This week saw the release of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Players once again take on the role of Faith Connors, a free runner going up against a corrupt government. Her moves in the game look pretty good, but there’s one question that needs answering: is she the best there is at what she does?
When the original game released in 2008, you could say that she was the best. But now she’s got some competition. To that end, we’ve assembled Faith, Infamous’ Cole McGrath, Corvo Attano from Dishonored, Nilin Cartier-Wells from Remember Me, the Fizzco Employee in Sunset Overdrive, Uncharted’s Nathan Drake, Dying Light’s Kyle Crane, and Evie Frye from Assassin’s Creed Syndicate to determine who the parkour master is.
Tools of the Trade
Sometimes, hoofing it just won’t be enough, and in that regard, Crane, Faith, and Nilin have to be eliminated from this one right out the gate. Nothing against them, but the human body can only go so fast. Drake and Evie barely avoid getting the axe here due to their grapple based skills; in Uncharted 4, our hero gets a grappling hook, and the Frye sister has a rope launcher that she can use to get anywhere she so pleases. Both items are perfect for their respective owners to get out of combat or take out enemies silently.
Our Employee has a variety of skills they can use to get around. Virtually every hard surface in the game launches them into the air so they can use their crowbar to hang on the wires and grind them, or they can just grind on them using their feet. They can also dash in the air and grind on water as well. Kinda like Tony Hawk. Corvo can upgrade his speed and jumping ability, but his real strength lies in his Blink ability, which allows him to teleport.
Cole, meanwhile, has a plethora of abilities he can use to get around. Along with his natural parkour skills, he can grind rails to get around the city faster and use his Static Thrusters to fly around. In his second game, he can grind rails vertically to get a quick boost to higher ground, along with an electric tether that pulls him to any surface within reasonable distance. Plus, depending on your Karmic Balance, he can shoot up into the air thanks to a block of ice or performing a flaming swan dive.
Winner: Cole (Infamous)
Okay, this one is a no-brainer. Superpowers beat everything, and Cole’s got a buffet of abilities to work with. It’s badass to ride the rails and drain electricity as you pass by, and it’s awesome to shoot up into the air like an electric rocket. While the fire ability doesn’t do much compared to the ice block, they can both be used in tandem pretty well with the tether. And if you think his movement abilities are great, just wait til you play as Delsin…
Location, Location, Location
All that running and jumping doesn’t mean a single thing if the city you’re in isn’t best suited to it. Thankfully, these guys have some pretty great environments to run around in. Sunset City is absolutely designed with movement in mind to an almost freaky degree, from bouncing to grinding to wall running. The Employee absolutely thrives in this environment. Likewise with Cole and Empire City and New Marais; these are cities perfectly tailor made for him. Assassins are trained to climb pretty much anything, but with that said, London is a delight to go through, be it by good old fashioned handwork or pulling out your grappling hook and zipping around.
Nathan Drake travels all around the world, so it’s safe to say that the environments are suited with him in mind. Even though the countries he go to tend to break down (or blow up) when he shows up, he still knows the lay of the land somewhat. Neo-Paris has better structure for Nilin to go through, thankfully, and likewise with Harran, even if it’s filled to the brim with zombies that want to bite his face off. Dunwall is, generally speaking, more suited to Corvo’s stealth skills than his climbing prowess, but he still gets his work in.
Winner: Sunset City (Sunset Overdrive)
There’s just no getting around it: Sunset City is 100% absolutely created with the movement of the player into consideration. Everything you do in the city is meant to make you go faster or keep in motion so much that you’d think Insomniac had Newton’s First Law seared into their brains. Stopping simply isn’t an option until the game calls for it, and even then, it’s usually just a quick breather before it smacks you awake to keep your feet moving.
Most Impressive Feat
When you can climb virtually anything, you’re bound to get into some crazy scenarios. If you’re Nathan Drake, that’s pretty much a Tuesday for you (seriously, that train sequence), but others have a more relatively chill lifestyle. Then again, Cole’s climbed a clock tower and an ice tower that covered a furnace, and Evie scaled Big Ben, so that’s nothing to shrug at. Crane had to deal with zombies chasing him at every turn, especially during the night, and damn if that isn’t impressive for how often that happened to him.
