Mirror's Edge Catalyst Review
It's been eight long, grueling years since the release of the original Mirror's Edge. The game was a divisive one upon release. Though there were many standout missions, frustrating gunplay mechanics and the largely linear way the missions were structured ensured that the game would fall short of greatness and be forever relegated to the overstuffed bin of unique and promising cult classics.
Eight years later, with Mirror's Edge Catalyst, EA has created something that is truly special, and deserves to be hailed as one of this generation's great open-world games.
A Parkour Playground
To talk about Mirror's Edge Catalyst, we must first talk about Spider-Man 2. Gamers and critics often point to it as a prime example of a game that has great "game-feel", an elusive quality that causes people who play the game to just get a big goofy grin on their face.
Spider-Man 2's open world was alive, expansive, and full of things to do. In addition, the game's web-slinging mechanics were tight and satisfying. New York was a playground, and it was fun to get from point A to point B, even if no missions were active.
This is Mirror's Edge Catalyst's best quality. The developers have created an open world that operates like a playground, and every area seems to have been designed with Faith's abilities in mind. There are so many ways to traverse the map, so many different paths between objectives that I often found myself simply exploring without purpose -- not in search of collectibles or hidden items, or anything other than the thrill of running across the map.
Not many games have that quality, and for players who enjoyed the first game, Faith's abilities translate to the open world incredibly well.
Mirror's Edge's story was forgettable, and unfortunately, Mirror's Edge Catalyst's is too. It's a generic, paint-by-numbers affair with corporate boogeymen, terrorists, and a supremely annoying rival character named Icarus.
It's all stuff we've seen before -- the struggle between personal freedom and "the greater good"-- and it's simply not interesting. The voice actors did an admirable job with the script they were given, but the characters themselves are forgettable and drab. I didn't really care about any of them in my playthrough.
Having said that, the main missions are a blast to play through -- full of breathtaking set-pieces and vertigo-inducing climbs. One mission will have you jumping from a crane sticking out of a skyscraper that towers over the city, and it'll give you goosebumps.
It's like an action movie. You aren't watching it for the story, you're watching it to see Arnold Schwarzenegger blow up the bad guys and fire off a witty one-liner.
Fans of the first game will be glad to hear that Faith can't use guns in Mirror's Edge Catalyst. This is a very, very good thing. In addition, on the whole, combat feels satisfying and fluid-- at least, once the player unlocks a few movement and combat upgrades. The system revolves around movement, and although this sometimes results in Faith strafing around her enemies until she can kick them over a ledge to their grisly deaths, it's satisfying when it works. Launching up to a wall run, then leaping from the wall to deliver a flying dragon kick is never not exhilarating.
Unfortunately, near the end of the game, the strongest enemies really do get annoying. It's not that they're difficult, it's just that a lot of the fun of the combat comes from flowing from one enemy to the next, stringing knockouts together. These enemies, and the locations in which you fight most of them, make that kind of flow all but impossible, since they're so heavily armored.
Stringing It All Together
I'm honestly staggered by the sheer amount of things there are to do in Mirror's Edge Catalyst. Players can drop hidden items for others to find, create their own time trials for others to run, and even show up as ghosts in their friends' games.
That's not even getting into all of the side missions, collectibles, and diversions that EA has packed into this game. From the time-trial Dashes to courier missions to security hub missions that have you evading a pesky helicopter, a majority of the fun to be had in Mirror's Edge Catalyst lies outside of the main story.
Of particular note are the GridNode missions, which see the player scaling towers and avoiding sentry lasers like a free-running Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment. As a reward for scaling these towers, you'll receive the ability to fast-travel within the area.
But why would you ever want to?
Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a rare kind of game. The atmosphere is amazing, the visuals are stunning (well, if you don't look too hard. Up close, things get a little messy), and the core gameplay mechanics are deeply and truly satisfying. Sure, the story is crap, and the game gets in its own way in terms of combat sometimes, but to be completely honest, those are the only flaws I can find in an otherwise amazing game.
As I said before, Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a playground, and should be mentioned along Spider-Man 2 as one of the few games that really make getting from point A to point B fun. Hell, you even get a wrist-mounted grappling hook midway through the game, allowing Faith to do her best Peter Parker impression. If you're a fan of the original game, or really, a fan of open world games in general, Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a must-play.
How have you been enjoying Mirror's Edge Catalyst? Let us know in the comments! Oh, and if you want to improve those Dash times, check out our guide to help you get up to speed!