'Mirror's Edge Catalyst' Review Roundup: What Gamers Have To Say About The Dystopic Parkour Title
In this latest review roundup, we'll be dissecting the game's core strengths and weaknesses according to eight categories: Characters, Plot, Open-world Mechanics, Movement, Combat, Multiplayer Functionality, Performance and Graphics, and Overall Gameplay.
Most of the focus in reviews had a few things to say about the game's NPCs, even Faith, which point out the lacking amount of depth and character that players can sympathize with. The current world is filled with "paper-thin characters," as Scott Butterworth from GameSpot comments, and are "completely unlikable" which makes character development "nonexistent," Ryan McCaffrey from IGN writes.
"... many of these do serious damage to the game's sense of authenticity, as mannequin-like quest givers stand in place 24 hours a day, giving out nonsensical requests about delivering parcels within arbitrary time limits," notes David Jenkins from MetroUK.
"There are a handful of relatably human character moments buried in there ... but a lot of the potential is deadened by some perfunctory vocal performances and often awkward animation," writes Kyle Orland from Ars Technica.
The cutscenes, albeit "rapid ... that doesn't give any of [the NPCs] a chance to breathe or really develop as anything outside of hackneyed plot devices," writes Orland, are still "absolutely beautiful, well-acted and the art direction and photography are dramatically better than many films I've seen in genre," comments Todd Kenreck from Forbes.
According to reviews, gamers simply play the game because of the parkour elements and not because the story pulls them in.
"Catalyst has a serious problem in finding a sensible context for its gameplay, and the question of how much that bothers you is central to how much you'll enjoy the game," comments Jenkins.
The main narrative is "both thin and predictable" and coupled with Faith's own "flashback-fueled backstory," the entire direction behind the game is seemingly "almost directly out of the Bruce Wayne playbook," writes McCaffrey.
Other reviewers, however, did find a gleam of hope in the storyline. Kenreck, for instance, found the story "wonderful" as the game reveals more about the world Faith is living in.
Butterworth, while saying that the "missions feel routine and unimaginative," does note that other quests "deliver truly pulse-pounding tension or thoughtful environmental puzzle solving."
"The story does exactly enough to move the game along without leaving a lasting impression, positive or negative," he adds.
A welcome change from the previous title is Mirror's Edge Catalyst's upgrade from a linear progression to an open world, making the whole city of Glass available for a gamer's parkour needs.
"The game is challenging and that is what I love about it the most - that the better you get at it, the more you are going to be rewarded," Kenreck writes.
For others who prefer a guided travel along the walls and pipelines of Glass, Runner's Vision may be activated to help the player get a general sense of direction.
"Catalyst, like its predecessor, subtly but effectively guides you in the direction of your objective by turning a nearby interactable object red, indicating that you should jump, slide, mantle, or climb it in order to progress," McCaffrey details.
While not necessarily the best route to maximize on performance times, Runner's Vision does provide a safer and comprehensible path.
Rich Stanton, from The Guardian, comments that it's "too easy to die instantly" which he blames on "bad play" and other times, "confusing visual language."
The game is merciful, however; when players miss a step and fall to their demise, "checkpoints are mercifully liberal and reload times are fairly speedy, making your parkour failure easier to digest and reckless experimentation more fun," notes McCaffrey.
You'll usually see Faith's own hand entering the screen as she grabs, runs and slides along the environment. This perspective alone, "makes the simple act of running a thrill, just like in the original," notes McCaffrey.
"Locomotion in Catalyst still feels as fresh and empowering as it did in 2008," he describes.
Catalyst improves upon the original title's move set and its "appeal is in how the first-person perspective embodies her," writes Stanton. "Alone these are tricks but together they make Faith feel like a character, as opposed to a floating camera."
The complex movements are fluid and transition smoothly, which of course requires a certain set of dexterous skills from the player.
"Mastering your environment with flawless speed proves just as thrilling and liberating as executing a complex combo in a fighting game or nailing a demanding solo in a rhythm game," Butterworth notes.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst's combat mechanic has been upgraded from the previous title, removing the concept of guns entirely, leaving Faith to her arsenal of various "fast and furious" kicks and punches, which is a "hit and miss" according to McCaffrey.
"The same feeling of strength comes from attacking an enemy with a parkour move," McCaffrey adds.
There are times when the player is allowed to ignore fights altogether, relying on Faith's Focus Shield meter instead.
"This works great during small fights, flying encounters, and escapes - in fact it's downright superb for when you don't want to fight, because it lets you scatter and push through groups before sprinting on," writes Stanton.
However, not all fights can be skipped as the game sometimes forces the player to defeat a set number of enemies in an area as part of a mission.
"Problem is, many environments are too open to foster this form of kinetic combat, and ... you're left clumsily dodging around enemies on flat ground," writes Butterworth.
Even worse, as most reviewers noticed, the enemy's AI seems to be a bit lacking.
"... stumbling guards will practically throw themselves over the edge like they're extras in a Rambo parody," writes McCaffrey.
To add more to this list, Jenkins commented on the ragdoll physics of the game which he describes as the "worst ... they've seen in years." This is more apparent when the enemies "belatedly decide they're going to fall off a balcony, despite initially being nowhere near it, in what looks like something out of The Naked Gun."
One redeeming quality of Mirror's Edge Catalyst is its added functionality for competitive play.
"I have to place high and I will play these trials over and over again to get there if I have to," Kenreck writes.
These "trials" can be accessed by other players where the original route will appear in their Runner's Vision.
"These [trials] appear in other players' worlds and can be taken on at any point, whereupon you'll race against a visualization of the original runner and have to hit each hoop on the way to the goal," describes Stanton.
This aspect of the game "deepens the open-world experience" and may very well increase its "longevity" as Butterworth comments.
"This is a game about running and, when it just lets you, it's exhilarating,' adds Stanton.
Performance And Graphics
Regarding performance, the slight dip in framerate and loading times experienced during the beta phase have been improved in the released version.
"It's worth noting this final version of the game runs smoother than the somewhat sloppy beta," details Butterworth.
Textures, however, sometimes glitch out which causes a difference in quality over objects and characters in a scene.
"Hi-resolution textures pop into existence as you approach certain objects," writes Orland.
"The art design is fantastic but there's a serious problem with textures not loading in properly (and the sound dropping out), and the faces for secondary characters are awful," adds Jenkins.
Some are more optimistic, though, and ignore these mishaps, preferring general gameplay over certain lacks in visual appeal.
"Catalyst may not be the best looking game out there, but it runs well enough to keep you invested in the action," writes Butterworth.
Overall, Mirror's Edge Catalyst's core strength relies on its capabilities as a dedicated platformer through its intelligent use of parkour animations and seemingly fresh and thrilling first-person perspective.
That alone, however, is not enough to hide the glaring weaknesses in its other parts.
"Mirror's Edge is a great idea that, while well implemented in most aspects, never pushes itself far enough to become the classic you feel it should be," explains Jenkins.
"Yes, certain portions of the game are deeply unimpressive, but I rarely (if ever) found them frustrating, painful, or unavoidable, which allowed me to overlook those elements and enjoy the unique pleasures Catalyst provides," says Butterworth.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst scores a 75 out of 100 on Metacritic with generally favorable reviews.
The game can be ordered through the main Mirror's Edge Catalyst website and its gameplay trailer can be viewed below: