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Mirror’s Edge Catalyst: I Am Faith

Mirror's Edge Catalyst

I am Faith.
I am a runner
living on the edge
of that thin sharp ledge
between life and death.
The city is a mirror
of polished images
and multifaceted mirages.
In a high-rise reflection
every room has a view,
but it’s really a deception
of pretty lies and ugly truth.
I take that as a warning call
to stay the course and give it my all.
From the rooftops above to the streets below,
I dodge obstacles and go with the flow,
keeping pace with the beating of my heart.
That’s what keeps me moving in a world apart.
When things break away or threaten my space,
I have to take a leap of faith– 
springing up and falling with style,
touching down for just a little while.
Then I rise and keep on running in freedom,
feet and hands working smoothly in tandem.
A catalyst for change,
I aim to make an exchange.
So I must hang on tight and finish this race
before heading back to home base.
Still alive,
I will survive–
I’m gonna run.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst poem ©2016 by Tab Olsen @ HomeschoolingTeen.com

I love Faith Connors in Mirror’s Edge and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. She is an assertive young woman wrestling with a traumatic past and trying to find her place in the world. Her carefree, daredevil personality fits her runner lifestyle perfectly. Faith is quick-thinking with lightning-fast reflexes, and as graceful as she is powerful. She’s totally fearless and is comfortable doing acrobatics fifty stories above the pavement. Not to mention she is intelligent, confident, and knows how to take care of herself.

Even though she has a bit of a sarcastic attitude, Faith’s personality is amazingly upbeat considering everything that’s happened to her. Faith is awesome! There is really no other heroine quite like her in the world of gaming, except for maybe Chell from Portal. (If you’ve seen Portal, you will notice a couple of homages to that Valve game in EA’s Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.) Not only is Faith a strong female character, she has an iconic look that’s an inspiration to cosplayers.

Mirror’s Edge vs. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

I don’t play computer games myself, so this review will be from an observer’s viewpoint rather than a player’s. Being the only female in a household of avid male gamers, I sometimes watch them play although usually not for long. The one exception being Mirror’s Edge – I sat riveted through the whole thing and it instantly became my favorite game. For some reason it was the only game that didn’t make me feel queasy or sleepy if I watched it for longer than 20 minutes. (Which is weird considering I have a terrible fear of heights and the gameplay is mostly all fast-paced parkour jumping from rooftop to rooftop across city skyscrapers!)

Eight years after its 2008 release, Mirror’s Edge is still a unique and exhilarating parkour thriller. (We recently replayed it while waiting for the new one.) Mirror’s Edge Catalyst takes the game a step further into an open-world action adventure. I was lucky that Catalyst came out on June 7th, just in time for my birthday! I spent seven hours of my birthday watching it! Even better, I got one of those under-the-desk cycles for my birthday and I did 20 miles of biking during the game. (I could have done a lot more but I kept stopping as I became engrossed in the story.)

There is much more urban navigation in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst than there was in the original Mirror’s Edge, which increases its game play value. Even so, the plot of Catalyst basically revolves around building up the character of Faith. In the original Mirror’s Edge, very little was revealed about Faith’s past or how she was recruited into the secretive world of freerunning in the first place. Catalyst has a more in-depth storyline woven throughout, which is uncovered bit by bit in cutscenes, documents, recordings, and expanded dialogue.

For some reason the supporting characters in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst are different than the ones in Mirror’s Edge. Instead of Merc, there is Noah, who is like a father figure to Faith. Instead of Celeste, there is a runner named Icarus. New characters include Plastic, a wizard-class hacker, and Dogen, a notorious crime boss. Also, Faith’s sister in Catalyst is not a police officer like she was in Mirror’s Edge. So the game is a complete remake rather than a sequel or prequel.

Storyline

At the beginning of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Faith is let out after two years in juvie, which puts her at around 20 years of age. She quickly returns to her friends, the Runners – an underground network of couriers, spies, and catburglars who traverse freely across the high-tech city’s skyline. Runners are rebellious individuals who live off the grid – which, in the totalitarian city of Glass, is a pretty tall order – literally! They live on the rooftops, where there is the least surveillance and police intervention is the most difficult.

The storyline of Catalyst is basically about Faith and her personal fight against the powerful corporate conglomerate – led by the mysterious Gabriel Kruger – that runs the futuristic flagship city of the nation of Cascadia. Security drones and propaganda ads are everywhere, and inhabitants are told that “personal freedom comes at a price.” The time and location are never explicitly stated, but the urban oceanfront setting seems to be a loose mix of Singapore and Vancouver, although some say the Cascadia map looks like Southeastern Australia.

Basically, those in charge are secretly working to engineer the emotional enslavement of the general population via nanotechnology, so eventually the citizens won’t even be able to think for themselves. Meanwhile, a rebel terrorist group known as Black November is becoming more active and trying to recruit Faith to join them. When it comes to politics she tries to remain neutral, but deep inside Faith knows that someday she will be forced to make a choice and take a stand.

