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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Mirror's Edge Catalyst.

Transcript Edit

Continuity is a bit like getting the pornography channel on a hotel room television, we can all agree it's nice to have, but if it's not there it's difficult to explain why it's so important to you. You might reasonably wonder what relation Mirror's Edge Catalyst has to the original Mirror's Edge, is it a sequel, or a prequel, or a reboot, or a soft reboot, or a hard reboot, or a traumatically invasive reboot behind the bike shed. And the answer is: good old plain reboot classic. So it's the same main character in the same city with the same red and white color scheme reminiscent of a wedding party massacre, and broadly speaking the same plot, just with a new cast of secondary characters with all their relationships swapped around a bit.

I wonder if they brought the same writer back from the first one, the one who did the new Tomb Raiders, cause the usual hallmarks are there: Protagonist is annoying, has daddy issues and spends the whole game panting down our ear, like a malfunctioning hairdryer. But by the end I realized that couldn't be them writing it cause I started to like one or two of the characters.

To take note, 2008 is officially far back enough to justify a reboot, but not so far back that they could get away with using the same title without an utterly meaningless word bolted on the end. Seems a bit fussy to reboot continuity after one fucking game. God forbid we stop indecisively slapping the buttocks of an intellectual property and actually start making headway torwards getting a whole fist up there to rummage around. Maybe they felt the new story was just too good to not use, but I doubt that, cause I felt I could mouth along with the hackney plot points. Oh look, a cocky new partner whom we initially dislike, circle correct answer, we will: A) Gradually gain mutual respect as we learn to work together, or B) turn into pirate flamingos and mount a voyage to the Caspian Sea.

Anyway, if you need to get up to speed, Mirror's Edge is set in an oppressive worker-exploiting corporate future world, and it's published by EA, relatedly. An underground network of couriers undermine the corporate stranglehold by an off-the-grid delivery service, and we play one such courier named "Faith", whose sexual partners probably have a good laugh when they get together, "Do you have 'Faith'?" "Yes, I'm having 'Faith' as we speak." "I used to have 'Faith', but I got disillusioned after I got my results back from the clinic."

The evil corporations are running an evil corporate scheme and we can only hope it is a scheme that can be foiled by doing parkour at it. Yes, Mirror's Edge is a first person parkour-em-up and the plot runs into a recurring issue that there are only so many situations that running somewhere very fast can assist with. The game's missions have many varied story missions behind them, but in practical terms most of them are completed by running up to the right computer and mashing our hand on the screen. There's a memorable mission when Faith is working for the resistance and they set out to kidnap some evil corporate type,a fairly significant development that drives most of what remains of the plot, but since at no point in the process of kidnapping someone does parkour become necesary, the whole thing takes place off-screen, with Faith asked to instead, open quotes, "clear the path" by, you guessed it, following the parkour path to a series of computers and mashing your hand on each screen, you get to listen to the kidnapping through your earpiece, as you gaze heavenwards and dream about what would it be like to be the main character of the story.

Still, I suppose I shouldn't encourage the game to parkour outside its comfort zone, since it attempts to do that with the combat, and in doing that parkours straight into a brick wall. The combat was the metaphorical anchovy in the triffle last time around as well, and why on earth wouldn't it be? You're a tiny unarmed personal trainer in climbing shoes whose superpower is possessing the speed of one person on rollerskates, why the hell should we be expected to take on four fully equipped riot cops in a straight fight? The game even suggests at times that the smartest thing to do is to just keep running, maybe give the thug squad a cheeky smack on the bum as you glide past, and I'm fine with that, but I suppose someone thought it would be hard to justify putting all this work into armor designs and the prerequisite pre-animated takedowns, if it's all going to be strieking past like the end of 2001. So every now and again they lock you in a room for a few hours with the goon squad, and what do you know, it turns out that a skinny urnarmed girl with the reduced perception of her surroundings that inevitably comes with a first person perspective will probably get passed around like a plate of canapés, what an informative science experiment this has been. And you can't use guns anymore, so if an enemy has one, your only option is to sprint into melee range and hope you did enough press-ups that morning to dissuade six or seven unavoidable bullets to the face.

Gosh, so much to be unimpressed by, and I haven't even mentioned it's a sandbox game yet. Which I thought it would be a good idea, since a free-running that's strictly linear with only one way forward makes about as much sense as buying a dog to guard your lawn against getting pissed on. But Mirror's Edge Catastrophic ends up being pretty linear regardless, since it's more of a spaghetti plate than a sandbox, the routes you're supposed to take around the map are fairly fixed and you're going to be using the same ones an awful lot. The environments are confusingly laid out and a little bit samey, turns out there aren't that many different shades of overexposed blinding whiteness. And I found myself being almost completely reliant on the GPS navigation, at which point all I'm doing is mindlessly following the magic red snake to my destination, and I had a lot of traumatic experiences come out of strangers telling me to find their magic red snake.

Unlike them though, sometimes in Mirror's Edge Catalepsy the magic red snake will mysteriously go away, and I have to stop dead and gormlessly look around for it, like a meercat waiting for his Uber driver, which is particularly annoying when you're on a timed mission. For some reason all the side-quest runs and deliveries have timers like your mum's beachwear in that they're rather upsettingly tight. I know there's supposed to be more challenge in the optional shit, but there's got to be some fucking middle ground, as the economist said to the american class system.

Still, at least we're not expected to liberate the fucking districts, like every other sandbox game and their dog these days. I wanna turn that into an euphemism, "he dropped his trousers and proceeded to liberate the districts all over the new carpet". But if we're not liberating the districts, then what the fuck are we doing in this city? Fannying about? Well, that's the idea of a sandbox, I suppose, but the story campaign is over quickly and the character upgrades are pretty minimal, so there's nothing I can feel like I'm working torwards.

Let me throw out some bones here. That's not an euphemism, pull your pants back up. The story is better than the first game and the parkour is fine, I like it even, it's cathartic but at the same time calls for an appropriate amount of skill. But it's the only string to the game's bow, it can't carry a whole sandbox, which is ironic, for a delivery service.

Addenda Edit

  • A do run run run a do run run: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I suppose you could say from my opinion of the combat in these games that I disapprove of the Faith militant
  • Better do E3 next week then
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2

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