Published on June 11th, 2016 | by Edwin Millheim
Mirrors Edge Catalyst Xbox One Review
Summary: A more open world for our free running adventures in Mirrors Edge Catalyst
Faith is back!
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst? What a rush.
The original Mirror’s Edge was always one of my favorite games and a great step away from the norm that was already out there. Even so, it never felt totally solid for me although it is still one of my favorites and in the latest version, you often find people just standing in areas and just sort of looking at you with no reaction whatsoever. This tended to take the life out of the world, making it feel very bland during these times… ‘un-living’ and flat… to me anyway as there are no areas that stand out in the city. It all feels for the most part the same and a spectacular landmark or memorable area would have been a very welcome thing here.
While the Mirror’s Edge franchise was first to bring this whole free running to the gaming world… when it comes to memorable areas and hair raising free running to keep out of danger… the game Dying Light comes to mind. It has lots of distinct areas and spectacular challenges but Mirror’s Edge Catalyst tries but just comes up a tad short on that front. The real draw of course is the thrill of running through the city… the thrill was there then and thankfully the thrill is here now in the latest version. While the areas may not be standouts, there is still a rushing thrill of jumping and nailing a run and not falling to your death.
So now here we are with the follow up… Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and I am liking the game, even though it has is issues as noted above. The frostbite 3 engine is also used in its creation and while the game graphics do not look out right horrible, I somehow expected more. Perhaps the blur effects and a muddy feel to some objects is intended in order to improve the overall look and get a good frame rate.
Nonetheless, I wanted to get behind Faith and the story, but it seems that the game world oppression of the big corp that runs the city has permanently leaked into the personalities of the characters. This is bit of a bummer since they are supposed to be showing ‘THE MAN’ that they can’t get us down. But in the game, well apparently they can because everyone is very sad and angry with bad attitudes for the most part.
Furthermore, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst sticks to the presentation of the original by staying in first person mode. Once again players are in control of the character Faith Conners and the actions and game playare a lot like the original Mirror’s Edge. We as the player get to explore and travel through the futuristic city called Glass, by way of running and jumping Parkour style. All the while using these excellent skills to either fight or evade any enemies that get in our way.
As I think back and over time as Mirror’s Edge Catalyst was announced, with press releases and quotes hitting the news, it has been said that… no the game is not a sequel, and then later someone insisted that it was not a prequel either. Well folks you can’t have it both ways unless you are out and out saying it’s a reboot. Which I am not saying it is and that would not be a surprise since the reboot in other entertainment industries have been pretty much the norm. Whatever else Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is, or isn’t, it is one hell of a ride but this one has the feel of a prequel so there!
Though it is a prequel, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst seems to be more of an origin story of our primary character Faith Conner. So through the games story we get to see what drives our heroine to do what she does and live how she lives. Our story starts as Faith is getting out of prison and soon rockets us into the main story!
In terms of world-building, the environment is a bit more open now and you’re thankfully not stuck only going to story missions. There are some smaller side missions and things to find throughout and you can explore and more importantly practice navigating through the world. Most of the missions and side quests all seemed to be geared towards time trials since most of them have a countdown clock that you must perform the task before time runs out. While a little silly to have two minutes on the clock for some random delivery, it does work for the game making things frantic at times and challenging.
Earlier in the game, it gives the opportunity of training, ala tutorials which gives us a re-acquaintance of the control mechanics… and the chance to do a sequence of practice with the combat. The dynamics of combat are pretty simple and one may think it’s just a button mashing mess but the combination of attacks are quite satisfying. The training sequence runs us through free running and linking attacks in a constant chain along with the running into a nonstop awesome whirl wind of attacks, all while running nonstop. Doing attacks from jumping from an obstacle, or a wall run, dodges and combos with the other mechanics make it a relatively decent system.
However combat was not the strong point of the original. While it’s not the strongest thing here, I am liking it a lot better in this latest adventure. Doing a well done sequence into the attack rewards us with some cool looking takedowns on our targets. The enemy comes at different levels of challenge, so no surprise here. The Kruger-security forces can’t all be taken down the exact same way and this is a good thing since it makes for some challenge in the combat. Players have to really get good at their running and fighting combos, since Faith cannot use any of the enemies’ weapons as they are biometrically usable only by the weapons owner.
The different types of enemy are:
- Protectors: – These types are our warm ups and they are lightly armored. Now since they are the least challenging don’t become lax as if you get enough of them and you get caught in the middle, they will put a hurting on you.
