Electronic Arts, if anything, are competent video game publishers and developers. By this point in time, we should all expect great things from them, be it either a sports game or the latest acquired franchise. EA Games has even beaten the odds and delivered quality titles based on the James Bond films, and has overseen development of the excellent Lord of the Rings games, too.
So, when a joke like Catwoman claws its way from the company, you have to wonder if it’s actually meant to be this bad. Let’s forget about the movie, awful as it may be, and concentrate on why the game itself still isn’t worth anyone’s time.
It’s your standard third-person setup: camera hanging behind you, platforms to traverse and enemies to best. Toss in some amazing powers alongside Halle Berry’s voice work, and this game should be on fire, right? No? Then at least the die-hard Catwoman fans will eat it up. Sorry, wrong again.
The alluring parts of the game are supposed to be the Prince of Persia-inspired acrobatics and superhuman powers of the heroine, which are hampered by the bizarre control scheme. Almost every action in the game, like jumping, grabbing and running, is performed by using the left and right triggers. To attack you must hold the left trigger and move the right control stick in the direction of an enemy (sort of like in Rise to Honor). Through directional variations you can rack up combos and assail a room packed to the rafters with foes.
It’s just a little strange that so much emphasis is put on the trigger controls when nearly all of the face buttons are ignored. Swinging and wall climbing are integral parts of the gameplay, so concentrating all those moves on two buttons when there are eight available is a mistake. Later you can assign new moves to the face buttons, but unlocking these new attacks is near pointless, as they’re fairly useless and rarely needed.
Also, there is no way to control the camera thanks to the odd button layout. It floats ?near’ you and regularly provides worthless angles that only serve to aggravate. Having the shoulder buttons free would have been a nice choice, or even the right stick, but alas, there’s no way to get a consistently good shot through the entire game. And be ready for many, many cases of the inverted-controls-thanks-to-the-camera-suddenly-shifting business.
But let’s opt for forgiveness where the controls are concerned; you grow accustomed to them and, for what it’s worth, they do become easier to work with as you progress. However, one thing that never changes is the completely inane idea of ejecting enemies from an area in order to continue forward. In true ?60s Batman style you need to toss thugs into nearby objects like dumpsters, lockers and windows. Once deposited inside, the door closes down on them (in the case of the dumpster and locker) and they are then considered beaten. Beat on a guy enough and he gets scared and freely hurls himself somewhere. In the streets and alleyways this gameplay idea is passable, but it happens throughout the whole game. Inside hideouts and clubs you’ll see boxes lined up, open and ready for someone to hop on in, all while Catwoman spews cheesy one-liners that even Adam West would condemn.
And what kind of enemies are we dealing with here? The same boring, poorly designed, generic faced lackeys that seem to populate every large city. At one point inside a nightclub the doors burst open to reveal three identical guys…and they’re not triplets. This doesn’t scream production value and quality, that’s for sure.
The time and money saved on all this surely wasn’t put into the platform portion of the game. Puzzles consist of breaking things and whipping switches, but it’s rarely clear what you’re supposed to whip or why. Through the use of her cat senses, Catwoman can see objects that are breakable, but why should throwing a wine bottle at a video camera open a door? And, laughably, most of the game’s difficulty comes from Catwoman’s inability to climb certain surfaces, or maneuver around obvious hindrances.
She can scale a brick wall, for example, but not cardboard. Annoyingly, area to area, she can only climb in selected places; clambering up one wall, only to be rejected by another – and solely for the classic developer’s crutch: You’re not allowed here! It’s so frustrating to clearly see where you need to go but can’t because it’s not the predefined way they want you to follow.
The last complaint about gameplay is a small one, but worth noting. Nothing Catwoman does seems truly superhuman or fantastic. As far as the comics are concerned, she’s not enhanced in any way, she’s just thatgood. Here, it seems there’s a supernatural motif at work, yet a trained athlete could perform everything she does in the game. Only her cat sense exists as something we can’t humanly replicate, but the only reason why you’ll need to use it is to figure out where you’re allowed to climb.
Still, in spite of all the negatives, the game is occasionally decent, albeit for mere minutes at a time. There are almost 2D-style areas involving Catwoman’s jumping and swinging skills, and once you get the controls figured out, those parts are somewhat enjoyable. But it’s only a matter of seconds before either the camera flips out or you throw the controller in annoyance.
Graphically it looks adequate enough, though some reports claim the soft style and lighting effects are well done. Sure, some of the environments have a nice appearance, and there are moments involving solid lighting, but overall the Xbox has pounced every arena this game could compete in. There’s even some slowdown when too many things are going on at once.
Things are similarly bland on the audio front. The game houses some of the worst voice acting ever heard, with no one performer sounding enthused for the job. The music, while compositionally good, becomes repetitive incredibly quickly. One aural area, close to the end of the game, sounds similar to music taken straight from a touching moment in Full House or any other sitcom.
If there’s anything you should take from this review, it should be that Catwoman offers and provides absolutely nothing that’s worth experiencing. If you would like the wanton destruction of items to continue, then play Hulk. If you want a satisfying superhero outing, try Spider Man 2. And for majestic aerial moves, sit down with Prince of Persia. If you want all three aspects packed into one game, then don’t look to Catwoman for help, she can barely fill a theater.