Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst PS4 Review
Publisher: EA Developer: EA DICE Genre: Action Adventure Players: 1
Age Rating: 16+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
Many people wanted a sequel to 2008’s Mirror’s Edge, and I was definitely amongst those eager folk. Following the desire for a sequel, another thing that I very much craved was an open-world follow-up. I always imagined that Mirror’s Edge’s Parkour themed gameplay would work very well in a larger environment. I’m happy to say that the sequel now exists. As it turns out, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is also an open-world game, which means that you can use your amazingly athletic moves to explore the brand new urban environment, going here, there and everywhere. With all the latter said, the game definitely ticks a number of important boxes for me.
For reasons I cannot entirely comprehend, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is an origin story for the heroine, Faith Connors, a Runner fresh out of jail. The story is a decent enough one, although it’s loaded with clichés, and, as the characters waffled on and on about different things, I must admit that I found myself zoning out from time to time. There are worse narratives, but there are also a lot more skilfully written stories out there, and the same could be said of its predecessor as well.
The story may not be up to scratch, but the open-world that Catalyst takes place in is a marvellous creation. I already fell in love with the neo-futuristic world of the original game, and I’m glad that the sequel shares these same themes, but in a larger open-world than the linear levels featured in the original game. The city of Glass is your Parkour playground in this sequel, and it’s a beautiful modern place with a futuristic slant. You can tell that DICE knew exactly what they wanted with the city design, and if it was a real city, it’s the kind of place that would probably have close to unlimited funds to play with. Everything looks pristinely clean, and bright colours once again look striking against the less colourful environments, and there’s certainly plenty of interesting architecture to be found all over the place. It’s a beautiful game, and one that is extremely memorable in its choice of design.
Dashing around the futuristic utopian playground is once again an absolute joy. Runner’s Vision makes its return, which highlights objects, turning them red, to give you an idea as to where to go. If you’d rather not have the assistance of Runner’s Vision, you can turn it off entirely. If you do decide to keep the feature turned on, you can opt to have it holding your hand tightly, in which it basically shows you a direct route to follow, or you could always switch to the classic mode. As the name suggests, the classic mode has more in common with the Runner’s Vision that was present in the original game, giving you only a basic idea as to where to go. My preference is definitely the classic mode, as it helps out but doesn’t hold your hand too much. With classic mode on or Runner’s Vision turned off entirely, the adventuring element of the original game does remain for those who want it. If you don’t want to use your brain, however, and just want to run, then having the full Runner’s Vision turned on is definitely the best option for you.
The Parkour itself is very much like the first game in the series, which means that you can run up and along walls, make gigantic leaps of faith, break your fall with a well timed roll, and climb up and down pipes. It’s all enormously satisfying, and the first person Parkour feels as responsive, enjoyable and natural as it should. Being open-world, the difference here is that there are often more routes to your goals than there was in the original game, and the sequel also introduces Focus. As you run, you’ll build Focus, which is basically a protective shield for Faith. Whenever Focus is available to you, this takes damage before her health. Stop running or take damage though, and the Focus meter starts dipping, which means that the emphasis has once again been placed on making swift movements in the game as opposed to the typical first person shooting seen in many other games.
In fact, Catalyst has removed the use of guns entirely, at least for the player. Enemies still have firearms, although they’re locked to the ID of their users, so the excuse is that Faith couldn’t even touch them if she wanted to. Those dissatisfied with the shooting in the original game will be glad of its removal in this sequel and, let’s face it, it wasn’t even that necessary in that game. Melee combat, however, does make its return but, sadly, it is rather underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s serviceable enough, but connected hits could have better feedback, and if only DICE had succeeded in making the first person combat as satisfying as the first person Parkour, then it could have been very special indeed.
Much more successful are the traversal attacks. These allow you to keep moving while taking out enemies at the same time, and it’s immensely satisfying to jump down and kick an enemy in the head or slide into their legs, all without stopping for breath. Again, this shows that Mirror’s Edge is at its best when on the run, and being that the city environments aren’t always designed to easily attack enemies this way, perhaps more emphasis should have been placed on these traversal attacks. With that said, sometimes the best thing to do is to just run away from any threats.
Also new is the upgradeable MAG Rope, which Faith is able to use to swing on in its simplest form, but she is also later able to quickly propel herself upwards, and even pull down certain objects. It’s a great little addition, and because it can only be used at certain points in the city of Glass, I’m pleased to say that it’s not overused in a way that makes the Parkour feel redundant. DICE have remembered where the focus of Mirror’s Edge should lie; that’s in feeling the thrill from running about, and hearing Faith’s footsteps echo and her shoes squeak on certain surfaces.
I mentioned that the MAG Rope is upgradeable, and speaking of such upgrades, Faith actually has three upgradeable skill trees for movement, combat and gear. The game follows the typical template of earning experience through your actions, and eventually earning a skill point to spend, of which allows you to unlock a new upgrade of your choosing. Some of the upgrades, however, can only be chosen when you reach a certain point in the story. Through upgrades, Faith gets stronger and faster, and she is able to later disrupt the communication systems of enemies, allowing her to stun them for a short while.
As an open-world game, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst has a high volume of content. There’s collectibles to find, time trials, carrier missions, billboards to hack, and fast travel to unlock in each area, as well as other side content. This is all outside the main storyline and, speaking of which, while there isn’t a huge amount of main missions, they are pleasing enough in their execution, offering a decent enough amount of variation for a game that has its major focus on movement. It’s the aforementioned movement that makes everything so enjoyable, although it has to be said that some of the side content can get a little repetitive.
As for the rest of the side content, this is actually player created. It’s possible to create your own time trials for other players to run, and you can take part in runs created by other players. It’s a nice inclusion, and it’s possible to create any run that you desire, and each and every creation has their own leaderboards. It’s the type of user generated content that may just have avid players coming back for more time and time again.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a welcome sequel to a game that always deserved to eventually become part of a series. The first person Parkour is fluid and responsive, and DICE have once again succeeded in making you feel as though you are actually in Faith’s athletic body as opposed to a mere passenger. The new open-world environment of the high-tech city of Glass is also a joy to behold, and certainly doesn’t disappoint. Like the original game, there are flaws to be found here, but this is still one exhilarating sequel, and hopefully one that won’t be as overlooked as the original game was in terms of its lifetime sales numbers.