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Catalyst Black for Android review: A surprisingly deep team-based shooter

The latest title from Super Evil Megacorp is a surprisingly deep and engaging experience.

catalyst black
(Image: © Super Evil Megacorp)

Our Verdict

The world of good mobile team-based shooters isn't exactly deep, which is what makes Catalyst Black such a breath of fresh air. The title has mechanics that are easy enough for anyone to learn, intuitive and fun controls, and best of all, is genuinely fun to play.

For

  • + Tons of game modes available to choose from
  • + Surprising amount of weapon variance/loadout customization
  • + Controls are responsive and easy to use
  • + Multiple controller support

Against

  • Matches can drag a bit depending on which mode you play
  • Free-to-play players may have trouble leveling due to microtransactions

The world of mobile shooters is a bit of a bleak one at the moment. Outside of big-named titles like Apex Legends Mobile, Call of Duty, and PUBG, it can be hard finding a game that doesn't strive to be a hyper-realistic military title. However, that's set to change with Super Evil Megacorp's latest entry, the team-based arena shooter Catalyst Black. 

Unlike other games that are set in wastelands, or real-life adjacent locations, Catalyst Black drops players into a more fantastical world, and acts almost like a MOBA in a lot of its game modes and playstyles. While you'll still be utilizing a variety of weapons, a heavier emphasis on teamwork exists in Catalyst Black, as do the key aspects of building out a good enough loadout to take down both enemies and in-game monsters alike. 

I've been able to play the game on its early test servers for the past two weeks now, and it's been nothing but fun the entire time. While the shooter genre may incredibly popular when it comes to mobile games, Catalyst Black separates itself by being a breath of fresh air in what has become an otherwise stale and monotonous group. 

Catalyst Black: What's great

catalyst black

One of the many locations you'll see in Catalyst Black.  (Image credit: Future)

Where other shooters might task you with doing the very best you can do at a singular level, Catalyst Black alleviates some of that by introducing a variety of other aspects into the game. For those unaware, Catalyst Black centers around players using a variety of weapons (both primary and heavy), along with some other abilites across a range of different game modes. 

At its core, the game is a team-based one, and many of its modes reflect that. Inside every single mode (there are seven as of now), players will have to worry about not only taking down other opposing players, but also in-game creatures that are actively trying to take down every player involved. 

Taking them down will grant energy that helps you transform into one of six different "Primals" (essentially a giant monster of your own) that can help flip any game on its head. While game modes like the typical "Slayer" mode are there, Catalyst Black also features various modes that seem like they were made with popular MOBAs in mind. 

CategoryCatalyst Black
DeveloperSuper Evil Megacorp
Publisher Super Evil Megacorp
Genre Battleground shooter
Minimum requirementsAndroid 6.0 or later
Device used TCL 10 Pro
PlayersMultiplayer (5v5 to 12v12)
Launch price Free w/IAPs

Perhaps the best mode in the game, Hydra, features a large-scale battle between enemies that features its own "game within a game" mechanic that can be found in popular titles like League of Legends. Instead of just taking down enemies to win, players in this mode can win via a litany of ways, including defeating an opponent's Overseer (a special boss on the map), collecting Shards and returning to your base, or simply outlasting the enemy team.

Catalyst Black also goes on step further into leaning into the "team-based" structure by allowing for drop-in, drop-out multiplayer. Friends in the game can simply jump into one another's lobbies right before a game starts at any time, making it much easier to group up with friends and stay engaged in any given game. 

Voice chat is also enabled in games, so you won't have to worry about misreading any messages or taking time out of a game to figure out what a friend is up to in order to properly communicate. 

catalyst black

(Image credit: Super Evil Megacorp)

At its core, the game is a team-based one, and many of its modes reflect that.

Despite not boasting an incredibly large game mode selection, Catalyst Black is a surprisingly deep title when it comes to customization options. Before jumping into a a game, you're able to tweak your loadout, which consists of a primary weapon, a heavy weapon, a Primal choice, a trinket (which acts as buffs for items), and an ability, which can range from anything from healing yourself and allies all the way to dealing out damage to an opponent with a quick dash. 

Alongside the different types of weapons and abilities you can find, you'll also be able to upgrade the items in a variety of ways. The most standard way, leveling up, simply involves trading dust (an in-game currency) to give a weapon, ability, or trinket some slight stat boosts to their damage or casting time. 

However, you can also infuse items, which involves trading in harder to find materials to give them some significant upgrades, which can also lead to the weapons developing new traits along the way. 