Game Play

In this game, Faith’s journey is your journey. The game’s commitment to first-person perspective gives a thrilling simulation of realistic in-your-face action unlike any other. You can see Faith’s arms and legs on-screen while running, with the camera jerking as she sprints and leaps. She never walks, but runs all over the city. This girl is amazing, she can run nonstop all day long. Imagine all the calories she burns in a day… but she never has time to eat! I don’t even see her grab a PowerBar or a bottle of water.

In addition to her running and acrobatics, Faith has excellent hand-to-hand combat skills. Simply using her martial arts technique of hits, kicks, trips, sweeps and throws, she can take on a dozen armed security guards at once, running rings around them and knocking them all out (or kicking them over the edge). It almost seems too easy because the combat system turns Faith invincible for as long as she’s in the middle of an uninterrupted series of moves. But that’s okay because I prefer the parkour to the combat anyway. Sometimes you can stealthily avoid or run away from the bad guys. The new mag-rope tool also lets you swing over gaps that are too long to jump across (just like Spider-Man!) for quick getaways.

The Mirror’s Edge games require a high degree of spatial intuition, looking ahead to see where you’re going without losing your footing. With the right momentum, Faith can move flawlessly between running and a variety of moves including bouncing off walls, sprinting, vaulting, rolling, sliding, ziplining, crawling, and clambering all over the place with ease. If there’s an obstacle in her way, she won’t go around it but will jump over it. To develop your skills, a training sequence along with practice combat and learning how to navigate are cleverly integrated into the beginning of the game.

It’s evident that once you get the hang of the moves and timing, your motions will have such a nice sense of fluidity that you’ll find a hypnotic pleasure in running freely in and out of buildings and across the rooftops, where you can almost feel the breeze in your hair. A feature called “Runner’s Vision” helps guide you in the right direction, and the iconic red markers are still there for objects like doors and pipes, but the actual routes are variable and you are free to choose your own path.

The whole city is specially designed to be a kind of virtual gymnastic playground of color and geometry. Every architectural element and piece of furniture is not there just to be pretty, it’s there because it’s something you can interact with. One mission saw Faith scaling a building under construction, only to bring the entire thing down by disabling the mass damper at the very top. Another had her break into an office building from the roof and climb down via hanging art pieces in the lobby. Some of these scenes are a lot like a platform puzzle game.

This game is played in an open-world environment, where you can run free and explore every nook and corner from the highest glass skyscrapers to the deep underground tunnels as you go from objective to objective. The game includes a number of optional side quests such as making deliveries, breaking into computer networks, and running races, all of which are time-sensitive. Further playing off the openness of the game, players will be able to create their own route across the rooftops, setting a time and challenging their friends to beat it. But even the normal activities are fast-paced. So although you can fast travel between safe houses, you don’t really need to or want to. It’s too much fun to run around the city.

As with most games, the conclusion of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is intense and dramatic yet contains little depth and ends quickly, leaving some questions unanswered. Then the ending credits seem to go on forever! But you have to wait until the after-credit scene. It’s always sad when a game ends, but happily after Catalyst is over you can continue to explore the game world, roaming the city at your own pace to admire the beautiful environment and discover things that you may have missed before.

Upbeat Style

I love the game’s visual and architectural design along with the city’s pristine, minimalist, ultramodern look. The bright white and shiny glass buildings are clinical and sterile in keeping with the sense that the city is very corporate and inhumane. But the fact that the environment is so clean and airy, punctuated with bright primary colors, makes it much more appealing than having to work your way through run-down abandoned buildings, sewers, and apocalyptic landscapes all the time like in other games. Many of those games make me feel depressed and oppressed – even nauseous – but the coloring and design of both Mirror’s Edge games are so clean and pure, they make me feel happy, energetic and alert.

The Mirror’s Edge Catalyst theme by CHVRCHES, the electronic trio from Scotland, is a catchy “Warning Call.” The awesome soundtrack by Swedish composer Solar Fields is integral to the gaming experience. The ambient music changes effortlessly from serene to mysterious to energetic, never missing a beat as you move through the game. During action sequences, the dynamic music helps to keep you going; and outside of the game it doubles as epic workout music. I play the one-hour version all the time now when I’m on my bike. I like the way the pace changes, with fast parts and slow parts, so it gives you a varied workout. Plus the music is enjoyable just to listen to and chill. Oh, and the jukebox in the Catalyst runners’ base plays songs from the original Mirror’s Edge!

In summary, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a highly immersive and enjoyable game. It’s all about personal freedom as well as the freedom of movement. The narrative contains definite anti-corporate, anti-establishment, anti-totalitarian themes – and of course it’s up to Faith to save the day. Moreover, the game does an amazing job of mentally embodying the joy of physical activity. As a result of the 15 hour play-through (4 hours + 7 hours + 4 hours), I was inspired to take action in my own life. Seriously, I find myself running and jumping around the house now. This game will make you feel alive and exhilarated. So put on your red shoes and get moving!

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