Review by TKDBoy1889

Reviewed: 04/17/17

Hanging on the edge

I had been looking forward to this game quite a bit because I love the original Mirror’s Edge. In a period of videogames where originality was lacking and gameplay was becoming stagnant, Mirror’s Edge introduced a fresh new concept for an action platformer did it well. Where most other big releases were abusing the concept of cover mechanics and kind of forcing you to take it slow, Mirror’s Edge encouraged momentum and relied on interacting with your environment in whatever way let you progress through the level in the quickest fashion. It took a risk and it paid off well, in my opinion. Does Mirror’s Edge Catalyst deliver in the same way? Kind of…

Story and Characters:

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a reboot that aims to explore the origins of Faith, the protagonist. In all honesty, I really like the character of Faith. She is a stubborn, driven, yet compassionate character who occasionally jumps before she looks (Quite literally in this game, you could say). She has something of a neutral-good personality, insisting on a disregard for the conglomerate OR for taking sides in any sort of conflict, but deep down has a desire to fight the good fight. Most of the side characters are not original, but they play their personalities and roles very well. Noah is the neutral mentor who tries to avoid taking sides, Icarus is the cocky and loudmouthed partner who has more to him than meets the eye, Rebecca is the crazed vigilante who claims to fight for the oppressed yet believes blowing stuff up is always the answer, etc. Like I said, most characters are predictable in their roles but they are by no means BAD. The voice-acting is solid and I don’t think there were any bad performances. There is certainly some weight felt at heavier dramatic points in the story, and at times there was good emotion portrayed through cutscenes.

Story-wise we’ve seen plots like this before; the corporate structure that seems to run a peaceful and serene utopian state but in reality, is an oppressive state that controls its populace through strict laws, lack of personal freedoms, and surveillance. What keeps it interesting is the way Faith’s story plays out throughout it all. It’s the characters that make the story a good one as opposed to just an average one. Worthy of an award for storytelling? No. Did it keep me interested throughout the game? Yes.


Visuals:

From a graphical perspective, the game delivers well in a unique fashion. It’s not the most high-res for a 2016 game and the bright, clean color palette definitely doesn’t give a realistic look, but that’s why it works. Not only does this give the game its own unique look and feel, but it actually compliments the nature of the city and the game. Remember that Mirror’s Edge takes place in a seemingly peaceful place that is really a totalitarian surveillance-state, and the bright squeaky-clean look of the games fits that faux-Utopian vibe incredibly well. It’s certainly not the most detailed, but it adds to the atmosphere of the game and I find that more important.

Cutscenes are solid. The animation and lip-syncing are great, and games kicks the resolution up a bit during cinematics in order to help portray the emotions on characters faces a bit better.


Music/Audio:

The music is very fitting of the game, something that followed suit from the original. The game goes for a softer electronic soundtrack when you are jumping around the city, and it definitely adds to that Mirror’s Edge atmosphere. It’s not epic or ominous or heavy, but rather oddly soothing. This style compliments what I said about the graphics nicely. Peaceful, mysterious, and almost trance-like you definitely get that vibe of the utopia the city is pretending to be, and the same way the citizens are entranced into believing the city is perfect you as the player get this calming feeling as you jump from rooftop to rooftop and take in the astounding views.

As previously stated, voice-acting is solid from everyone. Every character has their own personality and the actors did a good job in portraying those personalities. This makes cutscenes more immersive and believable. Sound effects are well done, and I really like how the sounds of your movement are loud enough to add to the feeling of your movement. From the sound of your footsteps across metal to rolling over the rooftops to sliding down a ledge, it adds to the feeling of movement.

Combat music is not bad, but it’s standard. The only major drawback in the audio department, because it doesn’t really stand out as much as other audio aspects. It’s not really bad, it’s just extremely forgettable.


Gameplay/Design:

The parkour platforming is the highlight of this game, just as it was with the first game. I love that this series aims for more dynamic interaction with the game world in order to create a more organic experience. Instead of relying on carefully timed jumps or timed button prompts, the game encourages continuous quick movement in order to maintain your momentum to make it from one spot to the next. Most of the original mechanics have returned such as vaulting, wall running, quick-turn jumps, etc. The simple amount of interactivity with the environment is the best part, because it makes the game feel so free and fluid compared to other platformers. This has honestly spoiled me and made me critical of other games with their single-button style free-running mechanics. Much like a parkour practitioner, the game encourages you to have more of a “flight” style of attitude in fight-or-flight scenarios, which is much more original than fighting every crook that crosses your path. When attempting to evade security forces or find a way to navigate your environment and get to the next target, the game is at its best. The controls are, for the most part, responsive and fluid. There definitely have been a few deaths that felt cheap and a couple moments where the I felt like the mechanics didn’t respond properly, but it’s not that common. For the most part the parkour and free-running was fluid, enjoyable, and a great experience.

