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Catwoman Review

publisher: EA
developer: EA UK
genre: Action Adventure

PIII 933, 256MB RAM, 2GB HDD, 64MB video card
ESRB rating: T

release date: Jul 20, 04
» All About Catwoman on ActionTrip

Saying that a game is frustrating can imply many things. There is good frustrating and bad frustrating and then there is frustrating in a sense that you want to track down and kill the bastards who made you go through the agony of playing their game. The good news is Catwoman just barely falling into the third category.

Good frustrating is when you're playing a game in which you die a lot but somehow you never lose that will to try again, as the game play remains addictive at all times (Prince of Persia is a good example). Good frustrating is when you reach a checkpoint, exhale and then immediately want to play on while time ceases to exist around you (it's a relative category after all).

Bad frustrating, on the other hand, is when the game is hard and you die a lot, but for all the wrong reasons. Bad frustrating makes you want to throw the controller at your computer screen and it makes you hate the world. Bad frustrating is when you reach a checkpoint, exhale, roll your eyes and say: "you're not violent; it's just the game that's making you that way." And then you kick your cat in the balls...

During my time with Catwoman, I've gone through being frustrated, to being mildly entertained... to discovering its good points only to be reminded again why I found it so goddamn frustrating in the first place.

Catwoman is EA's latest plunge into the world of video game movie tie-ins. The summer blockbuster starring the ever-so-HAWT leather-clad Halle Berry (Halle, We salute you! Shaaaa-wing!) has naturally spawned a multi-platform video game release that borrows the cinematic feel, Halle Berry's lovely voice and the main plot from the movie to try to squeeze out as much cash as possible from fans of DC Comics and the superheroine's big screen iteration.

In what I'm sure many will find a shocking turn of events, the players are cast in the role of Catwoman. The film and game follow the story of Patience Phillips, who is killed after she uncovers a dark secret held by her employers. Brought back to life by a rare Egyptian cat, she becomes Catwoman and sets out to discover the truth about herself and her murderer.

To do so, you'll have to jump, pounce, swing, purr and claw your way across a number of levels set in seven different locations from the movie, including the jewelry store, the Hedare Factory, and Hedare's mansion and grounds. Naturally, as this is a multi-platform release you'll only be able to play in single-player mode (wait, consoles are not relegated to single-player only anymore). The seven main levels are broken down into several smaller ones, but unfortunately, and providing you don't get stuck as much as I did, it'll all be over pretty soon, and there is no multiplayer to compensate for the rather short single-player campaign.

If I had to describe the Catwoman game play in a single sentence, I'd say it's a 3D platformer, a-la Prince of Persia, with fighting added only as an afterthought. The crucial segment of this game is getting to unreachable surfaces and figuring out where to go from there. Aside from the boss encounters, which may challenge your cat-fighting skills somewhat, the game is essentially romping through the levels and toying with the security guards and policemen, all of which boils down to a game of cat and mouse. (You're the cat of course. The game would be pretty stupid if it were called Mousewoman. [And far less sexy - Six])

So the crux of the gameplay is getting to know all the possible acrobatic moves and how to use your whip most effectively. Nearly every scene in the game will present an elaborate platform puzzle that you'll have to figure out. In that sense, the levels have been designed well, and they do offer quite a bit of challenge, especially if you opt out of using your special cat sense (which is really like a hint system that can give you pointers as to where Catwoman has to go [Yay! Built in cheats! - Six]). Programmers have also made decent use of physics for swinging and other acrobatic moves that certainly make a nice addition to the game play. The problem with the levels, however, is that they're very linear and often marred with a single illogical design solution that may stop you dead in your tracks.

But most importantly, the many jumping and other platform puzzles require a good overview of the scene as well as timing and precision. And this is where the bad frustration kicks in. While playing Catwoman, your mouse will become pretty much redundant. I don't know if that has to do with the fact that the cat species are feeling left out or not, but for a multi-platform release, EA programmers sure did a crappy job of porting this one to the PC. You'll have to play the entire game by using just your keyboard, and to make matters worse, the game might often throw you a curve by working in some bizarre and awkward camera angles. Sure, you can look around in first-person by using your cat sense, but even that doesn't improve the situation much on certain occasions. Overall, the negative frustrating part of Catwoman is derived from the fact that the game requires thinking, precision controls and timing, and yet, for a PC gamer it offers the equivalent of having a drunk, fat Irishman drive a Formula 1 car. (Hey! I resemble that remark! - Petro)

Granted, after you've seemingly grown older for about 10 years and your teeth are loosened from the stress, you'll get the hang of it, and then you might even start to enjoy the game's good sides. However, I should point out here that the story sadly hasn't been presented well enough to keep the players truly interested in what comes next. As a last resort of course, you'll always have plenty of opportunity to gawk at the virtual Halle Berry and her bodacious curves, but I mean, if you're really after some quality action involving Halle, I suggest you rent "Monsters Ball." Halle really gets active in a couple of scenes and she is truly a sight to behold when she gets that ... active.

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5.5   Okay

Nice Catwoman animation, and she's sexy; good use of physics, some decent platform puzzles;

Sloppy camera and controls for such a precision platformer, ugly textures, short and no multiplayer.


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