Watchmen: The End is Nigh
A treasure constantly blurring the lines between "graphic" and "novel", Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' 1986 mini-series forever revolutionised the way that comic book stories were told.
- Beautiful graphics, fantastic fighting engine, wonderful local co-op
- Recycled enemies and threats, some cheesy voice acting, no online multiplayer
Sceptical from the start, I found myself addicted and engaged within minutes of booting up The End is Nigh. With a stellar fighting engine and some of the best co-op play this side of Streets of Rage, Watchmen proves itself a fantastic experience for crimefighters both old and new.
A treasure constantly blurring the lines between "graphic" and "novel", Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' 1986 mini-series forever revolutionised the way that comic book stories were told. After heralding Watchmen as a literary masterpiece and landmark for the comic book industry, it's a bit of a culture shock to be handed a video game based off of the seminal story. Thankfully, independent developer Deadline Games of Total Overdose fame pulled off Watchmen's conversion to third-person brawler with surprising finesse, managing to capture the essence of the renowned comic into a short but sweet, must-have title for even the most hardened and stubborn Watchmen fans, all the while leaving it entirely accessible to newcomers that don't know Dr. Manhattan from Dr. Seuss.
Partners in CrimeBusting
The End is Nigh takes place in 1972, over a decade before the events in the graphic novel and five long years before masked vigilantes are forced to retire their capes and cowls. The dynamic duo of Nite Owl and Rorschach are mulling over a recent political scandal involving the infamous Watergate hotel when a police bulletin announces a prison riot at Sing Sing Prison. Within minutes, the masked heroes are on the Owlship and en route to break up the commotion. Upon discovery that Underboss, a villain mentioned only in passing in the comics has escaped from Sing Sing, it's up to Nite Owl and Rorschach to explore the seedy underbelly of New York City in order to take the criminal mastermind down for good.
Watchmen is designed as a third person brawler, allowing you to play as either Nite Owl or Rorschach at any given time — each character with their own unique abilities, moves and special attacks. Where Nite Owl takes down goons with a combination of martial arts prowess and innovative gadgets, Rorschach has no problem fighting dirty and cracking thugs' skulls in with whatever weapon he can find lying around. It's these distinctions between the selectable heroes that really makes The End is Nigh a memorable experience. For instance, where Rorschach has a "Rage" meter that allows the fedora-clad vigilante to release his pent-up anger with the push of a button, Nite Owl has a "Charge" meter that lowers with each gadget he uses, ranging from smoke-bombs to electrifying his suit and shocking the surrounding foes. Combat isn't the only thing affected by your character choice: where Rorschach can shimmy up drainage pipes and squeeze through small openings, Nite Owl can grapple onto roof-tops and lift heavy gates. Watchmen has a real emphasis on teamwork, and with either the game's expert AI, or more ideally, a good friend by your side for the split-screen co-op, you'll never be forced to fight alone.
Five to Midnight
The game's fighting engine is a blast, with each attack and movement serving a distinct purpose. After playing through the game as both Nite Owl and Rorschach, I never once felt the game fall into button mashing territory. I had to constantly think on my feet - use Rorschach's speed to my advantage on larger enemies and Nite Owl's bone-crunching counter-attacks when overwhelmed. And trust me: with up to twenty foes onscreen at one time, you're bound to find yourself against some uneven odds. Watchmen looks absolutely gorgeous through and through from the rain-drops soaking into Rorschach's trench-coat to the incredibly detailed light bouncing from fluorescent signs to New York's rugged pavement. The animations couldn't be any smoother and are expertly displayed both in and out of combat - especially during the heroes' sinew-snapping finishers. While the game suffers from a bit of slowdown when too many thugs clutter the screen, it never feels overwhelming, nor does it detract from the overall experience.
The script for The End is Nigh was penned by none other than DC's own Len Wein, an editor that worked alongside Moore and Gibbons on the original comic. Wein's experience with the characters is extremely prevalent throughout the title, from Nite Owl's liberal kindheartedness to Rorschach's black-and-white objectivist views constantly on display in both the game's minimally animated comic book cut-scenes, not to mention some brilliantly written back-and-forths between our protagonists in-game. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten the banter is broken up by recycled threats from oncoming foes, laced with f-bombs and other stock threats. I remember being truly engaged when, after fending off a gang of Topknots, Nite Owl and Rorschach began an intriguing argument about the loss of innocence in our society's youth. Shortly thereafter, a foul-mouthed ruffian with a voice eerily similar to the rioters in the first chapter threatens to do something rather unpleasant to me with Nite Owl's goggles. Hurm.
Just What Manhattan Ordered
So, is Watchmen worth your hard-earned cash? I'm going to have to give a resounding "yes" to this expertly crafted beat-em-up. Even with its' shortcomings Watchmen always feels fresh, and really stands apart as a downloadable title. With plenty of collectibles for completionists such as myself scattered across every chapter met with simple pick up and play brawling for gamers both old and new, there's something to be found in Watchmen for just about everyone.
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