The one hiccup I have with the parkour mechanics is the new mag-rope tool, which feels out of place. Mirror’s Edge is great because it’s all about you versus the environment, finding the best way to navigate through obstacles and turn blockades into shortcuts. The mag-rope detracts from that a little bit, because it’s a hi-tech gadget that contradicts the concept of parkour and is really just a “press X to get here now” mechanic. A little cool at times but it just doesn’t fit well with the rest of the design. Luckily, it’s not an overused device.

Combat is… decent. I really like the fact that they’d tried to make it more dynamic and interactive with the environment. Things like directional attacks to knock enforcers into each other or kicking them in mid-air before seamlessly continue to run are really nice touches that feel like that’s how a parkour fighter would actually handle their opponents. The problem is a lot of situations where you have to fight seem to limit your options and the standard combat system itself is ho-hum. If you can’t use your environment it can boil down to dodge left, kick enemy in the back, dodge right, kick them and hope they run into each other, etc. Combat shines best when it’s mixed in with the free-running mechanics. When you can seamlessly jump from a ledge and kick an enemy before taking off again or leap over a counter to kick an enemy through a glass wall behind them, it’s really fun. Basically, it’s an average fighting system with some bursts of excitement here and there. Also, I miss timed counters. Now there are finishers that seem to happen at random. They look cool, but I don’t think they can be purposely initiated.


There’s two main design issues I find with Mirror’s Edge; The open-world design and the upgrade system both feel tacked on and unnecessary. Extremely odd to say that, since I usually LOVE being able to explore open areas and customize my character. However, I also know that sometimes a game benefits from being more linear and sometimes natural progression is better. Open-world in theory sounds perfect for a game about parkour and free-running. The caveat is the way it’s designed; I felt like a mouse in a maze, getting lost and turned around way too easily unless I used runner’s vision to highlight the path. Once things finally became familiar, I found myself going through the same areas repeatedly. The main potential of open-world design is side content, but for Mirror’s Edge it’s hit n’ miss. Most of the optional stuff is really just getting from point A to point B in a time limit, and boy can they be unforgiving in that regard. I’m talking unless you find the most optimal path you may not even get halfway to your goal. Only some seem to have a more reasonable time limit. I get the idea is to encourage fast traversal through the environment, but what about the “Dash” runs? In these, timing is all about setting a personal best, like a time trial. Most of the courier runs and delivery jobs instead insist on abstract time limits. In truth, the only side quests I found worth doing are the ones given by actual story-related characters. They either focused on the platforming or had more forgiving time constraints.

Then, the upgrade system. It’s honestly pointless. A couple the first features you’ll want to grab were standard gameplay functions in the original game- such as the 180 wall turn- and they honestly should have been there from the start here as well. Other than that, upgrades are quite limited and most of them feel like things the game could have given to you overtime naturally as you progressed through the game. Overall, this concept feels meaningless and tacked on. For the quick summary, platforming is awesome, everything ranges from decent to mediocre.


Replay:

There are a bunch of side activities, but as I said, I find most of them mediocre. The dash ones are the best ones for replay value since they focus on practicing and getting your personal best time in, but even they don’t hold up very long. For an open-world design, I found the replay value a bit lacking overall. There just aren’t enough customization options to warrant multiple playthroughs, and nothing else really seems like it would create too much of a different experience from your first run of the game. Unless you are a speed-runner or a completionist there isn’t much to entice a second playthrough other than the joy of the platforming. To the games credit, there are a lot of little tokens and objects to find by exploring the city but it just didn’t call out to me that much.


Summary:

For all my criticisms, I still think Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a pretty good game. It doesn’t quite reach the same level as the original game, and I found some of the design choices questionable, but for me it’s really the parkour gameplay that sells it. I still don’t think there’s another game out there that has done platforming or parkour in such a fluid and interactive way. If you love platforming games or if you’re looking for something different in the first-person department, I think this game delivers. If you prefer combat-oriented action, then this may not be for you. The core for an awesome franchise is here, it just needs to be fine-tuned in certain departments.

Visuals: 8/10
Audio: 8/10
Story: 7.5/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Replay value: 6/10


Final Score: 7/10

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Mirror's Edge Catalyst (US, 06/07/16)

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