Watchmen: The End is Nigh
Publisher: Warner Home Games
Developer: Deadline Games
Genre: Beat ‘Em Up
Release Date 03/04/2009
I’m a big fan of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, although I don’t believe it’s the greatest comic book ever written. Still I was excited for the movie because of all the drama surrounding it, along with its long-standing reputation for being “un-filmable.”
Then it was announced that there would be a video game. A video game? Based on Watchmen? This is probably up there with Watchmen Babies in “V For Vacation” as one of his greatest nightmares come true. To be honest, as much as I wanted to hate the game, the concepts intrigued me. It would be a side story set before the Keene Act. It would be a solid beat ’em up button masher. It would be a two player co-op gaming staring Nite Owl and Rorschach. It seemed like it had potential where so many other super hero/licensed games have gone so horribly awry.
However, Warner decided to charge a whopping TWENTY dollars for a beat ’em up, which raised both a lot of eyebrows and ire. Even Braid, which a lot of gamers thought was overpriced when it was first announced had only been fifteen dollars. As well, the beat ’em up genre seemed to have fallen to the wayside like fighters and shoot ’em up’s in terms of popularity over the past two console generations.
So there were a lot of potential positive and landmines going into the official Watchmen video game. How did it fare?
To be completely honest, I found myself really liking the plot of The End is Nigh. Not only did it take a vague plot point mentioned in the comic series of Watchmen but it fleshed it our rather decently without contradicting or taking anything away from Moore’s classic novel. The fact that we are given all new motion comic artwork by Dave Gibbons to connect the six chapters of the game, really helps to make the game feel “legit.”
What I liked most about the plot is that it answered a huge question I had even as a little kid about a major plot hole with Watchmen: How the hell did Richard Nixon manage to escape the Watergate scandal in this alternative timeline, and what happened to Woodward and Bernstein? The End is Nigh answers these questions perfectly, adding to an odd reference Veidt makes in the comics about how The Comedian was guarding Nixon the day J.F.K. was shot. I was actually very impressed with how the story goes from the quelling of a simple prison riot into a vast conspiracy involving Underboss and even the United States Government.
The great thing is that this side story actually felt like it was WORTHY of the Watchmen name even if the rest of the game well, didn’t. I’d love to see this fleshed out a bit more and made into strictly a motion comic so as to save gamers time and money.
Story Rating: Great
Now that we’ve covered the one good thing about The End is Nigh, it’s time to look at everything that went wrong.
First of all, Watchmen is fundamentally ugly. Although Nite Owl and Rorschach look decent, the rest of the game really looks like a last gen title (at best) with high-definition graphics. The many mask wearing commandos, prisoners, topknots and even Underboss himself look staggeringly bad and almost comically so. Characters movements are jerky and are rarely even close to lifelike. The only time things look realistic in terms of body movements and flexibility, are when your characters do finishing moves.
Backgrounds are the best part of the visuals, but even then, they’re below the quality of other downloadable games from the PS Store. Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix looks better. Siren: Blood Curse looks better. The backgrounds do at least vary by chapter, but within that chapter, get ready to see the same poorly rendered visuals time and time again, leading the occasional sense of déjÃƒÂ vu and some bewilderment as to whether or not you’re going in circles.
This was very disappointing for a high-def download, especially with a twenty dollar price tag from a major publisher.
Graphics Rating: Poor
Okay, there is a particular song you will here in the game that sounds like a sped up version of the 1960’s “Batman” theme song. I didn’t realize until I heard myself going “Na na na na na na na. BATMAN.” In time with the music. I’m not sure if it’s a clever piece of satire or just a sad whoops by the composer.
The voice acting in the game isn’t bad (save for Underboss) as it uses the actors from the film to voice their respective characters. However, you will hear a lot of the same dialogue from your partner over and over again. This gets annoying quickly, and it’s a three hour game. Even worse, the voice actors portraying the legion of villains you beat up are awful, and the script they were given to work hinders things further. The game drops words like “shit” or phrases like, “Fuck you motherfuck” along with a lot of homophobic slurs just to get the game that M rating, where without it, this could easily be an E+10 rating. Because the lines are a combination of poor delivery and profanity just for the sake of profanity, the game turns into somewhat of a comical farce.
