SummaryA game with problems, but it's still fun, and worth it to buy if you find it cheap
The Good*The game is rated Teen for Violence and Mild Language, but with the way this game is set up, there doesn't seem to be much keeping this game from an E rating. This is the sort of game you can play in the living room while your Mom is home. The Mild Language consists of sparse usage of "damn" and "ass", and fighting is bloodless and deathless, and focuses on four objectives:
**Remove their weapons - Removing weapons is a low-level ability you can purchase for 350 diamonds (makes no sense, but stick with me) in which you use your whip to take whatever an opponent is holding out of his or her hands. It's important since Catwoman isn't bulletproof, and though most enemies require 30 seconds to draw a bead on you, each successful shot stuns you for a moment and takes way about 1/10th of your health. Hence, the first target in a group of enemies is usually the ones that hang back and try to shoot you, and the two most annoying levels in the game are where there are people with guns shooting at you and you can't do anything to stop them.
**Remove yourself from the enemy - Aside from getting diamonds and health from beating them up, and the fun of defeating enemies, unless you're in a small room chances are you can go somewhere they can't follow, like up a wall and onto a platform, and unless they still have their guns, they're no longer any threat to you. But, since you're a superhuman and the bulk of your enemies are part-time security guards who pose little threat to you without guns (sometimes they have Billy clubs, but the benefit they derive from them are negligible), so unless your health is really low (and even then, if you wait a moment, it'll regenerate back to 1/5th level), there's not much use in running from guards.
**Remove them from yourself - In almost every room of the game, there's something like a chest, or a laundry chute, or an elevator shaft, or a giant plastic fish. If you kick, punch, or throw an enemy in the direction of those things, you'll be treated to a five second slow-motion cutscene of their body slowly flying through the air and into that “exit point”, never to bother you again. If you get a whole group of people in the general area, you can domino them all to the exit point and not have to worry about them. But if there are only one or two unarmed guards, it's more fun to soften them up rather than guide them right towards the exit points. There’s also the possibility of kicking people off ledges like Leonidas, which never kills them no matter how far they drop, but this has the downside that they might survive the fall, and bother you if you accidently fall down too.
**Beat them until they decide to remove themselves from you of their own free will - Remember that one scene in the movie Watchmen where Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Jupiter get mugged in an ally, and Dan gruesomely breaks a guy's arm, but the muggers keeps attacking them anyway? This part of the game seems to be the antithesis of that kind of traditional mook mentality, where guards in most games will attack one at a time and keep fighting until they're unconscious or dead. In Catwoman, you look human, but punches take off only a sliver of your health, and even if a group of guards gangs up on you, or worse, one holds you for the others to punch, you're still not going down without taking an inhuman amount of punishment. And you're more dexterous with your whip than most people are with their hands. So, all it takes is a few punches, kicks, falls through scenery, or successful taunts before the guards realize what they're up against, and start cowering for you to stop hurting them. If you continue beating them (and in doing so land your "Pussycat" bonus), they'll start heading for the exits themselves just to get away from you. It's an innovative form of non-violent violence, where no one gets seriously hurt, and guards know when they've been beat and won't keep fighting. So, in this form of combat, it's a test of will to see whether you'll be knocked unconscious (take enough of a beating and you'll fall to the ground, Midnight will come, purr at you, and you'll wake right up), or guards will realize what they're up against and flee. *The fighting, however, is secondary to the main game, which is a puzzle. The game largely consists of you being somewhere and trying to find a way to get somewhere else. You climb up walls, swing on poles, and jump on platforms (the vast majority of which actually seem to have an architectural purpose in the level besides sitting there waiting for you to use them,) all in an attempt to get from one place to another. And since you have no control over the camera (more on that later), you'll get a lot of use out of the first-person view, trying to figure out what you're supposed to do to get where you need to go.
