Run, Slide, jump tuck, roll, wall-run, leap, wall- run, grab the zipline, tuck and roll now run as fast as you can. Fast-paced, first-person parkour was an incredible, unique, risky idea when it came out in 2008. The running, leaping, diving is exhilarating. Finding the right path, stringing moves together, it was all a huge rush. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst continues that tradition by giving you even more runny, jumpy action in a fun, focused package.
If you haven’t played the original Mirror’s Edge, go find a youtube video of someone doing a really good run. Once you get good at the game (which isn’t actually that hard), you quickly chain together your available moves until you’re flying across rooftops, escaping the police and navigating your way through the various platforming puzzles. Seeing your hands and feet as you leap across rooftops is incredibly engrossing, and the sense of speed you get from the first person perspective is astounding. For people who played the old one, this game has new moves and gadgets to add to your arsenal that make things more fun. A new ‘shift’ move lets your gain instant momentum for when you fall down, or let you dodge left and right without turning. In addition, the parkour feels smoother and cleaner than in the first one, and I found myself flying across the city much faster than I remembered. People have said that Dying Light has similarly styled parkour, but I think Mirror’s Edge parkour is much more fleshed out and exhilarating. If you like the first-person parkour, any other complaint is overshadowed by the enormous amount of fun you can have just running. Keep this in mind when I talk about some other things that bothered me.
Also, I enjoyed all of the main story missions, they were diverse and interesting. That’s all I have to say though because I have a lot of other stuff to cover.
Art Direction and Such
I love the art style in this game. I was running this on my PC at Ultra with a GTX 980 and it looked pretty great. There were a few low-res textures which were frustrating and ugly up close, but otherwise it ran like silky butter. The diversity of objects for you to interact with has increased too, so instead of the same pipe, fence, etc. there are now a variety of assets to diversify your run. Each area of the map has its own identity too, so the rich high class area, the construction zone, and the underground all feel different. The cut-scenes look incredible too, like absolutely stunning. There was one little glitch where Faith’s hair doesn’t look quite right in reflections, but other than that no hiccups.
The Open World
One thing that I was not expecting, was enjoying the transition to open world. It does make the game feel more ‘by the numbers’, but since the whole shtick of the game is your ability to navigate the landscape it actually plays to your advantage. One of my favorite parts of the game is just being able to run across the city. Finding different routes, becoming familiar with the world, it just feels so good. Every inch of ‘Glass’ felt well-designed and suited for exploration.
The one problem with the open world is that it feels rather segmented, with only one or two pathways for you to cross from portion to portion. You can easily end up retreading the same path over and over as you make your way across the city (there is a fast travel option for those who want it). There are alternate pathways, they’re just not obvious.
So to open the Mirror’s Edge experience up to more people, there’s now a dedicated button to show you exactly where and how to go. It’s actually on by default, so that you always see your full path, but you can turn it back to classic with only the red highlights, or completely off.
The nice thing is, when you get lost, it can show you the way to go, even if it’s in a roundabout direction. This is especially true in the open world where it’s easy to think you’re going the right way, only to end up stuck because of some impassable obstacle. The downside is that sometimes it just doesn’t work when it points you through a wall or up to a platform you can’t reach. It’s pretty rare, but when you’re stuck in that room looking for a way out, you’ve come to rely on it so much that it becomes a frustration. I recommend going with classic runner vision and only using the guide button when you get lost or stuck.
The Skill Tree
At first I was angry that I didn’t have all of my runner moves, but I unlocked the ones that I needed pretty quickly. In fact, not having all of them thrown at me all at once helped me mix them into my gameplay as I progressed through the opening levels. I use the jump-tuck all the time when I never used it in the original. The rest are largely just health and damage upgrades, to help make the rest of the game feel a little easier if you put in the time.
So, I like the new combat system, but only so much as it is incorporated into the running mechanics. You get a focus shield that lets you dodge bullets that you build up using your momentum. There are a few areas that require you to beat up the guards before progressing, when I’d much rather just run away or through them. It would make sense if you got some kind of incentive for beating them, but otherwise they’re just a frustration. That said, when I wasn’t doing arena battles, the new mechanics work well. No guns, but some directed attacks, dodges and parkour integration help make it feel significantly better than it’s predecessor. There’s now an attack that goes through your enemy so you can keep running instead of slowing down to fight enemies in your way. If there’s a Mirror’s Edge 3, hopefully they’ll just get rid of the combat arena requirement while still letting you do it in parkour.
These are give or take. Anything that’s not assigned by a known NPC you can probably skip. Plastic, Nomad, and other named NPC missions are all usually decently entertaining. Some of these involve more intellectual puzzle based platforming, some are complicated fusions of combat and parts of your environment you’re not used to traversing. The rest are fetch quests, races or other simple tasks that aren’t that interesting. The upside to all of these is that it lets you do more running which is still fun. And like I said, there are a few good ones. You can also play against time trials and checkpoint races that other people post online, they’re fairly standard but still interesting.
There have been two major complaints about the story. One, nobody smiles, and two, it’s generic, cyberpunk, Orwellian sci-fi. For the first complaint, yes people smile. It’s kinda like in BvS where everyone said there would be no jokes, and then there were plenty of jokes, just not a bunch of witty banter like in Marvel movies. Similarly, Mirror’s Edge takes itself a little too seriously, but the character’s tease and banter with each other to a fair degree. I counted multiple occasions, not just one, where the characters smiled while they were hanging out. The characters were fine and frankly I liked most of them by the end. Even Icarus, the annoying upstart from the beginning is pretty alright by the end. Second, It’s generic cyberpunk. Yes, this is fair. The story doesn’t do anything revolutionary, it’s not shocking or emotionally charged. There are a few ‘dumb’ moments in the back half of the game, but I didn’t mind them that much. The thing about the story being ‘generic’ is that almost any story is going to be generic at this point. Any story is only going to be an amalgam and combination of other stories. The story in the first game wasn’t that great, so I don’t mind.
The Loading Times
So you know when you get to that one section that you keep failing over and over again? You’re being chased and it looks like you can make the jump, but you just barely miss it each time? And then you have to sit through a super long loading screen that more likely than not starts you back further than you were before. This is especially troublesome for the sidequests which have much less wiggle rooms and much less clear pathways. Sitting at that stark white screen and staring into oblivion is SUPER annoying.
There are problems with this game, it’s definitely not perfect, but if you liked the first Mirror’s Edge, you should like this one. It’s an intense playing experience. On days when I came home from work and felt exhausted, I did not want this to be my go-to game. I recommend really taking your time and playing a little bit at a time. I personally wouldn’t have bought it on day one for $60, but I don’t know how much $60 means to you. Just like the last game, it’s a niche genre for a specific audience. Pick it up at a price you feel comfortable, but do pick it up. It’s a far better game than it’s predecessor, there’s just more game to criticize.
Note: For those of you who bothered to read this, thanks. I know it’s unwise to post this during E3 week, but I wanted to get it out there ASAP for people who wanted it. Hope this helps inform your purchase decision.