When Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst was announced at the 2013 E3 Expo, I was definitely excited about the prospect of another Mirror’s Edge video game. Yet as much as I was looking forward to another adventure with Faith, I wondered how much commercial sense the endeavor actually made. While the original game wasn’t a commercial flop, it was something of a niche title. A female protagonist, a dizzying first-person presentation, and severely limited gunplay aren’t the typical ingredients for a hit game. Despite its unusual composition, the original Mirror’s Edge was a refreshing diversion, in a console generation dominated by Gears of War and Call of Duty.
I wasn’t the only one who appreciated the original Mirror’s Edge. The game maintains an aggregate review score of around 80 out of 100, although the individual scores vary widely. Obviously, some people really didn’t get it. Those who did appreciated the game’s unique art direction and overall presentation style, the way the game succeeded at actually putting the player into Faith’s role and conveyed the thrill of traversing the city’s skyline. On the flipside, the game was short, and despite its brilliant art direction, the whole experience was a bit minimalistic.
While maintaining the spirit of Mirror’s Edge, Catalyst does try to remedy almost all of the complaints levied against the first game. Sadly, the biggest change is one I really don’t think needed to be done at all. Apparently, one of the most common complaints was how linear the original Mirror’s Edge was, and Catalyst is essentially a rooftop sandbox. While that adds to the playthrough time, I’m not sure how much better an entertainment experience it makes the game. Of course, I play a lot of games. Personally, I prefer a tighter overall level of presentation, and a more compelling narrative.
In a more opened-up world, it seems to me that Catalyst’s controls are a little less precise. The left bumper makes Faith go up and the left trigger makes her go down, and the rest of the buttons just add to that overall rule, but missing grabs is a lot more common this time around.
Of course the move set is larger, especially as you work your way down Faith’s skill tree. The only place where Faith has less ability in Catalyst is when it comes to gunplay. But while Faith can no longer shoot guns, her melee skills are now much more robust.
Aesthetically, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a stunning work of art direction. This is most noticeable when you can look out across the City of Glass – and, surprisingly, while navigating the monochromatic map. Up close, however the textures tend to get a bit muddy. Considering the city’s moniker, I’d expect slicker, more reflective surfaces. I also miss the stylized characters in the animated sequences of the original game, though the actual cutscenes in Catalyst do look good.
Speaking of the cutscenes, some might have trouble identifying with the new Faith, but personally, I appreciate the new, more confident protagonist.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst offers significantly more gameplay than the original game, including some asynchronous social features, like time trials. While some may appreciate the expanded world, for me it all just felt a little too empty. Luckily, the narrative is dense enough to motivate completion, but in many ways the new Mirror’s Edge still feels a lot like a first-person take on Assassin’s Creed. Where the original game was an experiential whirlwind, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, while reminiscent of its predecessor, is something completely different. It’s a game that more people might be likely to try, but that ultimately won’t instill the same passion.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Language, and Violence. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 4, and Windows PC.