Oddly enough this is the one area that falls flat, if only for the absurdity of what was thrown together here. I’m glad they used the real voice actors from the film, but everything else feels like it was thrown together just to make a buck. Oh wait. Licensed game.
Sound Rating: Mediocre
4. Control and Gameplay
It should be near impossible to make a beat ’em up either boring or with gameplay that makes you go, “What the fuck?” I suppose the fact that Watchmen manages to somehow accomplish this is just making Alan Moore grin like a Cheshire Cat while rocking back and forth with glee.
Let’s start with the obvious: Watchmen, although only three hours long, can be beaten in an hour and even for those of you who aren’t familiar with this genre, can beat it in under five if you explore every nook and cranny of the levels. I realize that a lot of gamers these days don’t like button mashers, but considering I adored Onechanbara: Bikinin Zombie Slayers and my favorite video game of all time, Guardian Heroes is a beat ’em up, it should be obviously to all long-time readers of the site that I love this genre. Yet I’m also in the camp of, “Man when is this game going to end.” I’ve sat through RPG’s that progressed faster than this, or at least felt like it. In fact I was also playing Phantasy Star Portable (look for that review soon!) while playing this and PSP (Which is on the PSP. Cute.) is basically a beat ’em up button masher as well and felt faster and less of a chore, even in single player mode.
Part of the problem is that the levels are too big and are very repetitive, there aren’t a lot of villains to fight, there is only one boss in the game, and everything save for that boss fights exactly the same. Honestly, you can beat the entire game, just do counter attacks. It’s crazy. It’s also exceptionally monotonous.
Then there is the wacky control issues. By the end of the game, each button on your joystick should do SOMETHING as you’ll be unlocking moves as you progress through the adventure. However 95% of the time you will only need to use two buttons: R1 and Square. Using this combination creates an unblockable counter attack that does major damage to your enemies. Just hammer this repeatedly when in a group battle and you will take out all of the bad guys and it will even trigger finishing moves on occasion, for those of you looking to get some trophies. It’s amazing how unbalanced and unpolished The End is Nigh is.
You can also do chain moves combos and a few other character specific attacks, but really, there’s no point as the counter attack ALWAYS works and is exceptionally easy to pull off.
There’re a lot of other issues with the game. You have a hard time walking, only running. The only time you walk is if an object is on the floor by your feet and that slows you down.If you try to slow down or come to a stop, your character will skid as if on ice. It gets even weirder when you are button mashing as sometimes the game will take control of your character and run around attacking people other than who you are targeting, and often will run quite far to attack someone, even when you are standing next to a gang of thugs well within punching or kicking range.
When you throw an opponent (using the circle button) you very rarely actually throw in the direction you press. You end up throwing at a completely different angle and sometimes the character will be thrown out the game, never to be seen again. Okay then.
There are a lot of glitches in the game. The most annoying comes when you and your partner have to press down a level at the same time only to find your partner in unable to walk through the door. Instead he will walk against the wall NEXT to the door, trying to phase himself through. There are also times where your partner will just up and vanish only to find him stuck behind a crate, trash can, or some other inexplicable object leaving you to wonder who the hell playtested this thing.
Thankfully, Watchmen is playable, even with the bugs, glitches, awful gameplay, extremely long (for this genre) levels, and a complete lack of any A.I. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to want to. If you do choose to plunk down the twenty dollars for this title, you can at least take heart in knowing that Rorschach and Nite Owl play somewhat differently from each other with somewhat different moves and slightly different paths they can take as you go through the level. Oddly enough, Nite Owl is the one with the grappling hook gun, even though in the comic it’s Rorschach’s “unique” use of that weapon that gets him into a bit of trouble with the NYPD.
Is Watchmen a BAD game in terms of gameplay, controls, and numerous glitches? Yes, yes it is. But again, if you hunker down, you can play it and beat it pretty easily. It’s just not very fun at all.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad
Honestly, the fact that there is a two player co-op mode helps this game dramatically. Instead of being stuck with an awful computer controlled partner, you can have some fun with a friend all while mocking the game and making up your own witty super hero banter. “Oh Rorschach, you rascal. Did you puncture another man’s kidney with a broken bottle. What a maroon!”
