. You unlock most of the old movements fairly quick, but it’s still largely unnecessary as a system in the game. This system, on top of a lackluster story and forced fighting disappoint me quite a bit, as some of these lessons could have been learned from the first game, but luckily the movement and world are good enough that you can still get plenty of that old Mirror’s Edge feeling when playing.
Overall Catalyst feels like two games. The first is that of the base movement and world. It feels like Mirror’s Edge, plays like it, and looks like it. The second is that of a modern EA game with forced combat, unlock trees, and sub-par stories. When paired together these two parts make Catalyst feel odd. It’s very fun to just go run around the world and do time trials, but once you get into the story you may not care as much as you’d like. I think fans of the first game will still quite enjoy Catalyst, but new players may find it a mediocre story game with an interesting base movement mechanic, or more of a one trick pony. I quite enjoyed the game, but with the drawbacks I could recommend waiting for a price drop to most more casual fans of the franchise.