Developer: EA Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: July 20, 2004
Everyone knows the man in black tights, the superhero of the night, Batman and probably seen the classic movie “Batman Returns,” in which they introduced the sexy character Catwoman. Now, DC has brought this character back to be featured in her own theatrical film, “Catwoman,” starring Halle Berry instead of the original actress, Michelle Pfeiffer. Personally, I don’t think this really matters, but from what I hear, the movie is abysmal. While the movie didn’t do so well, the game has the potential to be a completely different story, as seen with “The Chronicles of Riddick.” So is this game a flop or a success?
Before I answer that, here is a little background of the game. The story starts with your character working at the cosmetic company “Hedare.” You have just finished the designs and are told to be at the factory to ensure that they are ready, but someone is up to no good. After overhearing a conversation about the cosmetics being toxic, you flee into the water line in an attempt to escape the consequences of eavesdropping, but you are killed by one of the henchman. However, your trusty cat brings you back to life, creating Catwoman, an avenger.
Now, back to the question. To me, the game is a total flop. Sorry EA, DC, and WB, but the game just had too many problems that should have been addressed. The major one is the camera angles! I thought most game developers would address this problem first, but it seems that this dreaded problem is coming back to haunt us once again, cursing us with random camera changes, keeping other portions of the room hidden, and preventing us from moving while in first person view. One thing they did take into account was to keep the camera from clipping walls, but at times, your character will disappear into the background due to the sheer number of obstacles you will face.
“Obstacles?” you may wonder? Yes, I mean real obstacles, not some simple hurdle. No, these are massive mazes that you must surpass. If I had a choice, I would rather be a rat in one of those laboratory experiments than have to face Catwoman’s test, especially since the rat just moves in a simple 2D maze. These mazes are 3D, requiring you to go up, down, left, and right, utilizing every possible move Catwoman has been granted. Some particularly important moves include climbing walls, jumping (to your doom ?), and swinging from pole to pole (just like an acrobat, but some of the swings she performs just don’t seem logically possible).
You probably noticed that I’m complaining an awful lot about obstacles. Well, the reason is that unlike Batman, a pure fighting game, they made this into a platformer, and an extremely hard one at that. Just figuring out how to move on is more difficult than words can describe. For players who are playing the game for the first time, you may end up pulling out strands of hair while trying to figure where to go next. It takes a decent amount of time because almost every wall is climbable, making the maps so much larger and harder to traverse. Most of the obstacles require Catwoman to climb a wall, jump onto a mesh, swing on some poles, and sometimes use the whip. Over time, you will eventually start to grasp the flow of the game, but before that, you will probably complain left and right, especially when the character doesn’t want to agree with you (“I swear I made that jump,” and cases like that). The major disagreements with the character’s perception occur because of the camera angle. Sometimes, the camera suddenly changes directions, and if you continue holding the analog stick in that direction, you may backtrack, causing the camera to rotate back the way it was before. When that happens, I suggest a pain killer to alleviate the headache you may experience.
The entire game gave me that feeling of motion sickness; I can't believe I withstood the pain to finish the game, especially since almost every aspect relies on the camera. Even the controls are camera-based, and while in some games this is a good thing, in others it can be bad. In this case, it’s very bad. Let’s say there was a fence at the bottom of the screen. You press down to get on the fence. Once you are on it, you will need to change directions and press up. Personally, I find that annoying because once I’m on the fence, I would like to continue pressing the same direction. You can never really tell when Catwoman will grab the fence, so you may fall off several times before you get it right. The best way to fix this is to make “up” the direction that Catwoman faces all of the time. Although this may not be the most logical way to go about it, it would probably work better. I strongly suggest that the game developers go back and reconsider a better strategy, particularly if you intend to release a sequel to this insanely complex obstacle course.
Even though 90% of the game is an obstacle course, there is another aspect that comes into play: battles against the enemy. To fend for herself, Catwoman is equipped with only two things: her whip and martial arts skills. Combat controls are similar to Rise of Honor, where you use the right analog stick, but I truly believe the Rise of Honor system is a lot better just because the camera angles never went haywire. To use your martial arts skills (some of which you would need to buy), you would hold L1 and hit the right analog stick in the corresponding direction (you’ll hit if you are lucky). And to use the whip, hit the right analog stick without the L1 button. The whip is capable of grabbing enemies and dragging them near you, disarming them, and triggering events. Triggers can be seen in the game with a purple outline, and in catvision (the term for the first person view that sometimes gives you an idea of where to go next). Make sure you trigger the events, or you will be stuck on certain levels, especially the factory level. If you get to a point where you’re thinking, “What am I supposed to do from here? There isn’t anything else that I can do,” I strongly advise you to destroy everything on the level. Sometimes triggers need other triggers to trigger. Yes, it sounds funny but it is used, and it’s not a bad idea. Use your whip to grab a wrench or trophy, and then use that to break a window or a surveillance camera and in two situations you are required to hit triggers in sequential order before you can move on.
However, you will never get a break. If it isn’t obstacles, then you may fight bosses. These are one-on-one battles, except for the final battle where you face the evil nemesis and her helicopter full of gunmen. You will learn to hate them, especially in the sniper battle where their aim is so exact that you shouldn’t be surprised to lose many lives on that mission alone (throughout the game, I lost five lives, all on that level). All I have to say is the AI is super cheap. This goes for the bosses as well - why do they have a block button while we do not have this ability? Waiting for openings is the only way to defeat bosses.
Bosses and most of the other characters in the game aren’t as detailed as you would expect in other games where facial appearance is of importance. In this game, the facial features look completely wrong. The character at the end did not look a single bit like Halle Berry. The background graphics were also not that well drawn, and you could see jags here and there, especially in the opening CG sequence when you see Catwoman sliding around the buildings at high speed. One thing that looks pretty good, though, is the movement of Catwoman. They definitely made her walk and feel like a cat and I’ve got to say that leather outfit is pretty hot. As a note, if you want to just check her out, leave your controller alone for a while and just enjoy some cat poses. Catwoman in tight black leather is just hot.
The audio in the game is not very good. Most of the time, it’s the same song playing over and over on a level, and when you are stuck in a certain area for ages, you just want to turn the music off. The only times I enjoyed the sounds were during the last two stages because of the instrumentals played. Other sound aspects that were pretty good were the voice actors. I don’t know if they were the real actors, but they matched the characters well.
Overall, I definitely do not recommend this game. It has a lot of good concepts, much like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but both had similarly horrible camera angles. The platformer is very cleverly planned out, and I applaud them for that, but the game sucked. I couldn’t help but go “What the hell?!” every five seconds. If they were to fix the camera angle and maybe the control set (which I think only had problems because of the camera angle), it may be a blockbuster hit. The fighting system may also need some work, but because it was not the main focus, the repetition seemed like it was at a low. With a flopped movie and a flopped game, I hope they think it through if they consider a sequel. For the game developers of this game, I strongly suggest going back and revising your system, because a poor camera system for a game can kill the whole thing, and it is clearly seen here.
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