Andrew Bryant dons a cape, goggles and tights and heads for a night on the town with a homocidal maniac… Clubbing it is then!!!
Game Title: Watchmen: The End is Nigh
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Deadline Games
Format Reviewed: PC (Steam)
Also Available on: XBLA, PSN
Price: £14.99/1600 MS Points
Amazing, clever, bold, striking, fascinating, stunning, different, adventurous, barefaced, definitive, gritty, dark, outstanding, remarkable, genre-defining… even life-changing!
All of these have been used to describe the original graphic novel, Watchmen, making it probably one of the biggest and best graphic novels ever committed to paper.
This game, based as it is on the movie adaption, cannot even lay claim to a single one… If anything, it truly is a game of the movie, whose adaption follows the original source so strictly it has been likened to a carbon-copy. By comparison, W:TEiN is a carbon-copy of the side-scrolling beat-em-ups of the late 80’s/early 90’s, a comparison drawn largely in that the sole focus of the game is marching A-to-B thumping faceless identikit bad guys.
Don’t get me wrong, the game isn’t awful – the combat system is incredibly robust with procedural animation making most fights fluid and meaty, with Rorschach carrying some particularly nasty and brutal combat animations, especially when ‘enraged’. Combos are unlocked by collecting tokens placed around the levels and are activated by timing button presses with your characters fists connecting with fleshy skulls, although on-screen prompts help those who are particularly ham-fisted and it means there’s little stepping in and out of the menus to check on moves.
The plot, penned by the original editor of the series (as if anyone expected Moore to get involved) is set in the 70’s and covers a chunk of back-story alluded to in the original novel and the levels are interspersed with animated cut scenes that faithfully capture the feel of Dave Gibbon’s original art, which, coupled with the fantastic graphics on show here (especially for a Live Arcade release) slot the game nicely into line with the awesome looking movie, but it all falls apart fairly quickly as the boredom starts to set in.
There’s something wrong with a game when the core focus of it – the fighting – just doesn’t grab you. Playing as Rorschach is entertaining enough up front because of the aforementioned brutality and strength of his fighting style, but Night Owls reliance on his special moves and technology, coupled with the weakness of his general moves (meaning the AI Rorschach often cleans up fights because you’re still working on the two or three it left for you at the start) makes playing him a chore before the end of even the first chapter.
Wanting to press the story on, you persevere (probably as Rorschach), but around each corner lays another bunch of leader-less crones who just want to collapse your skull (for good reason – you’re the vigilante who probably put them in prison at least twice after all). It all gets a bit relentless and just when you think the action is going to be broken up by even something simple like splitting from your companion to open a door for them, it’s all over in 2 seconds as the switch is hiding in plain sight.
In a nutshell, as fun as the combat is at first and as stunningly good looking as the game is, this really isn’t what Watchmen deserves –as a license, a tribute or even a movie tie-in.
The novel served as a deconstruction of comics and the superhero genre itself by drinking liberally from their respective fonts and serving up something unique and very different, shaking up & revitalising the entire industry in the process – All W:TEiN serves up is further proof that despite some great talent out there, the industry is running blinkered, continuing to scrape the barrel, serving up good looking but ultimately incredibly average efforts that haven’t taken heed any development in the industry since 1994.