Of course, as is the case with any mobile game, many of these in-game currencies are found between either playing the game or by opening chests via more premium in-game currencies. While the threat of microtransactions does loom, Catalyst Black doesn't suffer from the common trap of mobile games by forcing players into spending as much money as possible. 

catalyst black

(Image credit: Super Evil Megacorp)

As far as performance goes, the game runs extremely well. During my time with Catalyst Black, I didn't experience any major issues outside of a few stutters or lag-filled moments here or there. When it comes to frame rate, I'm not too sure what it's fully capable of on Android, but it never looked as if my phone couldn't handle the game. 

Unfortunately for Android users, they won't be able to utilize one of the best features the game has, which is its FPS boost, a tool that will remain exclusive to the Apple version of the game for the time being. Despite this slight inconvenience, Catalyst Black should have no issues working for anyone as long as your phone is able to download from the Google Play Store. 

For those looking for as much customization in the settings as there is in the game, you might be slightly disappointed. However, while there isn't a huge amount of things to change, you'll still be able to tweak the game enough to be able to play it exactly how you want to. Things like haptic vibration, camera shake, a graphics scale, and even aim assist sliders can be found, as are more common things like texture toggles. 

catalyst black

(Image credit: Future)

Speaking of different playability options, Catalyst Black's controls are also surprisingly great for a mobile shooter. Unlike other games that often incorporate the entire screen with various commands and movements, Catalyst Black keeps thing pretty simple. 

In each game, you can move around, fire off your two weapons, use an ability, or trigger your Primal once its fully charged. It doesn't get much more complicated than that, and the placement of the virtual controllers on the screen are in a distant enough spot so that I never got incredibly tired or sore while playing. 

For those that prefer not to use their phone as a controller, Catalyst Black is also fully usable with any type of controller, something that is sure to be a huge boost for those jumping into the game. 

While things like the Razer Kishi or SteelSeries Stratus+ will work here, so will something like a PlayStation or Xbox controller, so if you have one laying around and want to give it a try, it's definitely worth the shot. As far the battery life went, the game didn't do considerable damage to my phone's charge in small sittings, but if you have everything turned on to the max, you'll likely see a faster drain. 

Catalyst Black: What could use work

catalyst black

(Image credit: Future)

Despite Catalyst Black being a fun game, there are still some gripes that every mobile game seems to have a hard time grasping, and that's found in the controls. While Catalyst Black does support controller options and does feature some pretty smooth gameplay, the controls in the game are still a bit barebones. 

I'm glad that Super Evil Megacorp chose to go with a much more simplified control overlay, but movement in the game can still feel a bit stiff and unrelenting, especially if you're in the middle of a big battle. 

It's unclear just how invasive and necessary microtransactions will be.

Elsewhere, and perhaps the biggest question mark over a game like Catalyst Black, is in its microtransactions. During my time with the game, I had no need to ever put real-life money into the game, and even with the chance to get some better items and weapons by playing early, I still never felt the need to spend more money to keep opening chests or digging for materials to infuse items with. 

However, due to the game incorporating such a strong focusing on leveling up your gear and needing special material for each individual item, it's unclear just how invasive and necessary microtransactions will be. While there aren't any flat out "pay-to-win" mechanics in the game's shop as of now, it's not entirely hard to imagine the game's upgrade mechanics becoming abused by players who don't mind throwing money at it. 

Catalyst Black: Should you play it?

catalyst black

(Image credit: Future)

For those who have tried to find a game in the shooter genre on mobile devices, it's not exactly a secret that it can be hard to find one that feels any different from the rest. Catalyst Black seems like it could be the breath of fresh air people need by offering a fresher, more colorful game that operates on the fringes of sci-fi while also incorporating a ton of different mechanics into the game that fans might not get anywhere else. 

The inclusion of seven different game modes adds enough variety to keep you going back for different experiences, and the generally very good gameplay and controls make it so that you never really have to worry about pressing the wrong button or encountering a mistake in the game that isn't your fault. 

Because the game is free-to-play, there's really no harm in downloading the game and trying it out for yourself. In my brief time with the game, it's quickly rocketed up the charts in terms of total screen time as far as games go, and I can definitely see myself returning to it often. 

Catalyst Black

Catalyst Black takes the shooter genre and mixes it with arena-based combat, giving players a new take on some of their favorite game modes. Players can participate in a variety of action shooter modes while using a customized loadout. 

Download from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Anthony Nash has been writing about games and the gaming industry for nearly a decade. When he’s not writing about games, he’s usually playing them. You can find him on Twitter talking about games or sports at @_anthonynash.