2004’s Catwoman belongs in the litter box

Rowr, Fsss! Fsss!

Movie-licensed games have long been given a bad rap, but to be fair to them, that’s only because they’re usually bad. This goes back to the ‘80s, with some of the earliest video games to hit the market. I don’t have an explanation for why these titles are often bad. The fact that they have to be rushed to meet the same release date as the movie certainly does no favors. However, my theory is that, when a game already has advertising that comes from a larger industry, why even bother trying to make it good? It’s going to sell on recognition alone.

With that in mind, here we have 2004’s Catwoman, based on the film starring Halle Berry. It has the distinction of being based off what is considered by some to be one of the worst big-budget films of all time. It would be really ironic if this game turned out to actually be good!

It’s not.

Catwoman Metro's finest
Screenshot by Destructoid

The city’s finest

I’ve never seen Catwoman, and I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t really want to. I prefer the Catwoman that was pushed out a window by Christopher Walken in the holiday classic Batman Returns. The movie apparently focuses on a woman named Patience Phillips who’s killed by her boss in a different way. However, a cat revives her, and that makes her a cat woman for some reason. Neat how that works. When someone is resuscitated by mouth-to-mouth, does that turn them into The Human Kiss?

Catwoman actually starts with the titular zombie breaking into a jewelry store. Except there are already people there. So after a non-lethal takedown of the thugs, the police roll up, give Catwoman five seconds to surrender, then just light the place up with a torrent of gunfire. To be fair to the police, there were gunshots before they arrived. However, I’m not sure how they’re going to explain that to the owner of the jewelry store. “We had reason to believe there was a woman armed with a whip inside?”

The entire opening sequence is riotously funny. Catwoman then escapes the store and is confronted by two police officers who have apparently wasted all their ammo and are going to take Halle Berry on bare-fisted.

Upon (non-lethally) dispatching the officers, a helicopter rolls up, puts the spotlight on Catwoman’s leather pants, and starts dropping a hail of bullets on her. However, none of these bullets can hit you. You can stand in one place, and the environment around you will be absolutely torn to shreds, but not one bullet will pierce your feline flesh.

Catwoman - What now?
Screenshot by Destructoid

Who are we? The Wild Cats!

Catwoman itself is terrible, only worth playing for these moments of awkward hilarity. The controls are uncomfortable and atrocious. You use the L button to get on all-fours like a cat, and the R button to jump, then the rest of the buttons don’t do much of anything. The worst part of using L and R for basically everything is that the Xbox and Gamecube controllers have analog triggers. More uncomfortably, the Gamecube’s controller makes a loud “pling!” every time you push them down all the way, so you’re playing with resistant buttons that scream at you. The A button is used for an unlockable “pose” move, where you get guards horny so you can get the “pussycat” score multiplier.

I’ve sworn to myself I was going to avoid using “pussy” as a euphemism in this article. It is taking every scrap of my willpower to abide by that.

You whip and attack with the C-stick or equivalent right analog stick, which is fine in theory, but Catwoman mostly ignores your commands anyway, so it adds no additional precision. Many of its controls are completely against intuition. If you want to swing on a pole, you have to hold L, but if you’re hanging from one using your whip, you press back and forth. It’s like two people were designing the controls, they were located in different countries, they didn’t speak the same language, and they hated each other.

Not that better controls would simplify things. The camera is vocally disinterested in what’s going on. It won’t show you important details like what’s in front of you, with the game helpfully telling you to switch into first-person view to look around the environment. It takes its time to show you what’s going on. Once, I jumped through a window, and when the camera finally decided to pan down to where I had landed, a guard had me in his arms, and another was taking shots at me.

Catwoman fantastic polish
Screenshot by Destructoid

Impenetrable layer of suck

This isn’t to say Catwoman is difficult beyond its impenetrable layer of suck. It’s actually extraordinarily unwilling to let you die. You know the whole “just kill me already,” countered by “I want to watch you suffer?” That’s the vibe going on in Catwoman. You can fall 20 stories, and you won’t die. No, it’s much worse. You have to then climb back up through its irrationally crappy platforming sections.

The only mercy it really has is sometimes, very occasionally, it will open up a shortcut, so you can get back up faster. However, this has the implication that the developers expected that you’d fall, so all those times they chose not to help you back up was just maliciousness. Checkpoints would have been better, but while Catwoman has these, I never saw them in platforming sections where they would have mattered.

So, I climbed up again and again, as a cat with nine lives that it couldn’t lose fast enough.

Escape to the trash compactor
Screenshot by Destructoid

The bottom of the platforming sections

The effort to tell the story is token, at best. Like I said, I never watched the movie, so I don’t know how faithful it is to the movie’s plot. However, after the jewelry store heist, Halle Berry then chases around a cat for some strange reason. A lot of important narrative context is completely glossed over, resulting in storytelling that is just as messy as the game itself. I guess that at least makes it consistent.

The combat is simply misguided. You can either beat up guards until they cower in fear from your relentless slapping or kick them into dumpsters and other containers. At one point, early in the game, I opened up one of these containers and a guard just jumped in under his own power. I’m not sure if I beat him up enough prior to opening the trapdoor where he just decided that fleeing into a trash compactor would be better than facing Halle Berry’s tight pants, but it was extremely funny to watch. Of course, while the implication is that Catwoman doesn’t kill or even subdue her targets, I took every opportunity I had to knock enemies off ledges to the bottom of platforming sections. See how they like it.

To no one’s surprise, Catwoman is awful. It’s an archetypal licensed movie-game rushed out to take advantage of branding. Some of the developers moved on to bigger and better things, but you can tell their hearts weren’t in it for this one. Well, except for whoever was responsible for the puddles. They did a phenomenal job.

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Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.