Faith is back to run another day after an eight year hiatus. The original Mirror's Edge was an instant classic with its unique art style and parkour gameplay, but times change quickly so has Dice been able to keep up with Faith?
Mirror's Edge Catalyst brings back the familiar free-running gameplay from the original game but sets it in an open world. You will now find yourself traveling between checkpoints on a sprawling map in order to progress through the story. The world itself mimics the familiar artistic style of Mirror's Edge, although I feel it went a little too far and lacks the splashes of colour that were more present in the original. Traversing the rooftops of the city can get boring quickly especially when you find yourself running through the same locations over and over again to get from one point to the next. Because of this, I didn't spend much time with the side-quests due to them taking place only in the overworld. Thankfully, the story events are mostly set in more unique looking areas that broke up the monotonous shiny white landscape.
For the most part, the controls are just as tight as the first game, if not a bit easier to handle. Running, jumping, climbing and swinging can all be performed effortlessly and you don't often feel like Faith has gone rogue when she inevitably jumps off a building into the street below. This only happened when my control of her was lacking precision. However, I had a problem with the combat system. For starters, why is there mandatory combat? For a game focused on a woman who runs for a living, I would expect to be rewarded when avoiding combat but Mirror's Edge Catalyst literally forces you to fight enemies by locking you in a room until you take them all out. There are multiple enemy types that take many hits and lots of dodging in order to drop them. I restarted these combat sequences so many times due to the difficulty of balancing fighting while remembering the controls in order to exploit each one's weakness. Speaking of restarting, Mirror's Edge Catalyst does a great job of placing you very close to where you perish if you happen to fall off a building, but if you die during a ten minute combat sequence then you're placed right at the beginning of it again. Now, that's frustrating.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst has quite a lot of content to keep you entertained. However, you may get bored too quickly and not even want to explore. The main story missions are interesting and varied, so I had no problem with them. There are also some side-quests sprawled around (though, not that many) that offer slightly different types of gameplay, but they are set in the same overworld that you've already traversed a million times. The same goes for the time trials, delivery missions and diversion missions. It feels like a case of quantity over quality. I would have been happy to give up half of these missions to get some with more environmental variety.
Even though the overworld becomes a grind at a certain point, there were some moments that I found intriguing. When Faith enters an elevator in an upscale building, she hits the glass wall in a glowing spot to make it move. There are monorails racing through the clean city at super speed. Drones dot the sky and are even used by Faith as a quick form of travel in a couple of events. I also enjoyed how the time of day changed seamlessly, adding some much needed variety to the scenery. The effects are also handled well with the sound of Faith's shoes on the glass floor squeaking as she turns abruptly and echoes can be heard as she creeps through metal air vents.
For a game that is very shiny, Mirror's Edge Catalyst definitely lacks polish. I often noticed texture pop-in while running around the city, sometimes even very close to where I was running. The music is very generic, too. I have the theme song for the original Mirror's Edge (Still Alive by Lisa Miskovsky) on my iPod and listen to it quite often, but there was nothing that stood out to me in this sequel. Another thing that shows lack of polish is the conversations that Faith has with her friends while she's running around. I counted one conversation repeating five times while I went from one place to another. I guess that at least filled the silence during the long trip...
To be honest, I was disappointed shortly after I first started playing Mirror's Edge Catalyst as I was put off by the open world approach that quickly got boring and repetitive. However, there is still a fun game here if you are more interested in the story sequences than the side-quests. In the end, the unique gameplay still keeps the Mirror's Edge franchise on my list of favourite game series.
- + Classic parkour gameplay with tight controls
- + Lots of content scattered around
- + Many interesting implementations help make the game world feel alive
- - A general lack of polish throughout
- - Combat is forced and unenjoyable
- - Traversing the same areas in the open world gets repetitive quickly