Tattered, bloodied, putrid. Your house sucks you in as if by osmosis, leaving you weeping on the hall floor in a creeping puddle of gore and mud. Your wife, flesh flour, stares at you, arms folded, veins vaulting from her neck on invisible stalks. Your explanation of the reason you've been missing for four days, why you reek of petrol, why Dave's dead, why you've spent four thousand pounds on a man called Charlie and some ladies all going by the name of Jezebel, and why your interpretation of the phrase 'stag do' has to involve police chases and national news crews, is failing to wash. "It seemed like a good idea at the time," you whimper, snot bubbling from your broken nose. "It really did."
And so Catwoman comes to market. The gaming epitome of 'a good idea at the time'. Publisher EA is the wife. Developer Argonaut is the pathetic man facing life imprisonment. And the piece of code is the adaptation of the imminent Halle Berry movie of the same name. Catwoman is men in cheap trousers and white shirts drinking 20 pints of lager in a rubbish nightclub followed by swimming in an open-air sewer ditch in Reading. It's the perfect example of good times turned bewilderingly bad.
"40 shots of tequila and ECT, please barman."
Catwoman is a third-person action game. You are Catwoman. You wear the same costume as Berry in the movie. You start in a jeweller. From literally the very first second you know Catwoman is terrible. It stinks of licence by numbers. You kick a few men by holding the left trigger and wiggling the right stick, maintaining no real control over what's happening. Then you're outside. In an alleyway.
Suddenly Catwoman becomes Tomb Raider, but with far less flexibility, if you can believe that. The camera is amazingly bad. In some sections you really are unable to see the path down which you're to progress. There's practically no camera movement, and this is itself is ridiculous. Pipes you're supposed to climb up on with your whip are hidden behind other pipes. You're already staring slackjawed at the screen, your forehead crimping in disgust. Similar to Angel of Darkness, the first section sees you having to 'get to grips' with the controls by making you climb through an alleyway, upwards over dumpsters, up walls, jumping backwards and forwards against the sides of chimney-type alleys.
Which would be fine, if controlling Catwoman wasn't hilariously frustrating. It's like listening to Aphex Twin on acid: you feel as though you need saving. You leap from pipe to pipe, but success is practically random until you realise that each obstacle is achieved in an absolutely set way. Press the right buttons and you will jump from point one to point two. Don't and you won't. There is no compromise. There is no freedom. The camera being so static makes life even more difficult. In a later stage, you have to stand on a mesh to be able to whip a purple mullion to swing out along a wall. If you just stand on the ledge next to the mesh, even though it's closer to the latch point, you're not allowed to swing. It makes no sense.
Trigger? Only if the barrel's in your mouth.
The progression triggers in Catwoman are pathetic. The first one is to kick two cops into dumpsters so their lids will drop and you can scale them. If you don't do it fast enough, they jump in off their own accord. The whole concept of what's going on it completely bewildering. Everyone just runs around in circles while bullets from somewhere or other bounce off the walls. It's like the Keystone Cops. With a woman dressed as a cat in it.
The combat feels as though it has no weight, no impact. And the control method for fighting is catastrophic [theeere it is -Ed] You get on the right side of one of the men, kick him. He squeaks and jumps back. You kick him again. And again and again. Eventually he gets close enough to the dumpster and the next time you make contact, a cut-scene shows him flying in headfirst. It's not in keeping with what's happening in real-time. It's bizarre.
Wild Cat, Scaredy Cat, Alley Cat and Pussy Cat moves must all be completed, for some unexplained reason. You're not even told what these are. You can look in first-person, you're told after the first level. Using your cat vision in this way, you can follow the scent trail of your pet cat, Midnight, which shows up as a green, lingering, fartish gas. "Let's take the high road," says Halle when she climbs up walls. Thanks for that. In between levels you exchange diamonds you pick up for new moves, such as being able to disarm grunts with your whip. This doesn't help in any way. And it gets worse.
"Little Halle's 'going to sleep' now."
Catwoman becomes beyond sloppy. Ultra-sloppy, if you will. Like the Houston 500, right men? In one section, you're swinging along on poles, a wall collapses in front of you, then you suddenly find yourself held by a policeman with one policeman in front of you, twitching, not doing much. Presumably he's supposed to be beating you up. There's no transition into this, no explanation. Why does the wall collapse? When did you arrive in the arms of a malcontent law enforcer? It's depressingly confounding. It makes even less sense when you realise you've paid £40 to be completely baffled as to what exactly is going on in this game.
Soon after this, you're being locked onto by completely ineffective laser beams which are attached to guns (somewhere). You're looking around for the exit in first-person. You see a barrel highlighted. You go over to it and kick it. It explodes. Nothing happens. You run out of the exit while the laser beams run sluggishly around the screen. "Party's over," says Halle, presumably resisting the urge to drink a few litres of methadone. Her words are horribly apt.
We're not going to beat around the bush. Catwoman is tired, trite, vastly clichéd 'ideas' lumped together with the cheapest wallpaper paste. This may be because, according to America's media, the film itself is awful, but there's no way that tells the full story. The general gameplay implementation is shocking, blanched of all character and utterly devoid of merit. Hopefully by now you've realised that you must not buy this game. Do not. It's not even funny. We're not even going to crack the obligatory joke about consigning it to the litter tray. Catwoman is truly awful.
Will you support Eurogamer?