Games based on movies (especially summer popcorn movies) are hard to review, the main reason lies in the principle that if you love the movie, you can like the game based on that movie even if it’s a lacking game. The other way around too, if you hated the movie you won’t be objective when judging the game. You lose objectivity when reviewing these games, but here goes a review that should not be biased. There is no good reason for making a movie based only on the Catwoman character (other than Halle Berry), and the reason for making the game is understandable: from now on video games are part of the marketing strategy for action movies. But if the movie is lame, there’s not much hope for the game. In this case though, it’s not completely awful.
The game tries to have impressive graphics. They aren’t top-notch, but they aren’t awful either. That’s a problem because they are bland. It’s like nothing is happening in that department, just the sufficient effort to not make it look like a low-quality game. There is some production value to the game, but just enough to be slightly above average.
On the up side, the Catwoman model does look very good and moves very well too; if you are a male you may find yourself sometimes staring at Catwoman moving (and if you imagine it actually is Halle Berry, then probably you’ll stare for quite some time). But everything else, from bad guys to objects and buildings seem to get lost, they don’t look “alive.” As in the movie, Catwoman is the main attraction, but the game commits the same mistake as the movie: everything surrounding the main character has to have something special. Just think of Viewtiful Joe, the hero is a bit dumb but some of the bosses, baddies and surroundings are very well designed, and that makes the whole game shine. So, as hot as Halle Berry is as Catwoman, one character cannot hold an entire movie or video game.
Lighting and particle effects do an average job, some glass and lighting effects are well done, enough to make it somewhat believable, but compared to the best games in this department (and all games should be compared with the best), it is way behind. After looking at games like Eternal Darkness, Splinter Cell and even Prince of Persia (the game closest in look and feel to this game) the Catwoman graphics effort falls short.
As with other aspects of the game, the music is not at all engaging, at times non-existent. It sounds harsh, but it’s not awful, simply uninspired (which can be worse). The dialogue in the game is done by Halle Berry herself, but you know the dialogue is bad when she is not able to sound sexy (which is the idea on most of the lines). Even for a comic book-inspired movie and game, the dialogue is really dumb sometimes. The background music is almost lost in the game, a bit more upbeat when in combat, but still uninspired. The bangs and crashes sound fair enough, most games get that right in the sound department, and others reach higher levels of quality (hear Call of Duty). Catwoman is not one of them; again it just reaches the average.
Catwoman is an acrobatic character. In the movie she tries to rival Spider-Man (and fails miserably), but like most Spider-Man games, the acrobatics don’t translate well to the video game universe. In video games, that acrobatic feel is not achieved by graphics or camera angles like in movies. In video games you “feel” through the controller, so you need awesome gameplay to make you feel like you’re controlling Spider-Man or, in this case, Catwoman. Compared to Prince of Persia, which is an example of a game that makes you feel that the character is agile and acrobatic, Catwoman doesn’t deliver. For you to feel agile, the way you control the character should be easy, it should be fluid. In Catwoman the control scheme makes it difficult to pull off some moves. If you played Prince of Persia you noticed that there were some (very rare) places where you try to do something but the controller didn’t seem to respond like it should, and that made the Prince look as agile as a cow. The same thing happens in Catwoman, but much more often. This is probably where the game lacks the most, the gameplay is slightly below average, and not very fair considering that you expect Catwoman to feel smooth. The combat scheme tries to be original, but it doesn’t help make the game play easier.
No revolution here. It’s a game based on a movie, based on a comic book character. There’s not too much raw material to work from. Playing the game, you imagine that EA tried to make a simple but effective action game, fun enough to do the movie justice (a very easy job considering the quality of the movie). Like some James Bond games based on Bond movies (except Goldeneye, which is a classic) that are just enjoyable enough to make the game above average (Everything or Nothing is a great game, but not based on a Bond movie). Catwoman tried to do that, but it turns out to be a game that lacks in many aspects and is sometimes frustrating and boring to play. It also tries to copy the Prince of Persia feel, nothing original there. There is some originality in the combat scheme, but it’s not effective enough.
We should not expect much from movie-based games, but examples like Goldeneye spoil us and make us want more. Like many marketing tools for movies, the game doesn’t try to be more than that, but either way, it doesn’t even get to that level. Not even fun, just uninspired. But you should try it, if you like Catwoman or you like the movie (or you’re a very crazy Halle Berry fan), maybe you will like the game.