Review by PapaGamer

"Catwoman is a "smelly cat""

There is a certain satisfaction that comes from solving a puzzle; even a complex, difficult puzzle that frustrates you for some time. In Catwoman, the game from Electronic Arts based on the Halle Berry movie of the same name, satisfaction is reduced to tears of joy that you will never, ever again have to play through the just completed level.

Describing Catwoman's gameplay as "frustrating" is akin to describing World War II as a "scuffle". This game is bang-your-head-on-your-desk-until-you-dent-your-skull frustrating. This game is swear-loudly-at-your-screen frustrating. This game is give-up-in-disgust-every-half-hour frustrating.

Your initial impression of Catwoman is likely to be favorable; mine was. The graphics are detailed, smooth and the Catwoman model is as sexy on your PC monitor as Halle Berry is on the movie screen. Unfortunately for you, the player, every other aspect of this game falls short of providing an enjoyable experience.

GRAPHICS

The graphics engine is very good. It has fine detail, smooth animations and generally looks terrific. To compensate for this goodness, the artists at EA layered every scene in monotonous tones of black, gray and off-white and provided very little lighting. (I guess cats only prowl at night so the whole game has to take place at night.) There are occasional splashes of color; but, that does little to alleviate the feeling of boredom that sets in as you see yet another concrete-and-wire-mesh jungle awaiting you.

Perhaps all this dinginess was meant to make the glowing, purple interactive objects more visible. Or, perhaps, the interactive objects were made to glow purple so the player could actually distinguish them from the background scenery. The scenery is so boring, there is one scene where you turn out the lights and everything goes gray and it hardly looks any different.

SOUND

What can I say? The sound is, if anything, more boring than the graphics. The dialogue is bad (not campy-bad, just bad), the voice acting (even from Halle Berry) is atrocious and the music is eminently forgettable. The sound effects, on the other hand, are actually quite well-done. Catwoman's claws clink on metal mesh, screech when dragged down a concrete wall and ripple suggestively across her leather outfit when using the Pose move. Still, in order to really hear all these nice SFX, you have to turn the volume up enough to hear everything else, and that is not a good thing.

GAMEPLAY

If you do not own a gamepad for your PC, don't try playing this game. If your only control options are your keyboard and mouse, you will need at least three hands. If you have a gamepad, you can at least get a handle on Catwoman's movement and control her with some degree of accuracy. Unfortunately, the failures of Catwoman's gameplay go far beyond a complicated control system.

Where do I begin? How about the physics (or lack thereof)? There are times when Catwoman falls of a ledge while standing a foot from the edge. There are other times when she balances precariously in midair. Leaping from pole-to-pole (a major activity) is easy. Leaping from a wall to a pole can be an exercise in futility as you over-jump or under-jump or otherwise just miss the pole. Expect to spend a lot of time getting those jumps just right.

The jumps would be a bit easier if the player had any camera control; there is almost none. While in third-person view you can pan the camera a limited distance left or right, but it snaps back to its original position as soon as you release the pan. You can use the first-person "Hunt" mode, but only when standing on your feet (i.e. not when swinging or clinging to a wall) and you can't move in first-person mode.

The extremely limited control of the camera exacerbates a major failing in Catwoman: poor camera angles. The camera shifts wildly in mid jump. It chooses awkward angles just when you have to perform a complex acrobatic maneuver. It always seems to want you looking somewhere other than where you are supposed to go next. It zooms in unexpectedly during combat to show you a close-up of some guy you just thrashed, thus keeping you from seeing the other guys approaching.

Did I mention the combat is awkward and, at times, just plain silly? Catwoman doesn't actually hurt anyone, you see, she just toys with them. Sort of cat-and-mouse. Unless you manage to kick the bad guys out an "exit point", you can keep beating on them until they glow yellow, which means they are afraid of you. At this point, you get to kick them some more for bonus points!

After all these easy fights, the boss fights ramp up the difficulty several-fold. The boss characters can block your normal attacks, and you suddenly must learn new methods of fighting that will serve no purpose once you move on and start playing with the regular toughs again.

All of this is set against a backdrop of area-after-area this is nothing more than an acrobatic puzzle. Climb this wall. Jump to this pole. Swing to this catwalk. Collect a Bling. (Yes, the cat's-eye jewels Catwoman collects for bonus points are called "Bling". Yeargh.) The puzzles are always easily solved unless you choose never to use Hunt mode, which reveals glowing white cat paw prints pointing out the next way to go.

Of course, figuring out the puzzle isn't the challenge of Catwoman. Figuring out how to jostle your controller just right to complete the puzzle...that's the real difficulty.

CONCLUSION

Beyond a 3D rendered model worthy of an ogle or two, Catwoman offers absolutely nothing to recommend it to gamers. The story, such as it is, is sketchy and incoherent. (I suppose, if you've seen the move, you might understand.) The acting and dialogue are bad. Gameplay is extremely frustrating. Skip buying Catwoman and take your girl/boyfriend out for a date instead.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 07/30/04


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