Format: PC, Xbox One, PS4 (version tested)
Developer: EA Dice
Catalyst sees us back in the running shoes of Faith, however the introduction to an open world causes her to lose her footing in this prequel to the 2008 release. Open worlds are supposed to be about free movement and variety, but what Catalyst offers is an overabundance of meaningless side quests under different guises like deliveries and hacking jobs, which are all essentially races where you’re against the clock for no apparent reason. Most other open worlds include these as filler missions amongst other side missions that add to the central story arc, but in Catalyst that’s the entire selection, leaving no incentive to stray away from the main story. It doesn’t help that Glass City – the city in which Catalyst takes place – is just as barren and unimaginative as the content it contains. It’s not the art direction I’m referring to, as the lore of Mirror’s Edge indicates why Glass City is a clean and sterile city, and the design is what makes the game recognisable. It’s the fact that despite being an open world game, the way around is very limited, you’ll be traveling between missions using the same old and tired routes throughout its duration. The white rooftops of Glass city make for some impressive sceneries, but after a while it starts to get stale very quickly.
The satisfying parkour from the previous instalment is back however, and is without a doubt the strongest element of the game. The pitter-patter of Faith’s shoes combined with her deep exhausted breaths with the impressive futuristic soundtrack is where Catalyst’s identity from a dreary and draining world becomes momentarily enjoyable. Using the shoulder buttons for the jump and crouch mechanics works wonders for the fluidity of the parkour as it frees the thumbs up for the sticks. The HUD is relatively clutter free, with no way points to your desired location, Catalyst highlights the way in the all familiar red. It’s not entirely reliable however, as on numerous occasions it would send Faith plummeting off a side of a building or just fail to work completely, leaving Faith running around aimlessly until the feature decides to work again. Despite these faults, flawlessly free running around Glass City during its main missions and scaling its towering sky-scrapers is an enormously satisfying journey, and there are some impressive set pieces along the way too. Combat however halts the flow to a disorientating stop.Faith has a quick attack and a strong attack, but the game encourages running around and wall running to use the environment to your advantage for increased damage, however the areas you find yourself in don’t always necessarily cater for that, so you find yourself spamming triangle for the heavy attack until Faith’s dispatched her K-Sec enemies. Pressing triangle and setting the left stick in a desired direction sends the enemy stumbling carelessly that way. Time it right, and you can clamber enemies into each other or hurl them off buildings, as they over exaggeratedly throw themselves off. In a game that encourages you to be inventive, you find yourself executing the same moves as Faith’s other attacks seem to be easily countered. The variety of enemies is limited too, with even the endgame ‘boss’ being two generic K-Sec enemies which previously only appeared alone.
There’s not a single likeable character in the game, with every one seeming to be an arrogant and obnoxious individual with generic motives and even Faith makes it incredibly hard to like. Without any character development, Catalyst makes it extremely difficult to care about any of them. Every NPC stands on the spot, not moving at all, adding to the bland nature of the game. The citizens of Glass City are almost non-existent, but the ones you do happen to stumble across are behind glass or in other areas of which Faith can’t access.
The predictable story itself is not even enough to save itself from being on average game. It’s not a complicated story to follow, but you’ll be that disinterested that most of the events will just go over your head. It’s a great shame really, as the concept of Mirror’s Edge is a good one and was what made the original a compelling and memorable experience. It was never a convoluted or a particularly spectacular story but it defined Mirror’s Edge and along with its (at the time) innovative parkour mechanics, made the game stand out.Catalyst would have benefited if it had just stuck with its original’s more narrative design. Instead it became an open world game that promotes invention, but ends up being repetitive, unimaginative, and dull. Faith doesn’t start showing any character until the very latter stages of the game where it has become far too late to care. The lacklustre combat mechanics combined with the meagre assortment of enemies does very little to improve on the world and the eight to ten-hour campaign has very little in terms of variety. Despite the promise of a world without limits, and a satisfying parkour system, Catalyst prevents Faith from ever reaching full stride.
Final Verdict – 6.1