Reviews// Mirror's Edge Catalyst

Posted 27 Jun 2016 13:15 by
Back when the original Mirror's Edge was released I picked it up out of sheer curiosity, not really thinking parkour could work as a first-person game. Six months later I was regularly in the top ten of the leaderboards across most of the maps. I ended up putting in almost 450 hours in to at last count.

So, it is safe to say I took Mirror's Edge Catalyst very seriously indeed.

This is a soft reboot for the franchise as well as possibly a prequel. The important thing to know about this latest effort from Dice is that you don't need to have played the original to get in to Catalyst, there are a few call backs, but it is almost entirely new material with a clean start.

You play as Faith Connors, a young, athletic woman who has just been released from prison; her crime is unimportant to the game but can be learned about through a separate comic series. Released back in to the City of Glass, Faith immediately falls back in with group that falls outside of the totalitarian law, a group who act as couriers and burglars for hire and have disconnected from the wider world.

Those who live within the system, referred to as The Employs, live an existence of constant bombardment of information and have been manipulated into believing that only wealth and status matter and through this they strive to climb the companies that rule the city states. Outwardly this creates a society mostly free from crime, of gleaming towers of bright alabaster and crystal. But anyone who has read any stories about utopias in the past will know there is no such thing.

Those that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Against this background you play as Faith, who manages to make several large messes and botches the plans of at least one megalomaniac. The campaign is a reasonable length and its duration will greatly differ depending on player skill and whether or not they can avoid getting distracted by all the side missions and challenges that highlight the true star of the game - the parkour gameplay.

There is a very Zen-like feeling that comes over me when I manage to do perfect runs. It is even more satisfying when you veer away from the red streak representing the game's suggested route and through blind instinct (or obsessively hunting for the perfect route) you manage to shave off massive chunks of time from previous records. Without relying on Runner Vision (the aforementioned red streak) and with Faith slipping like silk over every surface, I found myself reacting more and more without thought... Until I turned right when I should have turned left and found myself plummeting hundreds of feet towards the seedy underbelly of Glass, as Faith's panicked breathing turns to a whiteout and a restart.

Trial and error is something you have to become accustomed to if you are to be competitive in Mirror's Edge Catalyst. You will also have to learn when to recognise that you don't yet have the tools to get the times you are aiming for, because Catalyst has an upgrade system that is tied in to story progression.

There was an early game, Dash, that reawakened my competitive spirit. The problem came when I realised the top runners were beating me by a good fifteen seconds. In this game that is as good as an eternity. Mystified by this gap I spent a good hour re-running this one thirty second chunk of gameplay. I gave up and went on my way through the rest of the game. After unlocking a few new tools I came back and gave it another go using Faith's newly acquired Magnetised Rope, and I found myself back where I felt I belonged - in the top 10% in the leaderboards and within seconds of the player at the very top. Content with this for now I suddenly realised that maybe I should concentrate on the story and getting all of Faith's abilities unlocked before giving in to my competitive nature.

With this renewed determination I blasted my way through the remainder of the story, which is well acted and solidly written. Even if the contents aren't as grand as some may have wished, I still loved it and hope that we haven't seen the last of Faith.

Before we summarise and pass judgement I have to bring attention to the subtle yet brilliant soundtrack. It isn't as iconic as he original game's Still Alive, but it maintains the same spirit and the main theme song by CHVRCHES is in-line with their high quality synthpop.

Music feels sparse within the game, but this matches up with the sparsely populated semi-open world design that concentrates on clean lines with a minimum of clutter. For some this desolate place of rooftops and empty corridors may feel like a misstep, an attempt by Dice to pander to modern game design, but for me it removed obstructions and allowed a clean view the City as Dice probably intended - a wide playground of opportunity that clearly marked out where Faith's skill could be best used.

This isn't a game of varied environments where ornamentation is necessary to sell the illusion of a populated world, this is a game about a world made sterile by a controlling ruling faction determined to have everything, and everyone, set in their place. This is a game about a determined few who, instead of conforming, choose to remain free and live life at a breakneck speed, one false leap away from death, one perfectly executed wall-run away from victory.

Mirror's Edge Catalyst is available on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. It is a love letter to fans of the original and a welcoming springboard for those new to the franchise.

Pros:
+ Beautiful, clean aesthetics
+ Once the controls have been learned running becomes second nature and highly liberating
+ Faith Connors is a flawed, unintentional hero
+ Performing a flawless run is one of gaming's greatest adrenaline runs
+ Subtle, yet beautiful sound design and soundtrack

Cons:
- Combat is terrible, I didn't mention it in the main body of the review because I avoided it at all costs and I advise you do the same.

SPOnG Score: 8/10

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