Mirror's Edge: Catalyst Review

It's 4:44 AM on a saturday. I'm listening to something by Powerglove, and I just finished Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. I didn't care for it.

The original Mirror's Edge was something special, and I have a special relationship with it. It's a weird game for me to love so completely because I never really talk about it. When talking about my favorite games I usually single out an MGS and call it a day. But in reality, if I had to make a list, Mirror's Edge would be up there. Not on top, that'd be MGS2 or 3(I still haven't decided), but it would be close behind.

The original Mirror's Edge was just an all around great game. Sure the story was kinda shit, but the free running mechanics did more for parkour than Assassin's Creed ever did. It kept a solid feeling of momentum and made you feel your speed. Combat was pretty barebones and gunplay was practically forbidden. You could still pick up the guns and shoot guys, but it was never satisfying and you couldn't free run. At least not with the big ones.

But the elation, the feeling of figuring out the climbing puzzles, if you can even really call them that, and just going. It was unique, and amazing. It's not all rose tinted glasses either. I had a chance to replay the game last year some time before I sold my PS3. And I loved it just as much then as I did the first time. It was a blast to play.

I've never been a speedrunner. I get enough out of that stuff by watching the professionals doing it, but the level design in the first Mirror's Edge was usually set up in such a way that you could figure out multiple ways of getting around. I'd play sections several times over, just to see if I could get through it my way. Maybe not the intended way, but it was an endeavor that rewarded me with a lot of failure, and a lot of success too. And it was fun.

So many fond memories of Mirror's Edge. So much time had passed without a new one. Until a few years ago when Mirror's Edge: Catalyst was announced. In my mind, shit got real. Finally, a new Mirror's Edge! It's gonna be awesome! And uh, well...

There are many issues I have with the game that could be easily construed as nitpicky, and then there are some that just astound me.

The first major issue I have with the game is the RPG power up unlock system in place, where you are now earning XP to unlock a lot of your abilities, abilities you started out with in the last game. It makes it such an interesting concept to me because, yes, while this is a reboot and we aren't playing as the same Faith, it just made the game feel limiting. Unlocking combat related abilities didn't bother me, but the idea of having to level up and unlock free running techniques certainly did.

First, I'd like to say that the frame rate was pretty good. I'm not so sure it was locked at 60fps, because there were kind a few dips, but it never broke the immersion, and it never really broke that bad. The game was pretty stable the entire way through. Although the audio did lose sync with the cutscenes for the first, like, 2 hours of the game. It eventually seemed to fix itself though.

Everyone spends the entire game talking about how damn good Faith is, yet I couldn't do a jump, turn, jump, when the game first begins. A staple move of the original game.

Not only that, but my first introduction to the game was a suffocating tutorial that teaches you how to play the game, then keeps teaching you how to play the game, and if you don't follow it exactly as it says, it gives you a fat game over until you do it. It sounds pedantic since this is the beginning of the game and this won't happen after a little while, but again, I just wanted to play the game and I was being held up. "No, no, you didn't kill those guys the right way, DO IT AGAIN!!".

The combat in the game had a lot of potential, but is right now lacking in substance. This game doesn't even give you the choice of guns, telling you right out of the gate that guns are locked behind some chip so that only the appropriate person can hold them, ala Judge Dread. But that's okay, because if everything else is as boring, more boring wouldn't help.

The combat feels like something was missing. It always felt on the verge of being really cool. Your punches and kicks have a lot of weight to them, and you can't move while attacking. The loading screen will tell you that enemies will start blocking your attacks if you do the same ones over and over again, but in my experience that was completely not true. They will block your second punch, and they never block your kicks. Some enemies straight up can't be punched, but since kicking constantly pushes them away, there's no need to punch anyway.

Because of this is feels very poorly thought out. It almost seems like they were going for a sort of rock paper scissors approach, with the idea of you differentiating your attacks from punch to kick to punch to kick, perhaps even comboing them together, but as it stands you only do one attack, then another, then another. There is no comboing anything aside from combining run and jump, or jump and turn and kick. Fighting enemies isn't particularly hard, but it's very, very stiff. And since it constantly moves around enemies, you feel like you are doing more chasing than fighting. And that's kind of super annoying.

The open world design is, frankly, boring as shit. The original game was very linear and as such levels were designed to take advantage of every ability you have, as well as the crazy shit you could come up with while using those abilities. The world is very flat, bland, and other words for void of creativity. I have several memories of awesome runs through certain levels in the original game, but the only thing I want from Catalyst is to forget it.