*The plot of the game runs parallel and slightly divergent from that of the movie, filling in parts that were just assumed or glossed over in the movie (like getting into Hedare mansion or going through the Opera House). There are minor changes to the dialogue, usually for the better, and surprisingly everyone is more straightforward and realistic in their dialogue than Halle Berry. Either someone instructed her to sound stupid, or the other voice actors have done enough video games to at least give reasonable voice acting. Also, though the plot is similar to the movie, it's very simplified from the movie, which in many cases is a good thing.
*Benjamin Bratt didn't sign up for audio, so he's character is replaced with a slightly whiter, spiky-haired cop. There's no tedious subplot of Patience Phillips falling in love with him, and they don't even meet face to face until the second to last level. The game ending is similar to the ending of the movie, but slightly changed, and actually better.
*No major bugs to speak of. There are plenty of design flaws, but all of those came from intentional decisions, rather than lax bug testing. There's very little clipping in the game, and no part is difficult because of programming errors.
*The game has good graphics, if that matters to you.
*It looks pretty cool when Catwoman swings from poles, and it's kind of cute when she's running around on all fours.
The Bad*The GameSpot review of Catwoman for Xbox is pretty much spot on for the bad things about the game, so I'll try not to repeat too many of the things said there. And if I do, I'll give more detail.
*Catwoman's dialogue is all corny. There's pretty much not a thing in the entire game she says that doesn't sound stupid.
*It's a 3rd person game, but you have no control over the camera. Where the camera is in any given time is entirely up to the game’s design team. 10% of the time they're wrong with camera placement, and 80% of the time they're generally right but it's disorienting, and the other 10% of the time, you're walking in a straight line on level ground and it's too simple to futz up.
*The second most arbitrary part is the selective use of her claws. Catwoman generally can't climb up smooth metal, but when it comes to brick and other materials, how far she can climb up is entirely based on game designer decisions. Depending on how the level designer made the level, going up a given surface will cause Catwoman to climb a foot before stopping, climb 30 feet, and anything in between, with no rhyme or reason, and often no visual clue for why Catwoman stopped climbing. It's like she just gets tired of climbing and gives up. And then, she can only stay on most surfaces for a few seconds, before she starts sliding down, then falls on all fours onto the ground below. Chain-link fence, on the other hand, is a completely different story. If there's chain-link fence anywhere in a level, then if Catwoman can get to it, she can climb all over it in any direction. Heck, if the walls were entirely made of chain-link, most of the levels (which usually involve attempting to get from the ground floor to the top floor of a building) would be exceedingly simple. Also, the claws can only be used on perfectly sheer surfaces. If the surface is slanted even slightly off 90 degrees, chances are you can't climb it. And if there's even the smallest of ledges, even if that means a ledge sticking one inch out, Catwoman can't climb over it. Green Lantern may have a stupid weakness in that he's defeated by yellow things, but Catwoman has him beat in this game, where Catwoman's kryptonite is ledges.
*Falls are similarly arbitrary. Catwoman has greater resistance to falls, but fall damage seems to be determined on whether or not the fall was expected. If she's 100 feet up, jumps on a wall, and dismounts on all fours, there's no damage. If she simply jumps off or walks off too fast for the in-game fall-save program to kick in (get to close to an edge, and if there's time, she'll fall off, grab the edge, and climb back up), then she loses about 1/10th of her health, regardless of whether she fell 20 feet (around where unexpected falls cause damage) or 100 feet. Which is completely silly, because in the movie the creepy cat lady pushes her and she twists to fall on all fours, and there doesn't seem to be any reason for her not to always land on all fours from long enough drops, regardless of whether she's jumping or dropping down from a wall.
*The controller starts shaking when you enter first-person view and look at anything that's usable. But also this is also completely arbitrary (seeing a pattern here?), and for no discernable reason sometimes the camera will switch to negative-light, and might zoom in on one of the usable items, but not others.
*Music is repetitive, and sometimes doesn't fit the situation. For example, at one point in the factory, there was no one threatening me, but the music is an up-tempo battle track. Similarly, during most battles the music doesn’t change. Each level has different tracks, but plays the same tracks over and over again, which can get really annoying if you’re stuck on part of the level.
