First off, let me say how happy I was when I first heard that we were FINALLY getting another Mirror's Edge. DICE released the first game back in 2008 and if you haven't played the original game, I would HIGHLY suggest you do. It was a great game that deserves it's justice. On that note, this new installment isn't a sequel to the original, but an entire reboot on the series. It's safe to say you can play Catalyst without having spent time with the original game, but the latter is a better game overall.
You play as Faith, a runner who is newly free from prison and trying to get back into her old life while discovering more about her past. The campaign here is roughly 10 hours and has a hard time convincing you to push through to the end. I was around 50% done with the game and realized that I hadn't really started caring about a single character (Including Faith herself.) The story just felt pretty bland and uninspiring. It seemed DICE was so focused on making the parkour fun that they forgot to make the story worth running for in the first place. Now, this doesn't mean 'Catalyst' is a bad game altogether.
When you're running, it's wonderful. I almost immediately felt the nostalgia from playing the original on my Xbox 360 8 years ago. Much like the original, there's still subtle, yet really cool reminders of where to run to next by highlighting certain objects in the world in red. This still works really well and at certain points would make finding a path nearly impossible without them. Faith also has a bit of an upgrade system in this game with a standard "Earn XP, earn a skill point, and spend the skill point on an upgrade" type of system. It actually works pretty well, except that it doesn't do enough for you to even need to exist. The only skills I felt were important enough to upgrade were Faith's MAG rope attachments on her glove and any skills evolving her parkour abilities such as the "skill roll."
Faith can upgrade to several new attachments to her MAG rope throughout the game, such as being able to swing from certain points to clear large gaps or attaching to one of the many security cameras and pulling herself up to higher landings. Without these attachments, it would have been impossible to complete the game, but everything else she "upgrades" to seem rather useless.
Collectibles are found scattered all over Glass as well. These vary from gridLeaks, electronic parts, and the hacking of billboards. GridLeaks are seen hovering in space all over the city, usually placed on your path, and can be collected by simply touching them. Electronic parts are usually computer chips found in fuse boxes all over the city as well. There are over 100 of these collectibles in the open world and of course, they both offer more XP to upgrade Faith's skills. Hacking billboards is yet another task in the world and while it does give you XP, it also lets you display your own user created runner tag on the screen itself. These tags can be made on the companion app for iOS and Android devices and if your friends play the game and are on the EA network, they too can show off their tags for you to find in the game as well. This is a really interesting idea that could have easily had a better purpose throughout the game.
Combat in the game is another weak spot overall. Most of the game it's encouraged to run past enemies and that seems to work much better than actually engaging with them. There are times where you have to clear an area and it can be somewhat frustrating and sometimes it just seems pointless. Combat is all based on Faith's skills such as wallrunning and sliding. It requires some finesse to clear an area of goons without feeling like the games combat mechanic is a chore. With that said, attacking enemies as you run by keeps up the momentum and can be fun if the action doesn't stop.
There really isn't a multiplayer component in Catalyst, which is hardly surprising. What they have integrated into the game are user created time trials. This is a really cool new feature allowing the player to create their own path for others to attempt, including placing checkpoints where desired. I ran a few of these and they were really well done and more challenging than anything the actual developer throws at you. Aside from leaderboards and these time trials, this really is a single player game. Dashes offer you developer created time trials as well. These trials rate you on a star based system and offer leaderboards so you can see how you fare against your friends... if they play the game.
You'll also encounter quite a few "deliveries" to accomplish in the game. These are a fancier way of saying "Time Trials" but they offer a bit more substance than just running from one point to another. In the various types of deliveries, Faith has a set amount of time to deliver some goods. These vary from standard drops at kiosks to fragile deliveries that can't be damaged. There are a lot of these throughout the city, so it's safe to say that you have plenty to do after you run through the campaign if you're up for it.
Performance-wise, the game can be flat out gorgeous and down right ugly at the same time. During the day, the open world city of Glass was a beautiful place to traverse but at night I found several issues with reflection and light. I'm sure these issues are probably limited to the console version, which is what I played on, but either way it was ugly. I didn't experience too many drops in framerate and it maintained 30fps most of the time. That being said, with a game built on the feeling of speed and fluid motion, when it did stutter you could really tell the difference.
All in all, this reboot was a fun playthrough. The story and characters were lackluster, but the feeling of parkour in first person is still a whole lot of fun. I hope that if DICE does decide to continue with a sequel, that they learn from their mistakes and spend more time on storyboarding before just throwing something together. I wouldn't recommend buying unless you get a great deal later in the year, but if you have the day off, go Redbox it for a $2 adventure. Mirror's Edge Catalyst gets a 3/5 from us, but tell us what you thought of the game on the forums.