Mirror’s Edge Catalyst mixes open world mechanics from many other titles in the genre and lovingly wraps it in the slick style of the City of Glass. It looks stunning and runs smoothly but it’s ultimately let down with not enough depth to the levels… but I bloody love it.
Red climbable objects make a return, serving as a guide for where and how you can navigate the world. This time its use is explained as runner vision, delivered by a Beat link device given to Faith at the start of the game. Rather than marking objects in solid red, runner vision isn’t always active; instead it has a pulse effect with a red trail that zooms off leading you through the open world or away from a combat encounter.
Beat link also serves as a gateway into the paths of other online runners – both AI and UGC. You can set runs for others to beat and in turn try to complete runs. It perfectly integrates the DLC challenges that were released for the original game into the open world of Catalyst. These challenges and side running fetch quests offer quite the challenge too. Rather than stick to the red guiding line, you will need to plot your own route if you hope to beat the tight time deadlines.
Another side activity sees you ‘tag’ billboards with your runner logo. Getting up to these lofty heights is challenge enough – getting down is worse. Gridnode missions task you with scaling a Mission Impossible-esque tower filled with trip lasers – hit one and Krugertech will send security. It’s a shame some of these navigational challenges didn’t make it into the story, which focuses more on creating some spectacular set pieces that will get your blood pumping rather than challenging your grey mater into working out how to get through a government building.
The story can be picked up at any time, allowing you to stop and help out a number of Faith’s friends in numerous side missions. Unfortunately, the story is rather forgettable beyond learning about Faith’s past. The characters you meet never establish themselves enough for you to care beyond Drogen, who should have had more screen time to cement himself as a character finely balanced between good and evil. Complete with predictable twists, the story is far from terrible, but I was happy that it ran along like a runner on an urgent mission.
There’s far more emphasis on combat too, with skills upgradable in a skills tree – XP is awarded by completing missions and finding collectibles – strangely it works, although to start with it felt a little odd. Enemies are grouped together so you’ll need to be far more light on your feet and creative with the environment to take them down quickly, but there’s little time to think during these moments.
Instead, running, jumping and vaulting while scouting out your surroundings will keep a focus shield topped up allowing you to take a few hits before precious health pips are lost. This does make some combat sequences a little trial and error – playing more like a puzzle – how can you navigate the area and take out all the guards without stopping? Stop and these moments can be the clumsiest parts of the game, which is a complete contrast to how fluid Faith’s moves are.
The City of Glass looks stunning, and while it’s quite sterile with only the odd citizen lurking in corners of the rooftops, I got absorbed into it’s world – breaking into apartments or stalking through a company building to shut down nodes or steal vital information was exactly what I wanted from Catalyst. I could explore the rooftops, challenge my Parkour skills or just chill out in the gorgeous visuals that wash over the game.
Even the sound is perfectly composed, both in the musical score but also the background noises – from the screech of Faith’s trainers to her heavy breathing – the City of Glass is very immersive, begging you to explore its open world. What did feel out of place was the grappling hook. While it may be a great tool for traversal and stopping you from reaching areas of the game until you have the right upgrade it just felt clumsy, breaking the fluid momentum of running and vaulting over rooftops.