December 2, 2021

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Don’t gush: why the vision of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst makes it a modern great

2 min read
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Nostalgia and expectations are both saviours and dangers for the gaming industry, sometimes simultaneously. For example, Nintendo is bouncing back thanks to their trusted mascots and a new console, yet somehow every game in existence is being remastered except for Burnout 3. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has arguably been the greatest victim of bloated expectations in contemporary gaming.

The first game made its debut in 2008, promising a futuristic cityscape where stylistic parkour gets you around and traditionally animated cutscenes help out in the story department. Critical reception was good, but far from excellent, yet a cult following developed and a few million copies were shipped. Fast-forward to 2016, the prequel-remake hybrid Catalyst received a similar response, both in terms of sales and reviews. Keep in mind, both Mirror’s Edge games received virtually no marketing compared to other blockbusters such as Call of Duty or Legend of Zelda, particularly Catalyst. But how the heck was EA meant to market this?

Firstly, it doesn’t look like the grey sludge of other action games. The skies of the fictional city Glass are dominated by superstructures with clean lines and splashes of colour. Sci-fi dystopias never look this good, and it would be ludicrous of me not to say this is gaming’s equivalent of Blade Runner, the Fifth Element or any other portrayal of the future that’s courageously critiqued by the rest of us mere mortals. Yet playing through the game, it is admittedly a safe story that somehow makes it feel restrained, as if the game’s greater potential was left unrealised.

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