By Jarrod Jones. This is LOAD FILE, where we’re always in the mood for street pizza. This week, Jarrod reviews the clunky-as-hell precision jumper, ‘Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst’, developed by EA DICE and published by EA for Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
I didn’t walk into Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst with high hopes. That’s primarily due to the reality that the last time LOAD FILE posted a review about an EA DICE game it was for the instantly odious Star Wars Battlefront released earlier this year, and we all know how that worked out. But since I’m a sucker for fastidiously clean environments, rooftop superheroics, and especially the color fuschia, I decided to throw caution to the wind and dive right on into the HD city of Glass.
With a conspicuously spotless open world you can muck up with your filthy, filthy feet, Catalyst has hours of free-roaming, high-wire parkour antics with which you can while away your time, at least until No Man’s Sky finally drops. Insofar as superficiality goes, Catalyst is a gorgeous thing to behold. But does it have substance underneath its gorgeous facade?
FABULOUS LEAPERS, LEAPING FABULOUSLY
Fresh from juvie and ready to stick it to The Man as soon as possible, Catalyst‘s plucky main character Faith runs and jumps and ducks and weaves throughout the city of Glass, as a story does its damndest to develop around her. Thing is, if you’ve ever once watched a totalitarian-tinged futurescape movie, it’s likely you’ve seen this one before.
Faith is a Runner, a secret society of stylish rebels who hang out on rooftops and make cash (or “scrip,” as it’s adorably called) by, yep, running secrets from one end of the city to the other, making sure to elude Glass’ private security force, Kruger Security, in the process. (They’re called “K-Sec,” because it’s the future and syllables are for dregs.) They’re actively in opposition to the city’s corporate overlord Gabriel Kruger, though their tremendous loft apartments and on-point hairstyles seriously undercut any of their more noble intentions. They’re moody, they’re hip, and the way they carry on, you get the feeling that they like things this way.
There’s never a substantive moment where we really get a feel for why these Runners are rebelling against this world — beyond the typical schpiel that “corporations control people, and soon they’ll really control people.” Faith soon finds a horse to back in this race, but her studly overboss Dogen’s intentions are far less defined. It’s not much to hang an entire game on, and what’s more, none of the other Runners never appear to be rebelling against Glass in any sort of tangible way. Aesthetically, they look like they’re right at home. (Unless you’re the bird-poo splattered Birdman, in which case you set that world on fire, Birdy.)
GET USED TO STARING AT THAT
I played this on the PlayStation 4, where all the major controls that propel you through the city of Glass are defaulted to the left triggers, which compromised every instinct I’ve ever had has a rightie. But I approached that as a challenge, and instead of modifying the controls to better suit me, I learned to adapt to Catalyst‘s paradigm. I’m glad I did, because once you get the hang of navigating Glass’ squeaky-clean rooftops, it’s easy to let the game soak up your entire afternoon.
Most of your time you’ll be artfully dodging imminent death, where the slightest miscalculation will send you plummeting to the decidedly unrendered streets of Glass. Instinct and finesse would seem to be your credo, especially when you max out your momentum bar and keep it there for longer than ten consecutive seconds. “I’m getting the hang of this!” you’ll squeak, just seconds before you miss a trapeze pole and fall to your death. The controls are nowhere near as sharp as the gameplay would let you believe. Get used to staring at that reload screen, is what I’m saying.
Every once in awhile you’ll encounter a small crew of Kruger Security, who are pretty easy to spot (as opposed to the other randos you bump into all over the city). Dressed like weak Sub-Zero cosplay and about as difficult to knock to the ground, K-Sec soldiers have various degrees of difficulty to them, but they’re cake so long as you remember how to take them down as you approach. (Leaping punches are the most effective way to send these goons flying over the edge of whatever building they were foolishly standing beside of.) If the parkour mechanics are clunky, the fighting mechanics are even worse, so waste time in hand-to-hand combat with these clowns at your peril.
Faith’s skill tree is surprisingly uncomplicated, and any upgrades that come your way — like the grappling hook — are only necessary when the game decides that they need to be. Unlocking these upgrades is duck soup: you’ll always be actively checking off XP-building chores as you go along. The game essentially paints a red path for your entire Catalyst experience — follow the red bits, press the important button, and you’ll do fine, provided you’re not prone to becoming yet another pile of sidewalk stroganoff.
ONCE I HAD A LOVE, IT WAS A GAS/SOON TURNED OUT HAD A HEART OF GLASS
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a gorgeous, minimalistic paradise, where you’re free to roam its uncomplicated and inherently shallow open world. Its story is about as original as anything you’ll find on SyFy these days, and its performances are about as compelling. (With apologies to Sharknado‘s Ian Ziering.) I’ll gladly admit that there’s a thrill to Catalyst‘s parkour tomfoolery, but when you reach the end of this particular rat race, you’ll find absolutely nothing is waiting for you there. There’s a certain dissatisfaction that comes with hurtling through the sky, which, I shouldn’t have to tell you, is totally beside the point.
Developed by EA DICE.
Published by Electronic Arts.
Produced by Sara Jansson.
Designed by Erik Oeldahl.
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
5 out of 10