Thursday 23 June 2016

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

Mirror’s Edge was never a commercial success, but its unique gameplay and bold design choices made it a cult hit, whose popularity has endured over the eight years since it was first released. Being one of the first examples of a first-person shooter without guns, Dice created the surprisingly enjoyable Parkour simulator that no-one knew we needed.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst literally expands that original concept, taking it from a linear, chapter based experience, into being a sprawling open world of free-running opportunities. The new world map is littered with story missions, side quests and time trial challenges – which players can choose to tackle as and when they please – or simply ignore and focus on exploring the different routes through the city at their disposal. The story is a definite second focus behind the city itself, where the need to explore often distracts you. Even the main characters feel under-developed and unsympathetic, so there is little to make you want to progress through the lacklustre plot.

The disappointing issue with the vast open world is that the actual objectives on offer just aren’t that exciting in themselves. Story missions aside, there is precious little else to keep you interested, despite the sprawl of the new open world. All of the side quests consist of nothing more than timed fetch quests and races from one place to another – which all become quickly frustrating. There needs to be a greater variety of activities to populate the city map – without this, everything feels far too repetitive and you don’t feel the need to keep completin

The story missions themselves are a lot more interesting, never more so than when you are tasked with a platforming puzzle. These are called Grid Nodes, and usually consist of a room, or a tower – for example – that you need to ascend carefully. Usually the route is difficult to work out, and some clever foot work and forward planning is needed in order to safely make your way through the obstacle course, and reach your objective. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is at its best and most pure when you are simply left with the gameplay mechanics, trying to figure out how on earth you can get from point A to point B.

The parkour system feels more fluid and rewarding than ever before, with the focus on constantly chaining together different movements and keeping your momentum up at all times. The framerate remains solidly high throughout and there is still a thrill to be found in leaping from rooftop to rooftop, rolling, sliding and climbing your way to your next objective. Sadly many of the manoeuvres you need to use are locked away behind an XP progression system – this usually wouldn’t be an issue, but so many areas of the game are unreachable without these skills, and you’ll never be able to compete in time trials with your souped-up counterparts.

So many elements of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst feel familiar – right down to the ambient soundtrack once again provided by Swedish artist Solar Fields – yet Dice have made big strides to try and show how they have developed the title and moved things forward. And that is the very crux of the Mirror’s Edge franchise - the need to constantly move forward.

It is just a shame that so many of the changes fall flat, rather than soar successfully. 3/5.


Robin Parker

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