Mirror's Edge: Catalyst
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA DICE
Genre: Open World Adventure / Platforming
Release Dates: June 7, 2016 (NA) / June 9, 2016 (EU)
Price: £16.47 (Amazon)
After the launch of the original Mirror's Edge back in 2008, DICE finally decided to give the franchise another try with Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, a series reboot that managed to capture the feeling of the original game, without adding too much to it. You once again play as Faith, our protagonist who was just released from prison after doing her time and jumping back into the roofs of the city of Glass. If you have played the original Mirror's Edge there's not much to look forward to when it comes to the story, as it once again revolves around a corporations taking over the world conspiracy, leaving you and the rest of the runners to save it from KrugerSec domination, as the last people off the Grid, a network that connects everyone and everything in Glass.
Jumping from one primary mission to the next one the game can be finished in less than 10 hours, and while this is by far the best part of the game, the quality of the missions will vary, as some of them introduce new mechanics and tools to get around, making it exciting to play for the first time, while others recycle the already familiar climbing mechanics and even entire parts from the original game. Aside from that you have a few side missions, time trials, runner errands and Plastic's grid missions, but the principle remains the same behind each one: running and lots of running; while the core parkour mechanic is fluid and sometimes can make up for some awe inspiring moments, it will eventually run its course, as you will eventually have to make your way through the same buildings you have been into a dozen times before, which ultimately lack variety and the concept of landmark, as even with the opportunity to make Glass's sky towers some of the memorable locations in the game, each building feels familiar to the previous one and there is an overall lack of design variety when it comes to the environment.
There is no direct multiplayer mode, but you can however create and place time trials that will show up in other people's games, challenging them to beat your time and vice-versa, but this once again falls into the repetitive running pit after a while. The other online concept comes in the form of changeable billboards that will show up in other people's games with your custom design, but this is nothing more than a cheap gimmick that will wear off after the first one.
The greatest part about 2008's Mirror's Edge was running, and it still is in Catalyst, but apart from the wall running, jumping and climbing, there is nothing much more to it; halfway through the game you will be introduced to the grappling hook, which does help with the concept of Faith's freedom of movement, especially since Mirror's Edge is now an open world game, but you can only grapple to certain points in certain areas, so it only feels like movement freedom if you stick to the given path.
Another problem that comes with Catalyst's parkour movement is the fact that there are no invisible walls to keep you from falling of the rooftops, which will happen a lot and will most surely result in death, after which you have to stand behind a loading screen for the next 10-15 seconds, this wouldn't be a problem if you would only die because of the challenge ahead of you or mission difficulty, but in the city of Glass jumping one foot to the left will miss that small plank that you are supposed to jump to and lead to your death, and while over time you will eventually learn to control your movement in such way to avoid some of those deaths, the buggy navigation system and unknown obstacles ahead will still be responsible for the others.
This is an issue that could've been easily fixed by allowing you to use the grappling hook to to grapple back onto a ledge that you missed by a few centimeters to the left, avoiding at least half of those annoying and unintentional deaths and lowering the level of frustration that comes with them. The navigation system, called the Runner Vision, will help you make your way through the city of Glass, at least when it works, as more than a few dozen times it ended up showing the way straight through a wall, making a one building journey circle an entire neighborhood and sometimes simply disappear for no reason.
Unlike the 2008 installment, Catalyst dropped the use of guns in exchange for a more martial arts combat mechanic that allows you to kick your opponents using direction to kick them against a wall, over the ledge or towards another enemy in order to get rid of them easier, and while this mechanic can make up some interesting moments when it does work, especially get a kick rebound from a wall run, it can be in the same amount disappointing when it doesn't, which will number quite a few cases. The collision mechanic will often detect even the slightest encounter with a wall or a ledge as a final flow, making enemies look like they are intentionally throw themselves over ledge like a cheap 70s action movie. Also, not every enemy can be defeated with one single hit over the ledge, as some later enemies will have more health and armor, making it impossible to dispose of them in one hit, moment when the combat mechanic shows it's really dull side, as you will have to corner them and just keeping left and right until the enemy's health bar is depleted, something that can get extremely boring after a while.
Built using Frostbite 3, the same engine used in the last three Battlefield games, Mirror's Edge Catalyst certainly looks like a current generation game in terms of graphics and effects, but where it lacks is its simplistic, monotone design, as even with the fact that the city of Glass is supposed to be primarily white, it just is white for most parts, with the only thing standing out being the occasional drop of orange, a building logo or your Runner Vision making objects ahead of you red. Sticking to only a few colors does make things easier to see, especially since you will be running for most of the time, but a few more drops of colors here and there wouldn't hurt, especially in the interiors where highlighting the path isn't even available.
Animations can be a little bit cranky at times, barely noticeable on main characters such as Faith, Noah or Icarus, but very noticeable on side characters that you will encounter for side missions and delivery errands, as sometimes they will just end up staying there without even moving their head or lips while talking. Visual effects are okay, but nothing spectacular to see, mostly because there isn't much content to bring them up, as there are only a few explosions and no weather system.
The entire cast has been changed for this reboot, with Faye Kingslee taking the role of Faith Connors, and actors such as Karen David, Jeff Berg, Jim Pirri or Ozioma Akagha taking on the side roles of Isabel Kruger, Icarus, Noah and Plastic respectively, and while their work is in theme with the character, the overall dialogue and little intrigue in the story makes them just another piece of a giant puzzle that just doesn't fit right.
The soundtrack only sticks to a few tunes played during the most action-filled segments of the game, but they are just there to provide a background tune while you do the jumping, without any memorable track that will stay with you after completing the mission, and compared to the "Still Alive" song from the original Mirror's Edge, those are way below in quality.
The main story can be completed in 10-12 hours, add a few more if you're willing to do all the runner errands and trials, but even with that huge chunk of side content and the possibility of online trials, you probably won't stick for long after finishing the main story, as all the side content is basically just pointless running which will eventually run off, as the city of Glass is not as impressive as it could've been.
If you liked 2008's Mirror's Edge, Catalyst is more of that in a more premium package, but aside from that, it does very little to differentiate itself and set a standard for another successful franchise, as it relies way too much on running alone and whatever else there is to it, either has problems or just isn't that intriguing.