To be quite honest, I’m surprised Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst happened at all. After all, the original game didn’t exactly sell like hotcakes as most of DICE’s other Battlefield games did, but it developed a strong cultural following that probably prompted EA to consider, “Hey, what if we did make a sequel?”
And so here we are, eight years after the release of the original Edge, following back up with Faith as she gets out of incarceration and goes right into a headlong battle with KrugerSec, a corporation that’s more oppressive than its suave advertising seems to let on. Throughout the course of the game, Faith takes on a number of missions for her employers, getting that much closer to bringing KrugerSec down, and maybe taking a few baddies along for the ride.
The story is okay, as it intersects everything together, along with some great secondary missions that you can access from an open-world map. But it lacks that true driving factor to keep you involved. There aren’t too many events to push you to keep going, and the secondary characters are merely placeholders to remind you that, hey, you should probably keep running. In fact, the story is probably the weakest aspect of Catalyst – but you’ll be so busy messing around the city that you’re not likely to care too much.
Where Catalyst does succeed is in creating a vast open-world where you can let your parkour skills do the talking. The wall-running, speed boosting and other neat tricks you get to pull off in the game are absolutely breathtaking, and it’s fun making impossible jumps that would otherwise leave you with a pair of broken legs in the hospital. Sometimes, there are some silly deaths that come from just being inches away from a ladder grab, but you live and learn, and return for more.
As for the combat, it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, the hits that you can nail while running or performing other techniques are outstanding, like running along a wall, swinging on a pipe and then landing on some unfortunate dude while barely breaking a sweat. On the other, it can be overly complicated, like figuring out how to beat up two thugs at once (knocking one into another is a neat tactic, but not always smooth in execution), and there are some foes that cheat a little too much for their own good. Otherwise, I like the idea of Faith not using guns whatsoever, as that was a factor that really weighed down the first. (Shame the bad guys still use them on occasion, tho.)
The addition of a grappling hook is a great technique for Faith, enabling you to get even more verticality and distance within the areas of Catalyst when you need them the most. It takes a little while to get introduced, but it’s nice to have.
What makes Catalyst so complete to me is the bevy of side missions, whether you go on race runs, go retrieve certain parcels scattered throughout the world, or hop online and see what other players have to offer in terms of content. This would’ve helped push the original game even further, and to have it here is really something. It actually gives you something to race for, outside of the somewhat flimsy story the game has to offer.
Also, Catalyst looks superb. The city, while a bit dense in terms of population and innocent folks running around (is it a ghost town?), is awesome, with great futuristic design and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore if you can reach them. The animations are good too, although more bad guy variety (less cheating types) would’ve gone a lot further. I also enjoyed the sound quality, with solid voice acting (well, by most folks – your boss could use without grumbling so much), ambient sound effects and a worthwhile soundtrack (even without a follow-up to Lisa Miskovsky’s inspiring “Still Alive” – that would’ve been icing on the cake).
While Catalyst still carries over a few problems from the first game (mainly with uneven combat and story issues), it’s a whole new world of adventure that fans will love. The open-world structure pays off for the game big time, and the variety of missions at your fingertips will keep you returning for seconds, even after you complete the campaign. Furthermore, the expanded presentation really makes use of this generation’s hardware, with a zippy frame rate, beautiful details and solid sound design.
It may not always have the smoothest run out there, but Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, like its protagonist, still delivers. And, honestly, I’m glad it got a release.