Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mirror's Edge Catalyst

Origin Access can be really great value for money at its low price of 4€ / month or 30€ / year. You get to play many big EA titles for a nominal fee, although I would not quite call the current total of 64 games "tons of titles". Some of them are also not the full experience. The Mass Effect series for instance does not have its infamous BioWare points requiring DLC included and you still need to buy them even with Access.

I pretty much have all the EA games I want already and I dislike the idea of not being able to play the ones in the vault if I were to stop paying the subscription. So I do not see myself really using the service. However, since EA is currently offering a 7-day free trial (until March 7th, I believe), I decided to try it and play through Mirror's Edge Catalyst.


Catalyst is a huge improvement from the first game in every aspect. I no longer minded the first person perspective; gameplay felt so much better. About all the moves were effortless to execute (after few key rebinds) and estimating one's reach was easier. Maybe not having access to everything right from the start helped in that regard.

And even though I have seen negative comments about the combat and being locked into rooms with enemies, I personally liked it. So much, in fact, that I often fought enemies instead of running away from them. You do not even need to worry about poor gunplay since enemies have biometric locks on their weapons this time, preventing you from using them at all. Enemies also have few different types, requiring you to use varying attacks to effectively finish the fights.

Running felt faster as well, though that might be because of being able to adjust FOV to be wider (and thus higher perceived speed). I did not get stuck in places as much (at least not in the main missions) due to the new runner's vision feature that shows the general path to follow. Sometimes the vision gets turned off, forcing you to think. But after the game sees you are not progressing, it allows you to turn it back on, which I found amusing. I think that it might as well stay always on if you have set it to full, though.

A completely new feature in the game is the MAG Rope, which is a grappling hook that allows you to swing over gaps, pull yourself onto ledges, and take apart some obstacles. It is only usable in very few places, though. It is more of a way to stop you from getting to places before the story takes you there rather than a free to use tool like in Shadwen.


Many seem to think that making the game open-world did not add anything but boring side activities. That is only partly true in my opinion. Running around the same huge map makes the city of Glass feel like an actual location instead of a linear tube run (pardon the pun) like in the first game. Going for 100% completion would no doubt be a huge cause of frustration, however. Finding all the collectibles and finishing the opportunity side missions (some very difficult) must take the fun out pretty damn fast.

My advice is to stay away from the activities marked blue on the map. The yellow ones can be avoided as well, though I did still complete the trials (mostly at 1 star out of 3) and billboard climbs, even if the latter ones often required me to watch a guide on YouTube to figure out. With ignoring the blue missions, it took me about 16 hours to beat the game, which is probably twice as long as the first game. Catalyst also has a feature called Social Play, allowing players to make trials for others. Hacking screens and billboards to display your personal emblem shows up in your friends' games as well.


Mirror's Edge Catalyst runs on the Frostbite 3 engine and looks absolutely gorgeous. The visual style is similar to the first game: environments and buildings again have clean geometric shapes and are mostly white combined with a single bright color theme. But there is much more detail in everything. Sometimes there is a reflective surface you can see yourself very clearly on -- Faith looks much prettier in Catalyst.

You also get to see her actual model more as cutscenes are not cartoons like in the first game rather than pre-rendered in engine instead (albeit 30 FPS). Everyone looks so damn good. The games Frostbite allows to produce are truly marvels to behold. I cannot wait to see Mass Effect Andromeda.

I would have appreciated to be able turn off chromatic aberration. It was not commonly there as far as I could tell but when you fail to make a soft landing, the screen gets distorted in a major way. I guess it sort of encourages you to not screw up.

Catalyst defaulted to medium settings but seemed to run well enough on maximum settings too. After I had figured out the graphics options could be scrolled down to change more stuff, that is. The purple city district was a bit heavier and my PC could not always keep up steady 60 FPS. Loading times were slightly longer than I would have liked too. Otherwise the game's performance was quite acceptable.


Story-wise Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a reboot but it has a similar plot and themes to the previous game. There was a little twist I saw coming and I think Faith did too as she was not at all fazed by it. I think the story and characters were a bit more interesting in this one. I cannot help but notice that Rhianna Pratchett was not involved, though apparently the whole writing team was new.

It would be easy to continue with a sequel but I do not see DICE doing it. I reckon gameplay-wise there is not much room to improve from Catalyst.

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