On The Edge Of Glory
HIGH Surpasses the original by leaps and bounds
LOW Falling to my death ten times in a row on the same jump
WTF A point-of-no-return mission with no warning before starting
Let me get right to the biggest question every Mirror’s Edge fan is asking—does Catalyst live up to the original? As someone who loved its first-person parkour action, I was dubious that an eight-years-in-the-making prequel/sequel/reboot could stick the landing. However, I’m shocked to say that it does—the new open-world structure, overhauled combat and continued emphasis on speed made the long wait worth it. Although it’s not flawless, this is more than I could have hoped for.
Despite only being the second Mirror’s Edge, Catalyst serves as a complete reboot. Faith, the original protagonist is back, and released from a two-year juvenile prison sentence. She’s back on the streets for all of three minutes before her old gang pulls her back in to continue trade as a runner and information courier, which the authorities of the city (called Glass) frown upon.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first—the story in Catalyst is terrible. For being a ‘clean slate’ reboot, the writers did a great job of making me feel like I’d missed out on two or three games’ worth of backstory and info. Several main characters, locations and alliances are already in play as things begin, and little context is given to substantiate any of it. Catalyst is also quick to introduce characters and make them seem important before dropping them off the face of the earth.
Along the same lines, Catalyst invents so many fake nouns for its futuristic world and systems that I couldn’t keep them straight. GridNode, GridLeak, MAG, MetaGrid, Employ, GridPrint, KrugerSEC, MidCaste… It gave me a headache. Add to it each character’s obtuse name (Icarus, Nomad, Dogen, Plastic) and my head was spinning faster than Faith can pull a 180-degree wall-climb jump combo. By the time credits rolled, the plot didn’t add up, the characters hadn’t developed much, and overall, I felt like little mattered. Every plot twist can be seen coming ten rooftops away, too.
Story aside, gameplay is where Catalyst shines as bright as its skyline. Most missions center on traversal through the environment, and the controls haven’t changed much from the first game.
Faith runs with the left stick and shoulder-button taps execute jump or crouch moves. If she’s at full speed and a low barrier is ahead, she can slide under, vault over, or use it as a launching pad for a high jump. Faith is quite nimble, and maneuvers through the world constantly. Even if a scene is mostly vertical climbing via pipes, ladders or wall-climbs, she handles it with ease. As the campaign progresses, new equipment and upgrades becomes available—things like a grappling hook, new fighting moves, increased health and so on.
The new open-world design lets players freely explore their surroundings during and between missions. Catalyst eases players into pathfinding by using Runner Vision—a feature which highlights parts of the environment that help get Faith where she’s going. This Vision can be toggled to Full, Classic or turned off completely.
Classic makes obstacles on the way to Faith’s objective light up red. Full, which I used, spawns a red mist trail that shows players exactly how to get to their objective. It’s sort of like parkour GPS. Although I found it intrusive at first, having a handy guide to show me the way aided my speed and mastery of environments. However, Catalyst is quick to tell players that the Full route is simply the most obvious, and not always the most efficient. And, just because it shows one possible way doesn’t mean players have to follow it exactly.
(PROTIP: following the Full route is actually the worst way to finish most time trials.)
Catalyst‘s open-world is successful because I never felt disengaged while running, hopping and sliding around the city. In most open-world games, I get bored while shuttling from mission to mission. Because so much of Catalyst involves more than just holding forward on the thumbstick, I was always cognizant of my surroundings and actively planning how to proceed through Glass.
Of course, no open-world game would be complete without secondary activities, and Catalyst offers several kinds of sidequests — some are simple time-sensitive delivery missions, some require combat or fleeing from authorities, and my favorite were the GridNode climbing events where the environment becomes a puzzle players must traverse while trying to avoid laser sensors. These side missions are the Assassin’s Creed/Mission Impossible mashup I never knew I wanted.
The open world and mission layouts aren’t all roses, though — occasional sections had me convinced they were greenlit on days when every playtester called in sick. I died 91 times during the game (yes, I kept count) and they were all in clumps of five or ten deaths at a time while trying to figure out specific jumps or tough platforms. All things considered, though, I’d rather die from traversal snafus than from rooms full of enemies shooting at me.
Speaking of enemies, the combat—probably the worst aspect of its predecessor—is pretty good. Faith has no access to guns, but she does have a light attack, heavy attack and dodge at her disposal. Catalyst encourages players to use the environment to their advantage, so it’s easy to pull off a wall-run and deliver a swift kick to someone’s head. And more often than not, enemies are placed strategically after big jumps to break a player’s fall. In the original Mirror’s Edge I often died in combat, but I only perished a few times in fights here.
I was skeptical of Catalyst because I’m such a fan of the first Mirror’s Edge, but I can honestly say that I was thrilled with it. DICE fixed nearly everything wrong with the original, expanded the world and made traversal faster and more exciting in every way. Now, if they could only figure out what the hell to do with this convoluted mess of a story and characters, it’d be nearing masterpiece status.
Disclosures: This game is developed by EA DICE and published by EA Games. It is currently available on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher download code and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and all story missions were completed. I also explored the city and completed several side quests.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Teen and contains: mild language and violence. Most of the violence is punching and kicking, and some enemies shoot guns at the main character. No blood is present, and the violence is never gory or over-the-top. Language is light and never overused or gratuitous. This is PG to PG-13 equivalence of language and violence.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Subtitles are available. An on-screen threat-ring shows nearby enemies during combat situations. During running sequences, full runner vision can be activated which shows the player an easy route to run for almost the entire game. Mirror’s Edge is quite a smooth experience without audio.
Remappable Controls: Y-axis inversion and controller sensitivity adjustments are available. Three control layouts exist, but no custom remapping options are available. Vibration can be toggled on and off.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
He has a Bachelor’s in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri. He also has a personal blog (who doesn’t?) that he updates sporadically. He’s been writing for GameCritics.com since 2012 and has appeared on the podcast a handful of times.
If you want to dive deep, type his name into a Google Image search and you’ll most likely be treated to a scandalous picture of his Deus Ex tattoo. He also has a music background from 7 years on high school and college drumlines, and last but not least he’s dabbled in parkour. Don’t let those activities fool you about his ambition – he’s in his late 20s and still has no idea what he wants to do with his life.