Mirrors Edge was a strange old bird. Released at the height of EA’s attempt to get on gamers side, it received mediocre reviews but managed to spawn a cult following, given it’s uniqueness and style. critics across the world moaned about it’s linear story, and that the core mechanics got old fairly quick.
Fast forward 8 years and here we have another Mirrors Edge, albeit this time we’re taking control of Faith in the past, before the events of the first game. Considering how the first game ends, it’s no surprise, but does a more advanced, mature Mirrors Edge fix the flaws of the first game? Unfortunately not.
Now, I’m not saying Mirrors Edge: Catalyst is a bad game, not by any stretch of the imagination. As I’m going to explain, the game does a lot of things right, so much so that I ended up putting in over 15 hours into the game whilst completing all side content. It’s just that in trying to fix the issues of it’s predecessor, Mirrors Edge Catalyst introduces some new issues into the formula, which results in another mediocre outing, which is neither fantastic, nor bad.
Story wise, it was always going to be difficult to make a prequel to a cult favourite, but EA Dice have actually managed to make an ok prequel. Characters motivations are laid bare, giving you an in-depth look into what life in this weird and wonderful world must be like, whilst story moments are immersive enough to make you want to see things through to their logical conclusions. There are some annoying tropes, with the drama at time a little too over the top, but overall I commend EA Dice on managing to make some believable moments, something I didn’t think could be done.
Graphically, Mirrors Edge catalyst is all over the place. I played the game on XBOX one, and could not stop noticing how blurry the image quality was at all times. I believe the game’s downscaling to 720p or even lower at times, resulting in a negative experience when you’re meant to be taking in the city and all it’s splendour at multiple times throughout the campaign. Graphical quality aside, the aesthetics of the world are sublime at times, giving a real sense of deja-vu when running through splendid prestige houses that I genuinely wish I could live in. It’s just a shame that the blurriness detracts so much, Mirrors Edge Catalyst has a lovely world to explore.
Did I say exploration? Yep, one of the major gripes from Mirrors Edge has been solved here, with Faith being able to explore an open world from on the rooftops. Whilst there’s a guide to help you get from point A to point B, you can proceed to explore these rooftops until your heart’s content, although EA Dice have unfortunately locked large swaths of land to explore behind story-lockable content (e.g. New abilities allowing you to reach previously unreachable locations).
Where this open-world falls apart is in it’s structures causing issues with your mobility. There were many occasions throughout my time with the game that I’d fall from a piece of geometry that I could have sworn I was on, or landed a jump that was apparently too high, making me respawn in another location. Being able to freely explore the world could have been bliss, but the way it irritates the control scheme, or causes you to a fail state multiple times really drives the point home that the control scheme can (and will) be buggy.
Side-quests and collectibles can be found whilst exploring the open world, but other than an xp bonus, there’s no real reason to actually collect or do any of them. The only reason I did was because I’m a whore for collectibles. Give me any game that puts a carrot on the stick in the form of a maximum number of items to collect, and I’ll be hunting until the end of days – an annoying habit I have, especially given how little free time I have to myself as of late.
Combat too is just as irritating as ever. Even more so since Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst does away with the ability to pick up guns of any sort. The story explains this away in a cutscene, showing that Faith is afraid of guns after having killed a man when she was a little girl, but never actually says this in anyway during the tutorials or text throughout. This means that should you happen across a bunch of guards, you’ll either need to run away, or stick around and take them all on, one by one. Fully upgrade Faiths abilities and this will eventually become trivial, but it’s still annoying that we have to do this, especially when Mirrors Edge gave us the choice to pick up an enemies weapon and use it against them if we were ever in a pickle (for example when you’re in the subway waiting for the train and holding off waves of enemies). As such, every time enemies would appear it’d be extremely tedious and irritating, something you never want when trying to evoke a feeling of immersion as you jump around.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Mirrors Edge: Catalyst. As I’ve said throughout this review, whilst some issues with the original have been solved, others have been introduced, making for a game that doesn’t get hype, but doesn’t get many criticisms either. It’s telling really that many reviewers never even thought about Catalyst when discussing last years GOTY awards; a perfect analogy, if any, to Catalyst’s mediocre showing.