Mirror’s Edge has always held a special place in my heart. When it released back in 2008, I was really into the whole parkour fad. I watched videos all the time and maybe even dabbled in doing a little myself. So when I found out EA and DICE were going to release a new Mirror’s Edge I was ecstatic; I couldn’t wait to go back into that world and run all around it. After playing the game for about 18 hours I’m left feeling happy—but also disappointed at what could have been
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is one of those games that could have been amazing. DICE has nailed the parkour once again; the sense of fluid movement and agility is above anything else I have experienced in a game. The complexity of your moveset has been perfectly streamlined, the fast-paced platforming a magical, constantly engaging experience. At least, it is for the first five hours. The decision to move Mirror’s Edge into an open world was a bold move on DICE’s part and one that worked—for the most part. While The City is teeming with side activities and secrets, it lacks the spark and finesse of its linear predecessor. 2008’s Mirror’s Edge had a keen sense of locomotive flow—players had a clear goal and one direction in which to head towards, relying upon their parkour skills to get there in the fastest time.
"The fast-paced platforming is a magical, constantly engaging experience. At least, it is for the first five hours."
Catalyst, on the other hand, offers multiple ways to the objective, but they aren’t always made clear. This leaves you with a decision to make. Do you use runner’s vision, which is basically a red breadcrumb trail to your objective; or do you just blindly run, hoping you get to your the waypoint? I found either option to be troublesome, with me often standing there, looking around, desperately trying to figure out where to go—which for a game about efficiency and kinetic parkour, really hurts the overall flow of the game. The one exception to this is the final mission. I won’t spoil it, but it is the only level that reminded me of the original game’s dynamism, which only made the whole open world thing hurt that much more.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst may shine when you’re free running around, but the so-so storytelling falls flat like an amateur parkourist. The game kicks off with Faith being released from juvie (if you want to find out how or why she got there in the first place, you have to read a comic book—as every other loading screen will pound into your head) Before she can even leave the premises she is already getting into trouble, meeting up with Icarus; a typically alpha male, overconfident character that is forever trying to one up Faith. He hooks you with Noah, an old friend and leader of a faction of ‘runners.’ And so begins the story of how Faith becomes the runner we know and loved from the original Mirror’s Edge—except nothing particularly excites or surprises.
Potentially intriguing narrative threads fizzle out to nothing. Even a late-game twist—which I won’t ‘spoil’—can be seen coming from light-years away. The characters are similarly tissue-thin, adding nothing substantial to the story, with their universal defining trait apparently being “bland and boring.” This is a disappointment, seeing as each character is screaming for you to care about them. The game does hint at some backstory between the characters, but my guess is you’ll have to, again, read the Mirror’s Edge comic to get the full picture.
"Mirror's Edge: Catalyst may shine when you're free running around, but the so-so storytelling falls flat like an amateur parkourist."
The good news is that, after finishing the atrocious excuse for a story, there is still plenty of side missions and collectibles to hunt around for. The definite highlight of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, however, is the time trials. There’s just something so fun about having a timer, a destination, and trying to find the fastest route to get there. This is when the game shines at being a parkour simulator. Route markers are offered, but following them beat for beat will not get you the highest star rating. Time trials really challenge you to get creative and explore the many options you have at your disposal. Instead of simply climbing a fence, you could wall run and do a jump tuck, shaving off precious seconds. Or you could get inventive with the new grappling hook, discovering hidden paths and shortcuts. It always pays to experiment.
The side missions, on the other hand, are hit and miss. Most are delivery quests where you get an item and have a set time to get to the drop point. The other side missions range from boring to extremely boring. The diversion quests, for instance, is Mirror’s Edge at its worse. You are tasked with running from location to location and attacking enemies to cause a diversion. Once you have their attention, you have to sprint to the next set of enemies, all while being timed. This wouldn’t be so terrible if combat was in any way fun.
We were promised all sorts of refinements and improvements over the original’s lackluster combat—but it sure as hell didn’t feel that way to me. Failing to read an enemy’s poorly telegraphed moves often left me punching at nothing, that all-important flow lost. I ended up repeatedly forcing opponents off ledges just to quickly clear these sections, but even without this little trick, combat remained boring and repetitive. Like so much of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, the failures of combat are more keenly felt because of its squandered potential. It could have been so much more.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst had such promise. The sense of stylish movement and fast-paced platforming created some amazing experiences throughout the 15-hour campaign—but the horrendous story, forgettable characters, and flawed open world design hold Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst back from being a great game.