You also get slightly different gameplay by play as Nite Owl or Rorschach and you can earn trophies as well, so it’s not a total loss. It may be a very weak and shallow game, but there is no denying there’s replay value if you can get past the flaws.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
For the first five chapters of the game, The End is Nigh manages to mix tedium, incredibly stupid AI and the ability to make a beat ’em up somehow boring into one game. As mentioned above, you can beat the entire game with a single move, until you get to Underboss that is. Every computer controlled character plays the same, reacts the same and can be countered in the same manner. How utterly lame is that?
Then there is Underboss, the only boss character in the game and Jesus, that entire fight is the length of two levels. It’s not hard at all – it’s just that you do so little damage and his health bar goes across the screen. All you do is block his attacks, hit two or three of your own, repeat until he jumps out of range and then you have to throw a thug at him to get him to attack you again. Repeat for twenty minutes and the game is over.
There is no degree of challenge to The End is Nigh. Not only is it one of the easiest games I have ever played, but your life bar is constantly regenerating. There is no way you can die in this game unless you are the world’s worst gamer.
Because the game is so easy, and the levels are so boring, Watchmen drags on far FAR longer than the actual three hours it takes to play. Honestly it felt like I had spent six or seven hours punishing myself with playing this, that’s how badly time crawled for me.
Balance Rating: Worthless
I’m actually kind of shocked we have a Watchmen video game – even moreso than the fact the movie was made, released and highly enjoyable. It’s great to be able to play as Rorschach and Nite Owl, especially as these are character millions of comic book fans have wanted to see again, even though they knew in the hearts it could never be. The End is Nigh boasts a great story that tries to stay in line with Moore’s mini-series. It just is too bad that the story is attached to a poorly made, generic, and sub-par beat ’em up.
I know Warner has said there may be more Watchmen games down the road, and to be honest, as long as they are set in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I’d be happy to play through those, but only if Deadline Games goes back to the drawing board learns from the plethora mistakes in The End is Nigh.
Originality Rating: Poor
It says something about my eternal optimism that I played through the entire Nite Owl adventure without stopping save for water and bathroom breaks. I kept waiting for it to get better, or for enemies to have different attack patterns, or for the game to progress at a faster pace or well, something, ANYTHING to get better.
It didn’t happen.
With two players, The End Is Nigh has a better feel to it, as long as the two of you stay close to one another, but it’s just a slow moving and dull game, that it’s going to be hard for anyone to want to finish it with either character, much less both.
Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre
9. Appeal Factor
Watchmen is almost universally considered the greatest graphic novel of all time, so it’s no surprise that a lot of its fans are both aghast and morbidly curious at the existence of The End Is Nigh. The game will manage to do about as well as a licensed game can simply because of the Watchmen branding coupled with the ability to cripple people as Rorschach. The vast majority of these people who pick up the game knowing its a simple beat ’em up will still manage to be pretty disappointed and/or bored simply due to how poorly designed the game is, but still others will love the game simply because of the characters you can play as.
The End is Nigh is basically digital fan fiction. However because the game is so poor, it’s akin to paper cutting yourself with each flip of the page.
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
At twenty dollars, Watchmen: The End is Nigh costs double what any sane or rational human being should pay for a poorly rendered and buggy game with severe A.I. issues. It’s a boring trite little game and I’m usually a staunch defender of beat ’em up’s. The End is Nigh is a perfect example of a game that was rushed through development just to make some cash of the ignorant, the naive, and the fandom. This game is a far bigger insult to Alan Moore’s epic work than the movie ever could be. Personally, I’d love to make Moore and Gibbons play through this just to hear their commentary.
Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: POOR GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Watchmen: The End is Nigh is, at best, an overpriced sub-par beat ’em up that offers a lot of boredom and annoyance, but little reward save playing as two of your favorite characters from the mind of Alan Moore. At worst, the game is a buggy, ugly, unbalanced waste of twenty dollars that serves at a reminder that it is exceedingly rare for a licensed game to be a GOOD game. Only the most ardent and obsessed Watchman fan should bother with this game, and even then, you’ll probably walk away disappointed and annoyed. If the end is nigh for anything, it’s the potential for a series of Watchmen games after this misfire.