Developer: EA Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: July 20, 2004
Sometimes, it’s difficult to figure out why a certain example of intellectual property has been optioned by Hollywood. The mainstream film industry has a long tradition of taking only the bare concepts from a previously known/beloved piece of medium, and distorting it to becoming their supposedly “modernized” vision. Sometimes the final product is so dissimilar from the original that you wonder why they had to rape someone else’s intellectual property in the first place. There are two major reasons for this, the first and most obvious being an equation: name recognition = guaranteed cash flow. The second is creative bankruptcy on the part of the new owners of a given IP, and that also leads to more efficient cash flow, since precious time wasn’t wasted coming up with original concepts. Lost In Space was one of these horribly maligned, disfigured IPs. There has definitely been quite a few in between, but Catwoman is the latest to pop up in theatres everywhere. All but the most bare concepts of the original DC comic’s version of Catwoman have been tossed aside in favor of making Halle Berry look as sexy as possible. So does that make for a good game? Well, if you’ve played any of the last three Tomb Raider games, maybe you wouldn’t be asking that question.
Catwoman is a third-person adventure based around cinematic events and gameplay, and you probably get to play around yourself a bit, too. Seriously, though – Catwoman is filled with so much visual flair that you don’t really feel like you’re in control most of the time. Catwoman follows Patience Phillips, played by Halle Berry. Working at the Hedare Design Firm, Phillips accidentally runs into some trouble by stumbling across a corporate presentation that she was definitely not supposed to see. Her having this knowledge was so detrimental to her company that a henchman was sent to kill her for it. As Phillips lay dead on the ground, an Egyptian cat happened by and gave her a kiss, allowing her to be revived and reemerge as Catwoman, a sexy anti-hero with a penchant for jewels and a skimpy sense of style. If I end up being given life after to death to avenge my previous self, I hope I don’t end up trying to look sexy for the masses. I might have some sort of, you know, mission or something to be focusing on. You’d think the technically undead wouldn’t worry so much about style, huh?
Catwoman controls well. Kind of. In the eight months of development time EA/Argonaut were slapped with, they at least got the bare aspects of movement down pat. That’s right, directional movement is simply perfect, feeling smooth, making good use of the analog motion gradient on the control stick, and animating pretty well to boot. But nothing else about the control is really as intuitive and, well, good. The animation is always smooth enough to make this game look great for the videos and commercials, but once you get your hands on this game you realize there’s a lot wrong with it. Catwoman’s high-flying acrobatics are simply hell to try to control, with far too many cinematically-inclined motions taking away from any semblance of good gameplay. I guess some reviewers might say the game has “platforming elements”, but with so many right-angle based environments and nowhere to really fall to your death, I have trouble agreeing with that. It feels more like you’re fighting with our poor fashion and rare gem connoisseur of a main character just to get around the stages.
The big problem with trying to navigate the levels is in having to learn where Catwoman can and cannot go. Many walls have invisible cutoff points that don’t allow you to climb any farther up them, forcing you to find a workaround in order to get where you need to go. Catwoman digs her claws in, climbs… and stops. And you can’t do anything about it. Except spend hours of your time with this game just trying to figure out which preordained path the developers have tried to artificially set you on. Or turn off the game.
As is usual with pretty much every game that’s released in the past three years, Catwoman has an “innovative” little gameplay quirk, the Cat Sense. By holding down the Z button(that terribly useless little button Nintendo threw above the R trigger) Catwoman is able to see highlighted hints as to what to do next. But this feature is fairly glitchy, not always working when it should, which renders it kind of useless in many cases. Speaking of useless, that’s exactly what the camera is. I don’t think I need to say anymore about that.
The combat system is extremely unintuitive and, like the rest of the game, sacrifices most of the actual gameplay for cinematic moments. The C-stick is used to control the whip, which seems okay, since you should have tight control over what is happening with an apparatus such as that, but it doesn’t really control all that well in practice. Also, physical attacks are thrown to the C-stick also, except you have to hold a shoulder button to use them… for lack of a better term: weak. It all animates smoothly, but you really don’t feel like you have any control over what is happening.
The game does look good – though the environments are generally unimpressive, there are few glitches, and the framerate is stable. The in-game models, especially Catwoman’s, look fantastic. The animations are even better. Catwoman’s moves are so fluid, it’s incredible – and it also tells you where EA/Argonaut’s priorities were when they were trying to finish this game in time for the movie release.
The game sounds… well, not like much. There isn’t much music to be found and what is there is not really attention getting. If you pay attention, you hear the same theme being used over and over and over. It gets a bit old after a while. And as for the voice acting, well, maybe they should have just ripped the already acted out lines from the movie, because what’s here is terrible.
I admit that I have not seen the Catwoman film (though I have been made aware that the game only loosely follows the film), but I suggest gamers everywhere pray to whichever higher power they believe in that Electronic Art’s Catwoman game does not cross paths with them. Now, in my time as a reviewer with WorthPlaying I’ve played some fairly horrendous games, Todd McFarlane’s Dark Prophecy being the most notable (I will never forget the time I spent with that wreck), and I’ll admit that Catwoman easily trumps a good portion of them. But it’s still not anything I would refer to as, well, good. I hate to sound bitter about nearly every game that falls in my lap, but a lot of these things really aren’t Worth Playing, and I feel it my responsibility to let that be known. If you’ve got cash to spend on a game, please don’t make it Catwoman. Why not spend that hard earned forty dollars on a few older gems that you’ve missed out on? Nintendo’s Player’s Choice lineup is expanding all the time.
Score : 5.5/10
More articles about Catwoman