Mirror´s Edge - Catalyst Review
Welcome to our CHEATfactor Game Review of Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. We review the game and then factor in how the available cheats affect the overall game experience. For better or worse, our reviews will help you decide whether or not to use cheats when playing the game.
I'm not a runner. Oh, I've tried to get out there and hit the pavement but before long I'm huffing and puffing on the side of the road. Mirror's Edge then has always been escapism to me. It makes me feel the wind on my face and the thrill of not just running but running at breathtaking speeds and at dizzying heights. While the somewhat unexpected sequel; Mirror's Edge: Catalyst reproduces this feeling with fantastic results, nearly everything else in the game isn't nearly as successful. A boring, trite story with not one likable character, clunky combat and a clear lack of direction make the long awaited sequel's landing not quite as graceful as it could be. While it's not quite a thud, Mirror's Edge: Catalyst is definitely slow getting up after the impact.
If you've played the original Mirror's Edge you'll be familiar with what Catalyst brings to the table. Faith is a part of an rebellious group of package handlers that operate against the big brother like organization that controls Glass City. Mirror's Edge is essentially a platformer, but it feels so fresh because everything happens firmly in Faith's head and we feel every jump, every leap and yes, every fall. It's a visceral feeling that gives the game a certain punk rock edge that most games can only try to reproduce. Playing through the sequel though I couldn't help but feel like it somehow lost it;s edge. Catalyst somehow feels remarkably safer than it's predecessor, which is a strange feeling considering just how much you're dying gravity but the best way I can describe how I felt playing through the vast majority of Mirror's Edge is to compare it to your favorite underground band signing with a major label and their new release is nothing like their previous ones (and yes, I know the previous game was from EA as well and that doesn't have anything to do with it).
This could be because short of Faith's running, I didn't care about nearly anything that happened in Mirror's Edge: Catalyst's world. The game serves as somewhat of a reboot and somewhat of an origin story but fails to connect in either regard. It's void of heart or even a single likable character and the story feels like it's ripped from a million other movies, TVs and games that are far more interesting. The original Mirror's Edge didn't have the most thrilling story either but it wasn't so in your face about it. While you can skip most of the cutscenes and not feel like you're missing much of anything at all, Catalyst is insistent that it keep reminding you of all of the characters and story you don;t care about.
Despite all of this, Catalyst knows what it's good at and excels at it. Like it's predecessor, the game does a fantastic job at recreating the sense of fluid motion. While you can catch on to the reactive controls that find you sliding and leaping over obstacles pretty quickly there's a rather distinct learning curve to mastering it. I've leapt to my own demise more times than I care to admit but thanks to a pretty liberal save point system you're free to experiment with different routes and pathways to achieve goals without much fear of failure. Catalyst is very clear that the route the game shows you is not necessarily the fastest route and it's remarkably rewarding to find a better route organically; it's kind of look proving Google Maps wrong.
It's all possible thanks to Catalyst's completely open world. While the original featured a pretty linear world and merely gave the illusion that there was room to run, Catalyst puts it's money where it's mouth is and gives you complete freedom to explore the City of Glass as you'd like and while the results are more mixed than I expected, it's a mostly welcome change. At it's best, it opens up the game in ways that we could have only imagined with the original; including more activities and of course, much more to explore. A highlight for me was creating and partaking in user made races that really test your ability to move throughout the environment. When it doesn't work however, it feels less like a produced living world and more like a messy mixture of ideas. The world is full of opportunities to use your parkour moves but there were more than a few occasions where I thought…I could just walk there.
By far though, the game's worst aspect is it's combat system. While it works in theory, in practice it's clunky and just plain not fun. The general idea is that you're going to combine your parkour moves with combat to take out guards and other enemies. Like most aspects of the game, it's great fun when it works; it's rewarding to take out an enemy with a flying kick or a well timed wall run but you better hope that you never fail to connect but that's precisely when Mirror's Edge: Catalyst's combat falls apart. Taking an enemy on straight ahead is never recommended seeing as everything you do feels remarkably clunky. Even if you don't use a single one of your seemingly arbitrary upgrade points though, it's extremely easy to spam any of your attackers and get past them thanks to a terrible AI system. I found a lot of success by simply changing the direction of my attacks until my enemies crumpled over or even better, went out of their way to throw themselves off a nearby railing.
Mirror's Edge: Catalyst somehow succeeds seemingly despite itself. It still nails the feeling of movement at high speeds and even higher heights; even if it's a mess in nearly every other way. Fans of the original will love that nearly everything that made it so great returns and take even more satisfaction that a lot of what doesn't work can be skipped. Mirror's Edge feels a lot like a safer version of the cult favorite, which of course in the end means more Mirror's Edge and that's never a bad thing.
Joe started off writing about video games for small fan sites when he realized he should probably do something with his communications degree and didn't want to get into the grind of daily reporting. Joining the team in late 2008, Joe is the featured game reviewer for Cheat Happens, producing up to 10 CHEATfactor Game Reviews per month.
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