It used to be that you'd have to wait awhile to see games based on the big summer movie releases. But these days, the simultaneous movie-video game release seems to be rapidly becoming the norm. Electronic Arts, which has done some great work recently with its games based on the Lord of the Rings movies, is now delivering a game based on the upcoming Halle Berry movie, Catwoman. Catwoman attempts to deliver some Prince of Persia-like acrobatics, but its sharp graphics are offset by bad control, weak voice work, and shoddy gameplay.
Halle Berry turns in a weak voice performance in Catwoman.
Catwoman puts you in the role of the former Patience Phillips. After a brief tutorial-like sequence that demonstrates Catwoman's moves, you're shown a brief cutscene that is meant to reveal the mystical origins behind Patience's transformation into Catwoman. This noninteractive sequence isn't really clear, but it's still probably the easiest part of the story to follow. From there, you're never really given much in the way of motivation. You're on a revenge mission to take down the people responsible for your death (and subsequent rebirth as the cat lady), though most of the cutscenes consist of enemies running through doors to stop you or Catwoman gyrating around a bit while making a horribly weak comment about her surroundings, like, "Working the night shift? So am I." The dialogue doesn't even qualify as campy. It's just dumb.
Playing Catwoman is a mixture of bad combat mechanics and a series of climbing and jumping puzzles. Catwoman can climb some walls, she can hang and swing from poles, and she has a whip that can be used to press buttons or grab onto distant poles for swinging purposes. She puts all of these moves to a lot of use, because most of the level layouts focus on Prince of Persia-like acrobatic puzzles. While this style of gameplay worked very well in Ubisoft's Prince of Persia, Catwoman's control isn't designed as well, resulting in a lot of frustrating moments where you know what to do but have to get the controls to cooperate.
Also adding to the frustration is an in-game camera that goes for stylish-looking shots instead of usable ones. This makes combat a hassle since you'll get attacked by characters you can't see very well. Furthermore, these camera issues occasionally make some of the levels--usually parts that you need to interact with somehow--harder to see than they should be. This, combined with the sometimes confusing level layout, means you'll be spending a lot of time in the game's first-person-look view, which lets you scan around a level in search of what to do next. The proper path through a level is marked by a scent trail that is only viewable in first-person mode.
The fighting in Catwoman is weak. Attacks are executed by tapping the right analog stick in any direction. If you're holding the crouch button, you'll kick. If you're standing, you'll whip or punch, depending on how close you are to your target. You earn points after each of the game's levels. These points turn into diamonds, and you use these diamonds to purchase new moves. Some of them, like a disarm move that lets you whip guns and nightsticks from your enemies' hands, are very necessary. However, most of them aren't really interesting or useful. Domination mode, for example, is yet another Matrix-style slow-motion effect. If the combat was challenging in any way, a slow-motion move might be useful. But here, it isn't.