After playing through Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the solid but not outstanding open-world reboot of the cult-favorite parkour title, it’s clear that certain aspects could have been executed better. There’s been a surprising trend of good, but not great EA games since the release of the outstanding Dragon Age: Inquisition. Perhaps the impending release of Mass Effect: Andromeda will remedy this trend, but regardless of that game’s quality, there are a number of things that EA and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst developer DICE can learn from this decent, but forgettable project.
1. Art-style and concept isn’t always enough
No one will deny that the idea behind Mirror’s Edge is super intriguing. The idea of a sterile city monitored by a seedy conglomerate of corporations isn’t necessarily new to the world of video games, but something about the white and red aesthetic of the Mirror’s Edge franchise, as well the idea of an underground parkour-heavy courier service, is quite gripping. Despite the fact that Mirror’s Edge Catalyst isn’t the best-looking game out there, its art-style is strong enough to where a great deal of gamers will ignore some of the texture-streaming issues and general blurriness. Granted, this in no way excuses DICE and EA from putting out a game with notable technical faults (more on this later), but this particular game allows for some leeway here simply based on aesthetics. With that said, the biggest issues with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst revolve around its content not being all that interesting. For a game to be a critical darling, the number of unique and interesting elements present need to outweigh those that feel samey. Simply put, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst feels like a game whose core gameplay concept and art-style were the main focuses, with everything else existing on the periphery.
2. Successful cookie-cutter open-world games in 2016 are the exception, not the rule
For every game like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Fallout 4, which both feel unique in their own ways, there seems to be handfuls of what I like to call Creedlikes. To boil this completely made-up term down to its simplest form, a Creedlike is a AAA open-world game loaded with some combination of generic side-missions, collectibles, territory-capture, racing mini-games and an eight-to-twelve hour core story. The clearest examples of this include Assassin’s Creed (obviously), Far Cry, Just Cause 3, Mad Max, the Arkham franchise, Homefront: The Revolution, Saints Row and Watch Dogs. There isn’t anything inherently conceptually wrong with the Creedlike, but the fact that we continue to experience so many of them make new entries into this sub-genre feel mundane and unoriginal. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst falls right into this category thanks to its lackluster side content, and considering that we’ve already gotten so many of these games within the last twelve months, DICE’s latest title had an uphill battle from the start. For a game whose movement system is so iconic (there’s a reason why Dying Light is referred to as Dead Island meets Mirror’s Edge), it’s a shame to see a collection of activities that feel so generic. Going forward, EA and DICE should attempt to make future forays into the open-world action-adventure genre feel like their own unique thing, rather than yet another example of Assassin’s Creed with a twist.
3. Technical issues are never acceptable
While Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has an extremely solid framerate, largely staying at a stable sixty frames-per-second with only occasional drops to around fifty-five frames, it sports a number of disappointing technical shortcomings. There’s a shocking amount of texture pop-in on display, with city flyovers sporting the most blatant examples of this, as well as a general sense of blurriness on display in both character models and the background itself. On top of all of this, we experienced two crashes during our review playthrough, with one of them requiring a full-system reset via unplugging the power cable. Let’s make one thing absolutely clear: blatant technical issues in full retail releases need to stop. Considering that two of DICE’s last three releases have sported technical shortcomings, with Battlefield 4 being largely unplayable for a shocking period of time, this is a trend that cannot continue with the release of Battlefield 1 and future titles. Yes, Star Wars: Battlefront experienced a smooth launch, but this generation’s DICE sports this as an exception to its recent output. Hopefully the shortcomings of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst spark a renewed commitment to technical quality on the part of EA and DICE, as it’s always a shame to see yet another AAA title that doesn’t perform flawlessly.