The first Mirrors Edge was a revolutionary game, blending parkour platforming with the first person perspective was a new and fresh idea, but six years on and titles such as Dying Light have put their own spin on the parkour gameplay.
Faith returns in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, but is it a celebration of all that was right, or a recollection of what went wrong.
Regardless of the emergence of titles like Dying Light, Mirrors Edge maintains a very unique blend of fresh, fluid and fun. Sure Parkour has made it’s way into other titles, but the clinical white rooftops with a splash of white feel as fresh as six years ago.
Gameplay is very similar and now there’s even more emphasis on avoiding combat and keeping the momentum, this fills up Faith’s focus meter which leaves her near invincible, keep moving, time those jumps vaults and rolls to perfection and you’ll breeze through sections of the game left with a feeling of nostalgic joy and invincible superiority.
The feeling of greatness is accompanied numerous times by perfectly timed set pieces and intelligent level design which rewards those willing to explore for alternate routes while still traversing the rooftops as quickly as possible.
Everything seems to be moving along at a beautiful pace, until suddenly it stops, you’re forced to fight a handful of enemies, breaking your flow and forcing you to get in close, you’re left taking your fists to a gun fight and sure enough these sections will catch you out, kill the flow, and temporarily pause the fun. Fortunately they only surface a few times throughout the campaign, not a game-breaker, but more than enough to leave a sour taste in your mouth, other aspects are considerably better, kicking a guard into a concrete post is great when he’s stood in the right position when you sprint past, but more often than not, they’re stood in a pre-defined space, nowhere near an obstacle and I felt myself wall-running to get an easy drop-kill once too often.
Catalyst has a slightly strange twist, the story feel’s much more second fiddle to the overall gameplay, Faith is released from detention after ‘last time’ and returns to a variety of faces both old and new, heading off the grid, Faith’s immediately a target so it’s only natural she’ll have plenty of people trying to track her down as she returns to running the rooftops and running errands in a pretty predictable story line.
There’s a variety of side missions and strangely enough some of these feel more complete than some of the main story quests, While you’ll occasionally be backtracking through the same area’s to fetch something you don’t really need, there’s more than enough stand out moments that perfectly capture the essence and exhilaration of the franchise but the actual flow of the story feels somewhat flat.
Progression is rewarded with unlocks on a skill tree, but the main things seem to be lower down the tree, meaning seamless traversal isn’t far away, but I didn’t find much reason to carefully plan my route of skills to unlock because those that felt more important where never far away.
Then there’s collectibles, scattered through the word that give you reason to roam, however they carry little weight meaning many will overlook the free-roaming aspect which otherwise perfectly encapsulates the gameplay that’s so much fun. Locking agility behind crackdown styled orbs could have given the free-roaming adventures a much wider appeal, and hiding some major skills at the end of the tree, might have given people more reason to head back through earlier levels to battle the constant leaderboards for each section or race.
Many people, myself included will be perfectly fine, roaming from the beaten track and exploring the rooftops, creating my own adventures, avoiding combat and enjoying the mostly seamless movement, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is simply a joy to play and I didn’t find myself returning to story missions, instead I’d be re-running a small race to try and climb into the top few percent of the leaderboards which are clearly displayed after each attempt giving you the perfect reason to jump back in one more time.
But some won’t have that, they’ll find the somewhat static story disappointing and many missions repetitive, Catalyst, is a fantastic showcase that demands pin-point precision, perfect timing and judgement and rewards with some real wow moments, but sadly certain story missions and enforced combat forces the seamless fun to feel segmented and a little tougher to enjoy.
So depending how you view Mirror’s Edge will ultimately declare how much you enjoy it, If it’s a fun run around, chasing scores and enjoying the story and surroundings on the side, then it may be one of the best games you play this year, but if you’re heading in expecting a perfect conclusion of what the original title started, you may be some what disappointed.
Graphically I was impressed, I’ve always felt the red slash within white surroundings was a very clever, if basic approach to level design, I would have expected pin-point sharpness considering the textures and details other games can achieve, but while mostly very, very good, it didn’t quite have that eye popping level of detail that makes your jaw drop.
Everything runs smoothly, looks very good, and its easy to spot routes when you go looking for them, even if they’re not painted red, I can’t recall any noticeable glitches, pop-in or frame rate issues and gameplay seems pretty well optimised to give you a flow as smooth as your roll when you fall twenty feet.
Sounds where on par with the graphics, they had a few week moments, some voice acting felt incredibly scripted, yet other times if flowed fluently and realistically, music seems well selected, voices are clear and distinguishable and sound effects are spot on from the crunch of gravel under foot to the thwack of a guard’s face hitting a concrete post.
Longevity of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has to be one of the hardest questions to answer, with the time-trials and the option to create your own, as well as a near endless supply of side quests, there’s always something to do, however these all revolve around simple A to B and as much as I enjoy the thrill of crossing the city rooftops, there comes a point when it starts to feel a little thin on the ground, and when you hit that, there’s little else to enjoy.