written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Long awaited, Faith has finally returned to the gaming space in a rebooted origin for one of the most unique games released last generation. Mirror’s Edge was a very different first person game, lots of ambition despite some janky controls.
For our current generation, we get Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, a game that originally seemed like it was going to be a prequel to Mirror’s Edge but instead felt more like a reboot. Rebooting the franchise didn’t seem like it would be the most difficult of tasks, given the paper thin narrative of Mirror’s Edge and practically a whole generation of gaming separating the two.
Much of the controls are more so the same but have apparently been simplified. Responding to criticism of the first game’s controls being difficult to manage, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst simplifies it by sticking to what the game does best… the free running.
Gone is the gunplay from 2008’s game, in Mirror’s Edge it was always discouraged to use guns but you had the option to use them. Doing away with gunplay entirely seemed like a ballsy move but one that actually helps highlight the free running aspect. Combat is now all melee, requiring Faith to use her parkour momentum to pull off high impact attacks. You can go head to head with a K-Sec goon, but if you instead vault from a wall run to pull off a punch or kick… you can cause more damage and take down goons with minimal effort.
Performing parkour actions are mapped to one button, with the ability to augment your runs with a “parkour-up” or “parkour-down” button. Going up vaults you over ledges while going down allows you to slide under. It’s a simple system, but at times too simple. I found myself more instances than not accidentally falling to my imminent death thanks to the unforgiving timing required to perform parkour maneuvers. As you level up, you earn new skills and abilities that help your free-running ability, eventually unlocking a grapple line that allow you to clear obstacles you normally couldn’t with parkour alone.
The narrative is more robust than 2008’s Mirror’s Edge but not by much. The story revolves around Faith Conners, a runner in Glass. After surviving her family being killed during the conglomerate riots, she was rescued by Noah… a young runner who acts as somehwat of a surrogate father to the young Faith. She begins running for Dogan (a black market crime boss) but ends up being captured by the authorities. After serving a year in juvie, she is released and eventually returns to her life as a runner. After coming back, she begins running again but ends up being embroiled in a more sinister plot involving Kruger Sec, one of the conglomerates who run things in Glass.
Despite the story being more robust, it felt so cookie cutter that I rarely found myself even caring about what happened to Faith and her companions. It’s a shame that such a unique game is hindered by an aggressively mediocre story.
The story progresses with fully rendered cutscenes amidst first person running sequences. One of the reasons I personally didn’t feel connected to Mirror’s Edge was despite creating a uniquely designed character, you rarely saw her. Visually, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is both gorgeous and slightly plain at the same time. The cutscenes are all beautifully rendered but that same attention to detail isn’t applied to the open game worlds. Much of the rooftops felt plain and weirdly sanitary… like walking through a squeaky clean hospital. Everything is reflective, like the world was laminated with a clear plastic.
This disconnect felt more jarring, given how beautiful the cutscenes were, it felt like a relic from the days of FMV cutscenes in old PS2 video games.
While I didn’t hate Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, I wish there was more. More to the story and more to the gameplay. Despite simplifying the controls, it still felt janky and despite being better than the first game, it isn’t better by much. The beautiful cutscenes made progressing through a world that felt like it was hermetically sealed were somewhat worth it. But unfortunately, there was so much “meh” about Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, instead of being like a savory steak… it was more like eating plain unseasoned tofu.
+ Beautiful cutscenes
+ Focus on parkour
+ Faith my my heart go *dokidoki*
- plain environments
- controls are almost too simple
- "bleh" story