The game starts off and beats you over the head with a Cyberpunk theme, but it feels more Cyberpunk-Light. "Conglomerates", called "Conglomerates" have basically taken over the world, leading its people to a highly monitored and controlled way of life, literally being able to see through their eyes, even injecting advertisements you can't turn off into their heads. Runners, as they are called, help the people out by delivering messages and packages and keep the prying eyes away.

The story doesn't feel very satisfying. Lots of expected and obvious things happen, and I called quite a few of them before they would happen. Sure, even the original game lacked severely in the story department, but at least it had some panache in its gameplay. Not that it excuses either of them, however. It just made for this experience to be boring. The characters, the dialog, the voice acting, it didn't do anything for me. There were no highs, only lows.

And the worst offense is the gameplay. Mirror's Edge was tight. Fast felt fast. Nimble felt nimble. I never once, not for a second, felt I had no control over Faith in the original. Sure, I was never the best Mirror's Edge player in the world, but I didn't need to be. I was just "in control", like I am in many other games. When I died, it made sense. When I fell off of something or missed a jump, it made sense. In Catalyst, nothing made any gosh darn rootin tootin sense. Faith fell off of shit left and right. She would constantly miss jumps, making me go so far as to think my L1 button was broken, but nope, it works perfectly fine. Lots of times she would just straight up slip off the goddamn top of a building and fall to her death, and sometimes would do things I didn't want her to do.

A big thing that kept happening to me and leading to my constant death was this... lame jump. It's the only way I can describe it. Like she hurt her ankle or something and just could not jump right now. You'd run up to the edge of a jump, hit the jump button, and she'd do a tiny little hop, just enough to propel yourself upward and a forward from your previous momentum, but not enough to go to where you wanted and so you fall to your death. It happened near constantly. Like I was being interrupted, or colliding with something I couldn't see. I will repeat this just for good measure: This happened constantly. And it was fucking annoying.

Another specific problem I had was Faith not grabbing onto pipes. For some reason, a looooot of the time I would jump at a pipe to slide down, or climb up, and she'd land right next to it, not grab it, and fall to her death. So many times. It absolutely felt like a bug sometimes, because it didn't make sense why this would happen. I'd be well within jumping distance, but she just wouldn't grab anything. So I'd die. Eventually I got passed these parts, but oh boy did they really drive home how monotonous everything was.

There was a mission, right before you beat the game where there are these towers. At the top of these towers is a computer monitor, and you have to get up there and hit them. But the towers have these moving platforms. Going up and down. You need to jump on the platform and wait for the next one to come down, then jump on that one. The first tower went fine as it was incredibly simple. But the second and 3rd ones were just in-fucking-possible due to Faith's inconsistent movement. You'd take a tiny little hop and she suddenly acts as though she's going 300MPH, and flies right off the map. And since it's a timed section, there are no checkpoints. So you have to race all the way back to the tower again, and again, and again. The checkpoints only trigger after you get to the top and hit the computer, so it's not entirely unfair.

I just wanted to quit the game. It was so simple. Just climb the tower. Just wait for the platforms. But then it started to actually glitch out on me. I'd climb onto one of the platforms and Faith would sorta skin into it, making me stuck. I failed the mission a couple of times because I honestly could not move. She would make very tiny micro-movements, but it was quite clear she was stuck.

Eventually, in a fit of bewilderment, I finished the mission and went on to beat the game. The ending weak and obvious. The characters weren't anything special and the story was such stereotypical "Down with the man! The people have a right to choose!!" that I was barely paying attention at that point.

That's not to say that this game is horrible. It has its moments, and I've had fun in a lot of the missions in the game. There were some good stuff in there, it's just cram-packed with a lot of other stuff that's not so good. Unfortunately due to the open world design, the world is a lot less intricate and unique than the linear levels of the original game, and since the entire function of the game is "free running", having that be such an unnoteworthy experience is quite disappointing.

I don't have much else to say about this game, truthfully. It's not very good, certainly nowhere near as charismatic as the first Mirror's Edge. So if you want to play a Mirror's Edge game, you certainly can do no wrong with the original. Catalyst, on the other hand, I give a...

It's not a very good game at all, but it's certainly not terrible. I mean, if it wasn't for the frame rate I would have given it a 2, easy. But still.

My name is Ryan. I like to play video games and Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also like to write. This is my website, it's nothing special, but I write about topics from time to time that probably make no sense. But if you think they do make sense, then hang around and check out some other articles. My friends call them "blogs" but goddamnit I've got a URL and everything, so they're "articles".

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