STAFF REVIEW of Mirror's Edge Catalyst (Xbox One)

Thursday, June 23, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Mirror's Edge Catalyst Box art In today's gaming world, trying to introduce an original IP to the market is quite possibly the most terrifying thing a gaming company will ever go through. Recently I had the chance to review the newest release from EA, Mirror's Edge Catalyst. While the first Mirror's Edge originally came out to mixed reviews, it quickly developed a huge following despite the game's faults. Mirror's Edge Catalyst is, at its core, a reboot of the franchise, so the differences are altered with the present day being a clear opportunity to fix the past faults of the original hopefully allowing DICE to deliver a better quality product. So does this release fall into the "been there and done that" crowd, or does it keep the Faith? Let's see.

As I just mentioned, Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a reboot. The plot begins with Faith's playable history starting from the day she leaves juvenile detention. There is even a comic that you can read, called Mirror's Edge Exordium, that delves into her past and you will learn and why Faith got locked up to begin with. Upon release you realize that the source of this Orwellian torment that the game takes place in stems from The Conglomerate. Think of this as a large shadowy organization that is trying to control society, and in this game society lives in a city called Glass. The person at the top of this evil empire is Gabriel Kruger, and welcome to your main villain. The reboot isn't just about the plot though, it's about everything else which also includes how you experience the story.

In the original Mirror's Edge the game had what can be best described as a comic book style in its delivery. In this reboot that is gone. Instead, you now get full motion video sequences which are a tremendous improvement. While this change in the story delivery and execution is a good thing, the fact that the game itself doesn't look that improved upon in this current-gen version is a bad thing. Sure the cutscenes look amazing; however, everything else almost looks like a port from last generation technology. The scattered NPC characters throughout the environment look very outdated and can almost pass for early Xbox 360 quality. I don't know why this is, but the fact that it's so apparent is quite a drawback. Thankfully though there is still good audio quality in Mirror's Edge Catalyst. Ranging from very a futuristic and minimalist nature to edgy and intense synths and guitar riffs, the music does a fantastic job conforming to the environment and your character's action.

Controlling Faith in the original Mirror's Edge was quite touchy and was met with mixed reaction from the gaming world. This division was paramount to the game's future considering that is what the heart and soul of Mirror's Edge is. Controlling your character as you traverse the environment is the true balancing act of Mirror's Edge Catalyst.

If the controls are too touchy then the game suffers because it's not enjoyable, but if they are too forgiving then the reality goes right out the proverbial window. Mirror's Edge Catalyst offers what I'm calling a modified mechanic system. I don't consider the controls so dumbed down that you can play this game with your feet, but at the same time it's not hyped up on a mountain of caffeine and so twitchy that you can't even open a door.

When controlling Faith I lept from the roof of a tall building and then I hit the ground rolling to maintain momentum. The problem here was that the roll covered too much ground and I ended up rolling right off the top of the building I just landed on and fell to my death. I think that Mirror's Edge Catalyst is trying to find that harmonious center ground, and while I don't see it as perfect, they are well on the right path towards it.

Your controls and gear operate much as we are familiar with, except now you can earn upgrades by leveling up with enough XP to unlock new moves (which you will need if you want to get all the achievements). Having all these options can make parkour running all over the city of Glass an incredibly enjoyable experience, and when coupled with the new MAG launcher (think zip line), Mirror's Edge Catalyst can become pure entertainment.

You can truly see where DICE made compromises along the way in development though. They dropped the resolution to 720p on the Xbox One verson, but in doing so they gained the constant fluid speed of the framerate. Personally I think that DICE is lazy here given that developers can get 900p to 1080p with no problems. Makes me wonder why they haven't gotten up to speed in the programming area and upping the resolution.

Ok, so I digress....ahem....the dev-team at DICE has worked on adapting the controls while allowing you to upgrade abilities and unlock more movements to help keep the balance between fun and some form of realism. There are some issues with combat though. Fighting enemies with your hands and feet can feel somewhat clunky and not as smooth as you would expect from a game that prides itself on its fluidity. It almost makes you feel detached for a few moments, and the hit detection is laughable at times. Taking down an opponent from the air though while free running right through him is especially gratifying, but these moments are very few and far between.

As the moments in the game passed, I realized that this is one of the more dynamic reboots we have seen in awhile. Sure, there are faults with the game, but if you're a fan of the original, then it goes without saying that there's a very strong chance that your rose tinted glasses won't let you down. Instead of just porting over the original with a few pieces of polish, DICE made sure to try to address every single aspect in Mirror's Edge Catalyst, from the plot changes to the upgrade system, and the heavy amount of attention given to balancing the fairly fluid gameplay with realistic and enjoyable controls. At the end of the day they have done a great job in delivering a fairly good sequel that fans should enjoy.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.8 / 10
Visuals: 7.3 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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