by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Coming in fresh
The original Mirror’s Edge was one of those games that, as a reviewer, I had to pass over because I was probably busy playing other games. I did get to test it out at various game conventions and was a little nonplussed by the somewhat simple nature of the parkour game that had the main character running across rooftops. So, with that in mind, I didn’t really have any expectations for the sequel, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and would have a fresh perspective on the game.
The game starts off with the main character Faith being released from juvenile detention. After leaving the facility, she heads back to the only person she knows will help her, her friend Noah. Noah is somewhat of a father figure to Faith after the death of her parents and it is Noah who brings Faith (and the gamer) up to speed on the happenings of Glass, the futuristic city run by a ruthless Conglomerate. Somewhat reluctantly, Faith agrees to complete some running missions and then continues to get further drawn into the battle between the small band of rebels and the evil galactic empire, err...Conglomerate.
The storyline is fleshed out rather well, and although the plot twist regarding the daughter of KrugerSec is painfully obvious, the story flows nicely throughout the entire game. The fact that there isn’t too much to distinguish the gameplay visuals from that of the cut-scenes, increases the immersion in Faith’s journey. The characters are believable, too. The resistance fighters all want to change the system, while Faith broods about her past, pinning all her woes on Gabriel Kruger. And Gabriel Kruger himself, is a megalomaniac intent on creating his own utopian world at the expense of the freedom of its citizens, something that that Noah and those at Black November want to prevent.
Movement and controls
Faith, with her parkour skills is entrusted by Noah and Rebecca (the leader of Black November) to get from A to B and complete their resistance missions. Faith uses a number of skills as a rooftop runner. As well as the simple running and vaulting, Faith can wall-run, climb ladders and drain-pipes, slide down wires and ropes and even swing across chasms with her Batman-like MAG rope - an upgrade for the glove she wears. The open world nature of the city allows gamers to traverse the metropolis however they like, providing multiple avenues to each destination. A feature known as Runner Vision will often use the most direct route, but after running across the cityscape numerous times, gamers will get their own feel for the city. Faith’s parkour movements work wonderfully well and if she should fell to her death, it was normally because I wasn’t looking where I was going or my incompetence.
Unfortunately, it is not just falling off a ledge that could cause Faith’s downfall (pun, fully intended). Faith’s rebellious activities catch the eye of KrugerSec CEO, Gabriel Kruger and he will place guards around vital points throughout the city. The open world nature of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst means that Faith can often find a way around these guards in order to reach her destination. But there are times when there is no other way but through the armed guards. Often Faith can escape these guards by knocking them over as she runs past and continues on her way, but she will often have to fight her way through. Combat is rather simplistic with a dodge movement and a couple of attacks available to Faith. As I said, the game does discourage fighting where possible, but also makes it simple enough to knock out a few guards when needed. Coming up against larger groups can be a hassle though, as they work together to subdue Faith. This can be countered with the use of Faith’s Disruptor device, an upgrade for her glove that stuns nearby guards, giving Faith a chance to either flee or get a jump on her combatants.
Apart from the main storyline, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst does provide gamers with numerous side missions and challenges. Various residents of Glass will request packages to be delivered (some are Fragile and need to be delivered intact), or request Faith to create a diversion to enable them to complete some other task while KrugerSec is occupied. Challenges include Speed Dashes (reaching a destination in a set time) and Billboard Hacks. Unfortunately, once you’ve completed a couple of these side missions and challenges, they begin to feel the same. My favourite of the extra content was probably the Grid Node challenge, one that has Faith reaching a high point in a server room using puzzle solving skills to work her way through the environment.
Completing these side missions (along with the main storyline missions) and challenges does gain XP though. Upon each level up, Faith gains access to certain upgrades. Movement upgrades give her access to new moves and increased effectiveness of existing parkour skills. Combat upgrades help Faith to fight the various KrugerSec operatives, while Gear upgrades improve the technology of Faith’s glove, allowing more flexibility with her MAG rope and Disruptor.
The city of Glass is a somewhat sterile environment. The utopian world is primarily a clean, whitewashed location owned by the Conglomeration. As Faith races through the stylized city, she will notice the lack of colour throughout. Indeed, it is Faith’s Runner Vision that breaks up the bleak skyline, with the red streaks and markers highlighting important points and paths. The audio is clinical too, with some superb voice acting and sound effects. The small things such as grunts when Faith runs into a wall or exerts energy jumping from one ledge to another further immerse the gamer in Faith’s character.
Just the Beginning
Although there isn’t really much to Mirror’s Edge Catalyst in terms of gameplay - let’s be honest, it is primarily a game of running and jumping - the story and controls make it such that it had me wanting more. Indeed, the game finishes off saying that this is only the beginning. The visuals are somewhat bland and sterile, but this fits in well with the utopian society that is the city of Glass. And although some further variation in the side missions and challenges would have been appreciated, in the end, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is simply one of those games that is better than the sum of its parts.
Controls and movement are fluid. The main story flows beautifully
Side missions are repetitive