Though platforming in first-person games can be problematic, the first-person platformer Mirror’s Edge managed to pull it off, and well. But while the same can be said for its sequel, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC), the game has other problems that keep it from being anything more than just okay.
For those who missed the original, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst casts you as a nimble and rather fearless courier named Faith in the not-so-distant but decidedly corporate dystopian future. But unlike couriers in modern times, Faith has to make her way across the rooftops of the city’s tallest skyscrapers by running, jumping, sliding, climbing, and even smacking people upside the head.
The gameplay in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is simple enough. While running, you hit a one button to do such downward moves as sliding under something or a little roll when you land, while another button handles such upward motions as jumping and wall running. The game also indicates where you can do all this sliding and jumping by showing you a bright red trail, as well as highlighting relevant objects in the same bright red.
It’s during these acrobatic moments, especially when you really get going, that Mirror’s Edge Catalyst really shines. Pulling off multiple moves in rapid succession makes you feel like a gymnastic super hero, and the game’s tight controls make this possible even for players who are usually rather clumsy. Granted, there are moments when you’ll think a jump will be too far to make — usually when it involves swinging from one horizontal bar to another like you’re Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4 — but, for the most part, this game really nails the perspective, and thus the acrobatics, far better than when you’re jumping around in such games as Dying Light or the new Doom.
As for the combat, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has you punching and kicking people using a combination of heavy and light attacks. You can also pair heavy attacks with the left thumbstick to do a roundhouse kick, or use momentum in conjunction with the heavy attack to really clean their clocks, like when you jump off a ledge and land on them feet first. As for defense, you have a handy dodge move that makes you circle your assailant 180º to your choice of the left or right so you can hit them from behind, which is especially handy if they’re wearing body armor, and especially funny if they’re standing near a ledge.
While you do get into a lot of skirmishes in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, not every mission is like taking a jog in a bad neighborhood while wearing a track suit made of $100 bills. There are, for example, missions where time is of the essence, and instead of stopping to beat the snot out of someone, you have to knock them down or just out of your way and keep going. These missions rank among the game’s best because they require you to keep the flow going, which is where this game excels, while the combat makes them more unique that your usual morning jog.
Along with all of the running and jumping, the open world setting of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst also gives you an opportunity to partake in skill challenges, side missions, and the locating of collectibles, all of which pay points you can redeem for movement and combat skill upgrades. You also, as you progress through the game, pick up some new gadgets, include a grapple that momentarily turns you into Batman from Arkham Knight, and a pulse emitter that momentarily turns you into a Sith Lord.
But the open world in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst can also be problematic in a way that oddly might remind you of some open world racing games. Until you unlock fast travel points, you have to run to your next mission. But since running to a mission doesn’t come with the threat of being killed, or even failure, there’s not as much of a challenge, which makes them less fun than your typical mission.
Sadly, this is not the only problem with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. For starters, the default button layout has you using the left bumper to jump and the left trigger to slide, while the face buttons are reserved for combat. But the game also, thankfully, has an “Alternative” control option that puts the jumping and sliding on the front buttons and the combat on the left trigger and bumper, which is far more intuitive and, I have to say, comfortable. Granted, it would be even better if the combat buttons were the right trigger and bumper, like they are in such first-person melee combat games as Fallout 4 and Dead Island, but it’s still an improvement over the counter-intuitive “Default” setting.
On other fronts, it doesn’t help that the story of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is forgettable and inconsequential, and presents a rather rote version of a cyberpunk world. Or that you can’t pause or skip the cut scenes. Or that it has such technical problems as the sound randomly cutting out and characters who look like rejects from the era of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Or even that, like so many games, its text is sometimes so small that you’ll have trouble reading some of the menus if you sit at a reasonable distance from your television.
But the biggest problem with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is that it gets rather redundant after a while. There’s little in the way of variety when it comes to the missions, while the platforming never gets as inventive as it does in the Prince Of Persia games, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, or even in the first Mirror’s Edge. In fact, your missions are so similar that, after a while, you won’t need to read their descriptions before embarking on them.
The end result of these problems, especially the lack of mission variety, is that Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is an okay game, but nothing more. While it may be admirable that the developers got the platforming to work well in a first-person game, they clearly need to get other aspects of this to work better as well.