When Mirror’s Edge launched in 2008 it was met with a divisive reception. Many people loved its smooth free-running gameplay and titular character, Faith, but alongside its moments of brilliance came a short campaign, dull story, and clumsy combat. Flash-forward 8 years and its publisher, Electronic Arts, has finally answered the call for a grander, more refined sequel.
Less of a direct continuation and more a complete reboot, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst acts as a clean slate for both the city of Glass and its leading lady. In a bid to start off on stronger footing than its predecessor, its design steers clear of linear levels and lays its objectives across a semi-open world. Everything from the game’s main missions to a selection of side-quests are available on-the-go across a series of interconnected rooftops.
The city of Glass offers a look into a dystopian future ruled over by high-powered conglomerates, those of whom wish to keep a steady level of control over their citizens’ behaviour and lifestyle. As with any strict regime there are those who wish to see it crumble, and Faith is part of an “underground” network of free-runners who traverse the city skyline and act as couriers for important information and items. Years before the uprising, Faith’s parents and sister were killed during riots started in an attempt to overthrow the ruling corporations. Her journey in Catalyst roots back to this tragedy.
Initially showcasing a relatively large map, progression through the story opens up more areas and the introduction of Mag Rope allows for even speedier traversal. Across the city are a multitude of “Mag” points, which enable Faith to zip across larger gaps and cover a greater distance in half the time. The rope can also be used to clear loose debris and open up previously inaccessible routes. Having said that, the basics of free-running are as smooth and addictive as ever.
Whilst those handling Faith’s new adventure have clearly nailed the core of movement, and catered towards a more open environment, its story feels predictable and combat, although vastly improved, is a mixed bag. There were times in which I had to face enemies head-on in small constricted areas. As I bumbled around threats and begrudgingly took the time to take them out, I immediately felt a lack of fluidity and fun.
Keeping up your momentum is an integral part of performing parkour, which is why elegantly dispatching of threats whilst maintaining speed, is crucial to feeling like a bad-ass and enjoying yourself in the process. There were many times in which I could do just that; propelling down a zip line and executing a flawless takedown, or wall-running and wiping out guards with a seamless kick to keep me moving. The inclusion of one-on-one combat sections feels entirely out of place.
Without a doubt the strongest part of Mirror’s Edge is the intuitive control system and fluid parkour. As with any game it takes time and skill to master the subtleties it has to offer, but on the whole it’s an accessible and easy art to pull off. Getting to grips with chaining various moves together without failure is incredibly satisfying, and initialising a safe combat roll after exiting a high speed zip line feels empowering.
Faith also has an upgrade tree which allows players to prioritise which parts of her feature set are enhanced first. This includes movement, combat and any gear that’s accrued; alongside the MagRope is a Disruptor move that immobilises enemies and takes out security cameras. Runner vision returns from the first game and can be turned on to help plot the best path to your next objective, but bear in mind that these aren’t always the fastest routes.
Returning to the city of Glass has been really enjoyable, and whether I’m partaking in races against the clock or main missions to further the story, the free-running always felt spot on and I continually experimented with alternate routes and moves in an attempt to harness my skills furthermore. The combat has definitely improved upon the first game and there are times in which I truly felt unstoppable, but when I’m left to stew in an area and forcefully take on enemies, it’s not fun and it kills the pacing. As for the story, I saw the twists coming from a mile off and it didn’t take me by surprise. As an added bonus, you are given the ability to craft your own time trials, which is neat.