REVIEW – Faith, the exotic-looking runner girl is jumping rooftops in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst: the sequel to 2007’s first-person parkour game again. After spending one year in a futuristic prison, she’s released and joins the runners again to take dangerous missions on the tops of skyscrapers again.
The game takes place in the dystopian city of Glass, the showcase capital of the nation of Cascadia. After a bitter secession from the authoritarian government of OmniStat and years of conflict and violence Cascadia falls under the rule of the Conglomerate, an oligarchy comprising 13 large corporations. The most powerful organization is Kruger Holding, whose patriarch Gabriel Kruger has monopolized the city’s law enforcement under his Kruger Security (K-Sec) division.
Cascadian society is highly stratified, and the majority of citizens – called Employs – work for the corporations and are connected to the Grid, a massive social monitoring network digitally connecting everything and everyone in cities like Glass. So-called Runners skilled at free running refuse to be connected to the Grid and live on rooftops, making their living from covert delivery jobs while evading K-Sec personnel.
Faith, the main protagonist, is one of the best of those Runners. Shortly after released from prison, she can join her comrades again and resume the rooftop running missions. The game is supposed to be a “reboot”, but I honestly didn’t care much for the scenario, which is full of clichés and some pretty annoying, trite characters – some of them even talk to Faith through her mic and those dialogues or monologs are repeated if we die and reload the game. Pretty irritating to be honest. Still, there are some interesting or fun characters, like the sociopath hacker lady, but unfortunately, they are few and far between.
The missions themselves are the usual fetch this, save that person, stole information, data chips, etc. Nothing new under the sun (and on the sunny roofs of the skyscrapers.) The game being “open world” you can choose between several missions and take trials (where you can try to beat your friend’s running score for example), but I found myself sticking to the main missions so the story and the game could go on already.
The fundamental mistake open world game designers can make to use the same kind of missions and gameplay for every side-missions, instead of providing a large and different kind of activities like in Grand Theft Auto V. Just imagine a Grand Theft Auto game, where every side-missions would consist of stealing cars and robbing banks. You would get bored fast, isn’t it? Well, it’s rather the same case with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, so I didn’t feel like doing side-missions.
Leap of Faith
The first-person parkour gameplay in 2007 was pretty much a novelty in Mirror’s Edge, which was used later in several other games, like the zombie-horror Dying Light. While I usually prefer the third-person view for this type of game, I liked Mirror’s Edge, which I reviewed for the Hungarian GameStar some nine years ago. Still, I was curious how the developers can breathe some fresh air into the core gameplay formula of Catalyst. Truth be told: not much innovation here.
Yes, the parkour system is still robust, and there are some small novelties here and there, like the grappling hook, but I had the feeling to replay the same old Mirror’s Edge. The so called “open-world” doesn’t feel like that much “open” when you have to take the same paths several times in different missions. That includes going back to quest givers as well. As for the running mechanics, they are near all the same, with some little improvements which are already present in other parkour games, like the Assassin’s Creed series.
What I truly disliked in the game regarding the gameplay, is some annoying levels, where there’s only one path, and you have to jump your way up, or down through a fixed path, no other way around. Yes, the original Mirror’s Edge was even more linear, but it also had a somewhat better level design.
Still, overall the parkour system is rather fun. The same cannot be told about the fighting system, which is most inane and insipid I have seen for a long time. While Faith doesn’t use weapons, she’s still pretty much a karate champion, taking down armed goons of Kruger Holding with ease. Well, “with ease” if you don’t mess up too much time with the cumbersome controls. Hitting and kicking enemies are rather simple (albeit a bit lame-looking) affairs, but every other fighting “tricks” are awkward to pull out.
Since you don’t use weapons, AI doesn’t have to do anything special either; they just attack in masses. There are three types of Kruger Holding enemies: those who have a stick, those with guns, and those armed with a kind of a shocker. The latter will cause the most grief as they are somewhat magically defended against frontal attacks, so you always have to attack them from the back which – in this game – is pretty frustrating. Shock waves will cause somewhat more pain than bullets too, so while disposing of goons with submachine guns is easy-peasy, the ones armed with shockers are a lot more hard to kill.
Overall the fighting system in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is unrealistic, cumbersome and most of all: not fun at all.
“‘Cause I gotta have faith, faith.” (George Michael)
Regarding the visuals the game doesn’t disappoint, although Mirror’s Edge Catalyst doesn’t look much more than HD Mirror’s Edge. Yes, there are video adverts on the tall buildings, but besides that everything looks the same, as the in the first game – and that includes Faith herself too.
Still, standing on the rooftops of those dystopian skyscrapers and looking down below looks still impressive. The game has still its unique colors as well, so if it was the first time, I see those graphics, I would be impressed.
Faith No More
While Mirror’s Edge was a truly original game some nine years ago, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst doesn’t add much to the old formula, nor the story or the artistic style.
While the developers are trying to fool us with some quickly forgotten multiplayer and fake open-world elements, nothing really changed much, and even with the upgraded graphics this game looks and feels bland and dated – with a dull and trite story added. If you are okay with that, and you just want your parkour experience in a sci-fi environment, then you might give Mirror’s Edge Catalyst a try, otherwise, there are much better open world or parkour games out there.
+ Looks still pretty good
+ Robust parkour gameplay
+ Some funny characters
– Trite, boring story
– Recycled gameplay
– Too sterile
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA DICE
Genre: FPS platforming game
Release date: Jun 7, 2016