Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC | ★★★☆☆
Much like its eight-year-old predecessor, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst revels in the thrill of movement and physical momentum. You play an urban parkour enthusiast in a hyper-surveilled Orwellian futurescape, delivering clandestine snailmail by leaping from rooftop to perilous rooftop, climbing up vertiginous elevator shafts and whizzing across miles and miles of zip wire.
Few games have done first person platforming quite so well, providing your character with such a sense of weight that every jump, slide, wall-run and roly-poly feels impactful and satisfying. Time your landings and you can preserve your momentum with graceful tumbles. In its very best moments Mirror’s Edge makes you feel balletic, like a French acrobat or an exotic monkey from a funny YouTube video.
Sadly, the excitement of its traversal mechanics is undermined by a mediocre story and some awful combat sequences, which serve to scupper the speed and momentum that this rebooted prequel tries so hard to maintain.
You play as Faith Connors, returning heroine from the original game, who’s struggling against K-Sec; a sinister conglomerate that’s attempting to use an obscure technology to control the emotions of everyone in the city of Glass. Which is a bit unsubtle, even for games.
The threads of this dystopian sci-fi story never come together to form something cohesive however, and the game fails to provide a reason to relate to any of its characters. They all have silly names like Plastic and Icarus, and nothing of what they say has any emotional weight. As a result it all falls flat.
The city of Glass itself is a visual treat: a shimmering sprawl of bright white buildings, glass and metal interiors and some truly stunning scenery. Glass is varied in its architecture, despite never venturing too far from its bleached-white, glowing and soulless minimalism – running over, under and through it forms the game’s chief appeal.
The biggest issue with Catalyst is its combat, which ranges from annoying to downright awful. The game teaches you that the best way to approach fighting is while you’re running, as Faith’s momentum is what gives her an edge against her opponents. However, several instances force you into small arenas in which you fend off waves of enemies. These become trial and error frustrations, momentarily ruining the game with fights that don’t let you use any of your clambering parkour abilities.
It’s a shame, because Mirror’s Edge had the potential to be far better than it is. It has fleeting moments of greatness, an unparalleled sense of movement and an originality that, in a world of overdone franchises and half-baked sequels, few games own.
But among this it shoehorns in shoddy combat elements that simply don’t work, and a story that tries too hard to make you care.
The result is a mixed bag, and a game that too often feels like it’s not learned from the mistakes of the original game.