Review: Mirrors Edge Catalyst

I never played the first Mirrors Edge game. Yeah, that one person who never tried it was me. As such I went into Mirrors Edge Catalyst without any kind of preconception of what to expect. I knew it was a free-running game, and I knew that the original was fairly linear in terms of how things worked, but that was all the info I was armed with. And so, with that lack of background knowledge sitting happily in my mind, I started to play Catalyst, and it’s good. It’s really good.

After breaking free from some prison guards the game starts by you make your way back (through the medium of a controls tutorial) to a group of people who you clearly worked for before getting caught doing something the authorities didn’t like. From this point you’re effectively a messenger on the grey market, doing the dubious jobs that others don’t want to get their hands dirty with, those which would get the attention of the security services who, for added fun, are often armed with various lethal weaponry. As a result it doesn’t make sense to wander down the street and find these people… all of your work is done on the roofs of the large, open world city that you find yourself in.

Navigating this world is 95% fluid motion, 5% swearing in frustration. Using the echo of a virtual runner you can be shown the way to your next port of call if you want to, or if you’d rather be left to your own devices then you can ignore it all together. Getting around is a very enjoyable way to spend a few minutes, and once a few side missions open up it’s easy to lose a lot of time just running round, exploring new areas and trying to find various hidden sections. It gives you a chance to perfect your techniques, try out new skills which you’ve unlocked as part of the character progression as well as taking part in speed runs, timed deliveries and other such smaller tasks. There’s loads of extras available, only tarnished by the fact that the all-important momentum factor is very hard to maintain if you time something other than perfectly, and some jumps which appear to be perfectly achievable end with you falling several storeys down to a rather nasty ending. It made me feel slightly less likely to experiment with my routes, although once I realised you didn’t really lose anything by messing it all up it certainly became easier to stomach these failures.

Combat isn’t quite so smooth, there’s a quick attack which becomes less useful by itself as the game moves on, and a heavier attack which causes most enemies to stumble a little, something which can be very effectively combined with the quick attack once you’ve unlocked a few areas on the skill tree. There are a couple of fights when you need that much momentum to effectively hit an enemy that you end up running round in circles for a few seconds before launching yourself at them, but these moments don’t happen often and a lot of the time you can just avoid them all together or just run past them and leap to safety. And as for those cool looking guns that the enemy keep firing at you, don’t think you’ll be getting hold of them any time soon – they’re all coded specifically for that one person, so you’ll be kept on your toes with nothing but melee attacks to keep you safe. Technology eh?

So for a decent while Catalyst is really great fun, but I found it hard to keep myself going through the whole thing without finding the same cool features starting to wear a bit thin. The free running gameplay is a fantastic way to get around, but at the point when general dicking around is the preferred option over actually pressing on with the story missions then you have to question the reasons for that.

So, from the perspective of someone who had never played the first Mirrors Edge, is Catalyst worth getting? I’d say it is, but I’d also wait for a bit of a price drop. At £30 I wouldn’t feel too cheated by this at all, just for the joy of free running round a gorgeous looking city with very few limitations. But the ropey storyline missions and awkward combat mean it’s impossible to whole-heartedly tell anyone to pick this up, whic is a shame considering how much potential there was for something quite brilliant.

Reviewed on PS4

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