- Guardians: – Medium armored enemy that carry firearms. You have to have a little momentum behind an attack to really take them down.
- Sentinels: – These enemy are a major problem. They are like a tank with their heavy armor. A good strategy is to run fast from them. But if you are going to fight them, change up what you do and how you do it. Lots of speed and momentum is needed.
The game mechanics of running and doing all the fancy tricks to get past difficult obstacles is a lot of fun, though frustrating at times when you do not hit it just right and end up falling to your death. All this first person platforming is as much of a thrill, if not more so than the original game. In fact there had been many times during gameplay of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst that I would be half standing up out of my seat to will Faith on as I controlled her to do a particular difficult nasty jump or sequence.
Momentum can be life in this game, but sometimes it can be difficult to build any momentum. There had been times where I was unsure of a jump sequence, even with the red guide to show me the way. I found myself stopping once in a while to get my baring to see what to do next and then backing off and then running again towards my goal.
Players can upgrade Faith through the progressions screen. As the game advances players earn points and they can upgrade different categories from the progression screen. The points can be earned by getting experience points from various activities all around the city. Upgradable categories are Movement, Combat and Gear, each of these has several different upgradables within their category.
Each upgrade uses one upgrade point. It is a bit of a letdown to not be able to do certain things right away, considering Faith’s background is from being a free runner already. It is an odd thing that she does not already have a simple skill like a roll. But nope, you will upgrade and acquire more skills from the progression screen. Now that’s not to say Faith does not already have some mad skills right out of the gate… she does, just some of the upgrades are an oddity.
As some of the main categories imply sections such as moment has new skills to help Faith get around in the world better. Combat helps faith bring on the beat down when she needs to get physical. Gear is a rather interesting category as it gives Faith new abilities by way of gadgets to give her a bit of an edge. Some of the gadgets are powered by biometrics, and successful running builds up the power to the items. Other gadgets give Faith the lay of the land such as Beat Map… one of the earliest gadgets available in the game.
Like many other games, this map can keep track of objectives and using this feature, the player can set a sort of navigation towards goals that translates to the runner’s vision by showing the route. Players may have to use zoom in and or out to be able to see mission objectives. The map system is integrated very well and does not feel like just a throw-in screen to show a map for the game. It feels like an organic part of the game and the gadgets at your fingertips. Further, the map screen gives the player so much more than just a show of the area and or objectives. Players can keep track of the story, the world and a section called Division. Each of these also have sub categories. It’s a rather simple but oh so immersive system.
On the social front, while you never see another player, you are always aware of these other runners, by way of their gamer tags on hacked billboards or even after a time trial or “Dash” or Beat Location, you see who has the top time for that certain race and where you stand in it all. All of these modes are for the most part the same with a few differences to them to make them significant. The ones created by other players if shared, can be seen on your map.
- Time Trials are a simple start and finish point, and running it as fast as you can to get the best time score.
- Beat Locations are a bit tougher depending on the finish line goal. They can be tough to get to as they are often placed in a location that can be much harder to reach. That is where the skills of the player come into play, and the feel of a true free runner hits.
- Dashes are pretty cool, much like Time Trials you have to get from the start to finish as fast as you can. The main difference? These are races set up by the community.
Just like the main game these “races” really get the blood pumping. The thing to remember is that just because there is a route shown to you, it does not make it the fastest for you. The game designers often tell you this as well and it’s very true. On a couple of my first dashes I tried a slightly different route, not by much but it made for a better run time. Nice indeed!
The open world and not being stuck on the main story only is a refreshing thing. Sure it’s been done in other games… but it really feels good here by giving the player more things to do and or just explore. Throwing so much into the mix is a good thing for the franchise, from the different race types, deliveries and even getting to show our defiance against the corporate run city by way of Billboard hacking. This replaces whatever is on the electronic billboard with our own runner tag.
With a lot of different side missions and player challenge runs, Mirror’s Edge Cataylst has some things going for it, even if it limps along on some points. This is one you will either like a lot or have a real dislike for. It lets us down in some fronts, and delivers in others but overall, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst can be a fun ride, and may be worth your time but just be ready on what you get!
Have fun play games.
Primary Format – Games – Xbox One
Game Genre – Action & Adventure
Rating – M
Game Developer – EA Digital Illusions CE
Game Publisher – Electronic Arts