Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a prequel to / reboot of 2008’s well received first person action-adventure game Mirror’s Edge, again developed and published by Electronic Arts. The game focuses on series protagonist Faith Connors; specifically her origin and her attempts to overthrow the conglomerates who rule the city of Glass; which is enforced by a private security team Kruger-Sec, and run by the game’s antagonist Gabriel Kruger.
The city of Glass is a futuristic, dystopian one, with an Orwellian, faceless conglomerate ruling the city with an iron fist, subduing the masses. Riots are quelled, although a minority are more than willing to push back and fight the power. The city itself appears bright and clean, with skyscrapers shining under a crystal clear blue sky. In fact, it’s so bright it’s oppressive, as I felt as though I had to squint until my eyes adjusted to the world. Building exteriors are generally stark white or glass surfaces, whilst interiors have bright primary and secondary colours. Beneath the gleaming façade, you’ll find graffiti and street art adorning walls, and it’s apparent that the city’s core is rotten.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst begins with Faith’s release from a juvenile detention centre, where she’s met by fellow runner Icarus, who together make their way back to mentor Noah’s safe house. This portion of the story acts as the games tutorial, as you get to grips with Faith’s parkour and combat abilities. Having reached the safe house and spoken with Noah, you’re free to explore the city – completing a variety of side missions, or progressing the main story as Faith rages against the machine.
In the main story Faith is assigned various tasks on behalf of like-minded citizens – infiltrating large corporate buildings, stealing certain items or hacking a security system. Once the task is achieved, it’s a case of exfiltrating – usually via a different route as security guard give chase, and beating a hasty retreat to the nearest safe house. Through her journey, Faith will look to both allies and enemies to help her in her cause.
The side missions are varied: hacking billboards, taking out broadcast antennas and removing security computer control chips. Undertaking “Dashes” – timed runs across portions of the city, gives you a star rating based on how quickly Faith completed the course. There’s a cool online function that allows you to upload a Dash route for fellow players to beat. The side missions are intended to disrupt the city, and loosen the conglomerate’s stranglehold over the people. A map screen shows all outstanding objectives within a certain area of the city, and can also be used to set waypoint markers to your next objective.
Faith’s abilities can be upgraded by gathering XP through completing side missions and main story missions. The upgrades are broken down into three categories – movement, combat and gear. Throughout the main story, Faith will be given new tools to help her reach otherwise unreachable areas of the city.
Parkour makes up the majority of gameplay, with the controllers shoulder buttons assigned to various actions – wall running, leap frogging, swinging off and around poles. Continuous movement is the key, and given time and practice, Faith can easily transition from one move to the next, maintaining momentum and building up her focus shield – making her invulnerable to all but counter-attacks. The Focus Shield is the only constant on-screen information, with a bar in the bottom left hand corner. Clicking R3 brings Runner Vision online, which gives Faith an indication of which route to take – with the path ahead and interactable surfaces highlighted in red. Runner vision gives an A to B route, although not always the quickest, as there’s plenty of scope in terms of how Faith traverses the environment.
Faith is able to transition from free-running to combat in one fluid movement, leaping off of a wall run and launching a flying kick at a guard’s face. Melee combat is assigned to the face buttons, although you’re discouraged from standing still, as doing so makes Faith an easier target – once again, it’s all about maintaining motion. Faith is unable to pick up a downed foe’s gun as they’re biometrically linked to each enemy. There are a range of enemy types – from lower level light melee goons, to ranged guards with full auto firearms and brute type characters; and are all easily identifiable by their uniforms. During combat, a circle in the centre of the screen shows where enemies are in relation to Faith.
Graphically Faith, her allies and enemies are all well-rendered – both in cut-scenes and gameplay. The animation is generally smooth, with Faith’s arms visible pumping back and forth as she runs. Unless you stop to admire the scenery, it’s pretty hard to notice how impressive the city is. There are some clipping issues, as I found out when I managed to kick a guard against a wall, only to see the lower half of his unconscious body disappear through a solid wall, with his torso suspended a few feet off of the ground.
Music and dialogue are both strong, and suit the game well; although I did find that the music to dialogue ratio was a little off – I could barely hear what some characters were saying above the soundtrack, until I was able to fiddle with the audio settings in the pause menu; and as the game launches as soon as the game boots up, and cut-scenes are unskippable, I had to wait until I had control of Faith to be able to adjust them. There are subtitles, but it’s a little difficult to read them when you’re focussed on navigating your way through the city.
Overall, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a good game, but it does have its faults. Aside from the clipping and audio issues, I found that I couldn’t fully get behind Faith and her cause, as her character feels a little two-dimensional. Flashbacks give a glimpse into her early life, and the murder of her parents during an uprising, but I felt that made her appear to be a sullen teenager. If you’re happy to zip around the city, completing the main story is the highlight of the game. The side missions add longevity, stretching out the overall life of the game, but they do feel a little repetitive after a while. Still Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a worthwhile investment if you enjoy fast-paced, high octane action games, just don’t expect too much character depth.