That being said, the Fizzco Employee may have them all beat, considering that he fought the floating balloon mascot of the company they worked for, plus said company’s actual building, grinded on a roller coaster to murder a bunch of scavengers, and fought a horde of zombies while a rock band played for sick kids. Yes, really, that happened. And of course, one can’t forget that Faith jumps off the highest buildings to exist, and that you get to experience them all directly from her point of view.
Nathan’s various adventures make him more than worthy enough to be the winner here. That being said, the Employee’s actions are also nothing to shrug at, even though they would probably just brush them off as something weird. If the two of them got in a bar together, they’d probably trade war stories, and then eventually, they’d end up getting shot at again.
Sometimes you can’t run away from your problems (unless you’re the Flash), and you’ve got to meet them with your fists. Nathan Drake knows this more often than most, considering that his enemies find him literally everywhere he goes and try to kill him. Whether it’s through grunts or tanks, or one very determined attack helicopter, they always find him. The melee and gunplay get better with each game, and with Uncharted 4, the grappling hook allows for some pretty satisfying kills. While Cole doesn’t have guns, his superpowers make for fun combat, especially when combined with the environment and his traversal skills. But when it comes to gunplay and footwork, the Employee has them both beat, combining verticality and movement with a wicked arsenal of guns.
Sometimes you just have to keep your feet on the ground, and in that respect, Faith has that method down pat. While she can use guns (at least in the first game), it just feels wrong for a runner to use firearms, so it’s good that her fists and feet are just as deadly. Sure, Kyle Crane can punch and kick zombies to pieces with his bare hands (or whatever weapons his twisted mind can come up with), but if you want some grace to your fighting, Faith is going to be the way to go. Her, or Evie, what with all the weapons she’s got in her cloak. Evie and Corvo’s combat definitely require some grace and timing, but once you get the hang of them, fighting becomes fun. Nilin’s a pretty good hand to hand fighter as well, and she can create possibly 50,000 attack combos of her own to do some massive damage.
Winner: Corvo (Dishonored)
The first person combat in Dishonored works perfectly, from the stealthy swordplay to the supernatural powers at your disposal. You may find yourself hindered by the game’s moral choice system, but if you decide to go ahead and slice all the throats, it’s an absolute blast. Plus, summoning rats to swarm people you don’t like never gets old.
In some games, learning to climb can be difficult. Admittedly, the Uncharted series and Remember Me have this problem. There’ll be times where you honestly can’t tell what’s supposed to be something you can grab and something you can’t, which is a real pain during the big set piece moments where you’re fighting for your life. Dying Light, depending on your outlook, may take some time for you to master.
Conversely, the other games lack this problem. Infamous’ approach to climbing is ridiculously easy (keep pressing X!), and Corvo’s Blink ability is a breeze. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has tutorial missions that allow you to practice your parkour skills before you get into the think of it. Sunset Overdrive? Well, there’s no real difficulty in “bounce and grind on everything”, though learning to wall run and switch between grinding and undergrinding may take a few tries. Assassin’s Creed is…well, all you have to do is hold down a button and push on the left stick, so that says it all.
Winner: Sunset Overdrive
It may not be all that difficult, but man, is it a lot of fun. The skill comes less in mastering the controls and more in perfecting the timing to boost your style and become even more awesome while killing the OD. Everything you do comes back to timing, whether it’s using a specific gun to take down enemies to Air Dashing and switching to different grind methods to avoid getting eaten.
8th Place: Kyle Crane (Dying Light)
7th: Nilin Cartier-Wells (Remember Me)
6th: Corvo Attano (Dishonored)
5th: Evie Frye (AC Syndicate)
4th: Drake (Uncharted)
3rd: Cole (Infamous)
2nd: Faith (Mirror’s Edge Catalyst)
1st: The Employee!!!! *cue fanfare*
Sunset Overdrive is crazy fast paced, and that requires a leading person who can match its style. Even if you don’t particularly like their attitude, traversing Sunset City is easy. Chaining combos together is great, integrating it into combat is perfect, and it feels like you’re playing as an adrenaline junkie.
Agree with our ranking? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below.