It’s been just over seven years since the first Mirror’s Edge released and from the way it was received, one might make the assumption that it didn’t deserve this most recent installment. While the first game was light on content, finished by some in under three hours, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst ups the gameplay tenfold, building on its parkour movement system in a much more open world City of Glass.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also Available On: Xbox One/PC
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
The original game introduced us to Faith, a runner who delivers contraband for those looking to avoid the authorities, but this isn’t like the drug runners that we may have today, the world of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst lands in the heavily monitored city called Glass. Everything controlled, everything monitored, a world of perfect little citizens living in perfect harmony with everything in its place and a place for every person. You don’t ever really see much of ground level, where much of society passes the time, as you run across rooftops at extraordinary heights and distances making these deliveries, springboarded up to the stratospheric heights within minutes of entering gameplay.
Continuing the previous game’s storyline which concluded with Faith winding up in prison, Catalyst sees you release from prison years later on good behavior. Set to rejoin society as a law abiding citizen, Faith is quickly thrown back into the runner life by Icarus, a fellow runner sent to help you off of the controlled grid. Although she’s ready to get back to what she knows best, she’s quickly met by some old acquaintances working for a man named Dogen who Faith owes a debt she earned prior to her term behind bars. Turning to some old friends for help, the demons of Faith past begin to rise up fast, uncovering much more than Faith ever bargained for.
The City of Glass is angelic, appearing to be the cleanest city on Earth with only the footprints of runners past to give you an idea where to step up or jump from on your runs. Obviously, since it’s a first-person perspective game, there aren’t many opportunities within the free roam part of the game where you get to look at yourself, but there are a few reflective surfaces here and there. The contrast of the colour, white and red is spectacular, a design allowing the environment to provide clues towards a suggested path which gives players a greater amount of control of how they play through the new open world. The open environment, of course, has been one of the hot topics of the release with a good portion of negativity surrounding the debate on whether it was ever necessary, should more effort had gone into the story or side missions instead.
In my opinion, the open world provides a free-roaming practice environment of sorts, where you can try out and perfect the different abilities that make you a much more effective runner. Similarly, the side missions offer plenty of opportunities to practice, though it should be noted that these side-stories have absolutely no bearing on the main campaign itself. They don’t give you any dynamic clues toward the main part of the story and they don’t give you any kind of backstory to any of the characters you have met. They do, however, provide a nice break between the story missions, offering a nice run and further practice, more than anything.
The enemies you encounter are all fairly similar throughout the game, mostly different types of city guard with various assortments of gear, their abilities more or less matching their appearance with guards getting tough the more gear they have on. There are a number of different ways you can attack your opponents but the game is designed to be very quick and free flowing so it moves more fluidly. Like the first game, you don’t necessarily have to fight everyone, although there are points in this game where the story missions force you into a confrontation. Another type of mission, called Diversion, requires you to get the attention of guards and lead them away from another runner’s path, but you don’t have to necessarily fight them. It does hinder you if you do stay and struggle in those situations because you only have a certain amount of time to get to the next point to draw the guards away from your comrade.
Once you’ve finished the main story campaign and had a taster of some of the side missions along the way, there is still plenty to keep you coming back to the city of Glass. There are a number of additional features to keep you occupied, including rankings and leaderboards. A particularly nice feature is called Runner’s Vision that you can engage to link to the EA servers. Once active it displays a moving swooping graphic that can give you a bearing on which direction you should go towards a particular marker or waypoint you create. As an added challenge, this feature can be disabled at any given time where you are just free to use your own judgment and explore to your hearts content.
Where the game does shine is in the control expansion options with significant advances on the original, allowing you to expand on Faith’s skillset and enjoy far more interesting and dynamic runs. Among the first and seemingly more obvious movement traits given to you right from the start is the climbing ability, there are now small ledges along the walls of Glass where you can move hand over hand to get around corners to other angles and jump to other areas. The swing ability returns from the original game but with the added function of being able to scale on top of the bar and balance like a tightrope to help you move upwards. Combat abilities are unsurprisingly limited, as I’ve already mentioned, combat isn’t really the aim of the game, with a light or heavy attack. These can, however, be coupled with movement abilities depending on the type of enemy you may be fighting.
In addition to skills, there are a couple of added gadgets that provide some needed flair from what the first game brought us. The first is the Mag Rope or grappling hook rather that is built into your Beat Link wrist strap. The Mag Rope has three functions which unlock as you progress through the game. The first function is much like a whip swing, Indiana Jones style, that you shoot the Mag Rope to on specific points and swing, the second is the Pull-Up where you can shoot the rope out to extremely high points and then launch yourself up, and the third function is the Pull-Down which gives you the function to shoot your rope at specific walled up obstructions and pull them down to gain access to an area. The pull-down function is more of a story based function as you won’t encounter many points to use it outside of story missions. The second gadget is the Disrupter, also built into your Beat Link wrist strap, the
The second gadget is the Disrupter, also built into your Beat Link wrist strap, the disrupt ability allows you to stun opponents or sabotage electrical equipment such as security cameras and security drones that watch and patrol the city. I didn’t find many opportunities to use the disrupt ability either because I would just blast through, dodge, and run through areas much faster or I would just forget I have it. It proved more useful when trying to beat missions with time scores that I may have had to use to immobilise enemies with, or dodge a security camera when I was scanning and surveying a particular area.
Overall, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a good single player game that provides a good deal of fun for what it is. It is, however, entirely likely that the game will provide much replay value to the average player. With no plans for additional downloadable content or a season pass for future expansions in the works, it would be safe to say that majority of players looking at possibly getting this game aren’t going to see the value from a full retail price and would be better off holding off for a sale. As a huge fan of the first game, I did see great potential in what this series could present and I truly believe it is worth the purchase, but you don’t have to break your wallet to get it.