*Every level has scent-trails from Midnight, the cat messenger of Bast, which give you hints of where to go, but if you think about it, it doesn't make one bit of sense. Most of the scent trails are on sheer surfaces, platforms that can only be reached by swinging on poles, and parts of the level that are unreachable until you come along and move something. The thought of a super-cat climbing up concrete and brick, swinging on poles, and moving heavy objects makes it seem like the game should have been about Midnight instead of Catwoman, except for one thing: in every level, there's a cubbyhole where Midnight is trapped, which means that in every level, Midnight has gone through before you, but someone found her and put her in a cubbyhole. That would mean that Midnight has more strength and ability than people, but is worse at evading capture either Wonder Woman or the three girls from Totally Spies. Or that she just really likes playing Hide and Seek after she’s gone through the level just to scent-mark the path for you like an ant.
*Catwoman doesn't believe in pressing buttons, or using her hands for anything other than swinging on poles and punching people that are too close. Her sole way of interacting with the world besides kicking things is using her whip on objects, which seems to have more dexterity and strength than an elephant's nose, or an octopus tentacle. Whether it's flipping a switch, throwing something (like a wrench, light bulb, or gun) at someone, or destroying control panels, Catwoman would rather use her whip than ever press buttons with her dainty, pointy fingers.
*Most of the purchased moves are useless and make no sense. You get diamonds from completing scene objectives, like running courses in a set time, collecting cat eyes (huge floating antigravity jewelry, not actual cat eyes), finding Midnight, and things like that. But you're not really GETTING diamonds from anywhere, you're a loner so you're not selling anything either, and your buying innate abilities, not equipment. So it's like Catwoman is measuring how good she was in a level in diamonds, and rewarding herself in her head by suddenly being able to do things she couldn't do before, sometimes interesting things like grapple, sometimes useless things like Domination which makes everything go slower, even her (so what's the point?) and hurts her to use, or things that shouldn't even be abilities, like posing and taunting. The diamond acquiring and ability purchasing systems therefore go beyond arbitrary into the realm of complete nonsense.
*Falling and being hit hurts you, obviously, but the way get your health back is to find Midnight (and smell her), or completing objectives. Which, since those objectives are just in her mind, I suppose that means healing bullet wounds for Catwoman is a matter of how much she believes in and loves herself, and that all she needs to heal her invisible or internal wounds (there's never so much as a misplaced hair on her) is to kick a few people really hard, swing across poles without missing a beat, or punch a cowering enemy so that she feels better about herself and can take more abuse. Come to think of it, the sparkling pole on the left side of the screen isn't so much of a health meter as it is a diamond IALAC tag. The diamond and health systems don’t have much effect on the quality of the gameplay, but when you think of them, they add a layer of nonsense and lameness to the game not matched in many other video games.
*The sound is messed up in the ending cutscene, so the music is much, much louder than the dialogue. It’s just a nitpick, but it’s always a bummer when things don’t come together in the ending cutscene of all places.
The Bottom LineI went to FYE a few days after Christmas. They had Xbox games 75% off, and Catwoman's price was $8. Still, on the receipt I only paid $1 for the game, the least money I've ever spent on a game besides Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. After playing the game, I think it's repaid my money tenfold. So, my advice would be to get this game, but only if it's under $10. There are at least two dozen copies of the game currently on Amazon.com for under $10, and if any store still has the game, it's likely they'll sell it cheap. Look, you'd have to be delusional to say this game didn't have problems. But the game is still rather fun, and it's interesting to try to solve the puzzle of navigating the levels, and finding creative ways to fight the guards. Also, much of the game is ill-explained, but that just means that you have to learn a lot yourself and that you'll be much more capable by the final level than you were in the first and second. So, if you're looking for a fun game and find this game cheaply, I'd recommend you buy it.