Every little boy dreamed of becoming a super hero. Whether it be Superman, Spiderman, Batman or heck, even The Thing, it was simply something that every kid dreamed of. But what about Rorschach, one of the vigilantes of The Watchmen series of graphic novels published by DC in the mid-80's, or The Comedian; the violent tempered hero from the same series? Why doesn't any kid dream of being one of these fictional beings? Is it because they are too believable to be fantasized about, or just not recognized in modern times due to their more popular counter parts? What ever the reason, there's no denying that the characters of The Watchmen are some of the most revolutionary characters ever created. The series was turned into a highly successful feature film released in May 2009, and since then the previously relatively unknown comic series has become a household name, with a TV series and a spin-off feature already under its belt. To coincide with its success, Warner Bros. Published a game developed by Deadline Games based around the comics crime filled world. This game was split into two parts available to download via Xbox Live, but also released onto a retail disc. But does this game meet the series high expectations due to its recent success, or does it fail to do the series any justice? Read on to find out...
Watchmen: The End Is Nigh put the player in the position of either Night Owl II or Rorschach, as sets them off on a violent adventure of Steel Fisted justice. The player can choose his or her character at the start of every play, and each chapter is completed by the two crime fighters fighting hordes of murderous villains side by side. Both characters have a very personalized play and fighting style, and will occasionally be required to split up in order to complete the games few puzzles. Rorschach is sort of a 'street-fighter' and fights using any and all of his available resources to win a battle by any means necessary, while Night Owl fights more like a trained fighter, and battles his opponents with more of a Martial Arts feel to his attacks. Also, each character has their own set of finishing moves, which are represented and executed very differently depending on your choice of character. Night Owl disables his opponents in an almost respectful manner, which appears as though he is trying to cause as little damage possible while just trying to make sure his enemies don't get up. But Rorschach on the other hand lacks this self control, and his finishing moves utterly destroy his opponents and leave them beaten and bloody like nothing else could. These finishing moves are very cinematic and whenever one is executed, you get a fancy camera angled view of the ongoing action.
Each of the games 'parts' feature their own story, and although set just after one another and the fact the game has the same name, have nothing to do with each other apart from featuring the same characters. They are pretty much two separate 'cases' for these crime fighters to solve. The first see's Rorschach and Night Owl attempting to track down a recently escaped prisoner going by the name of 'Underboss', as he runs through the decaying city of New York leaving a trail of chaos behind him. The second part has a more mature themed story line that see's the crime fighting due embark on a mission to find Violet, a young girl supposedly kidnapped by a psychopathic criminal fond or making pornographic movies and running high profile brothels.
Through out the first part of the game, players can find and collect many orbs that unlock their respectful character a new move or combo, all of which must be used effectively if you hope to survive some of the games larger scale brawls, which can consist of as many as 10-15 weapon wielding psychopaths. At any time, you can pause the game and check the button combinations for these moves as well as a small description of the move and how it works. Also available to collect are 'cards' or 'batteries', which increase Rorschach and Night Owls' special bars respectfully, there are a total of ten to collect in each part. Rorschach's special meter is the amount of 'Rage' he has, which when built up can be released, sending him into a frenzy, greatly increasing his health and damage for a short amount of time. Night Owls answer to Rorschach's rage is the charge of his special suit, which when built up can be used to release a stunning electric shock to all surrounding enemies. Despite having to collect these orbs to unlock the games the combo's in part one, part two instantly gives you all combo's when you start, and only leaves you with the task of collecting the special meter upgrades, which at times, are very difficult to find.
Being an arcade game originally, Watchmen isn't really that complex. It controls just like most other arcade style beat-em-ups, consisting of a heavy attack, a light attack, a grab attack, a block/dodge and an action button. Although this means that the game is very easy to pick up and play, it can sometimes get very repetitive and old. Fighting hordes and hordes of enemies that only change character model every level can get very annoying. But even with only a few attack buttons, you will find yourself trying relentlessly to master the combos you come across in order to get your personalized type of justice across in the most stylish manner possible, which can be quite fun.
Something which the game lacks is the ability of any sort of online multiplayer gameplay. It could have very well included a co-operative gametype for over Xbox LIVE, or even a deathmatch style gametype which pits teams of players against each other. Although there is no online gameplay, you can still play through the entire campaigns in a split screen mode where each player can play as one of the powerful vigilantes, which proves rather enjoyable as when playing Single Player, the games AI is very poor are rarely lends a hand in some fights. This poor AI is the same for the enemy combatants no matter what mode your playing in. They seem to simply rush your character yelling abusive remarks without showing any rational thought or tactics.
The End Is Nigh delivers its aged gameplay with very great graphical features. The game looks absolutely amazing, and will leave players in awe with its exquisite rain detail and shadowing textures, but these great feats will still fail to cover up the over used backgrounds and buildings, which players will notice very quickly as the progress through the story mode. Nearly every building and its neighbor looks exactly like the ones that were just down the road a little. At some points, you will even think you are going in circles due to the extremely similar settings, which give tendencies to leave players a little dissatisfied with their playing experience.
But enough of the bad, as this game really does stand shoulder to shoulder with some of todays blockbusters in terms of graphics. Spot lights shine down from police helicopters lighting the ground and creating very realistic lighting effects from the rain gathered on the ground, while projecting your players shadow in stunning detail on the floor and walls alike all around you. Character models look very real and even the slightest animation moves with great precision, as with each and every attack. And to keep true to the games setting, which we cant forget is one of the best graphic novels of all time, the games cutscenes are done in a very comic like way, and look like drawings taken straight from the pages of the DC comic and given a very slight but greatly effective animation.
Every time Rorschach opens his masked mouth, a shiver will go down your spin as you hear his fearless voice speak its viciously truthful remarks. The games dialogue can sometime seem very cliched and Night Owl's script is so dully written that it often annoys the player to a certain extreme, but it is executed very well by the voice actors, who are the same actors from the hit movie reprising their roles flawlessly. And with very limited dialogue from the enemies, the same cries of ridicule that they shout over and over during fights will also get on your nerves. Within a standard fight, your likely to hear the same thing a few times over before finally wiping the smirk of the scrums face that is saying it. Speech and script aside, there is a very dynamic world in Watchmen: The End Is Nigh, and along with the sounds of fire burning fiercely and rain dropping, there are quite a few good quality back ground sounds, like the rubble falling to the ground after an explosion in a nearby building.
This game is half the price of your average retail game, being an average of only $50, but which is around about the same as what you would pay if you downloaded both titles separately. Part 1 is on the marketplace for a great 1600 Microsoft Points, and Part 2 is scheduled to be released at 1200 Microsoft Points. This title will give players around 2 single player playthroughs max before they get sick of the repetitive gameplay, but the game would still fare as a fun time-passing co-op experience, and with each playthrough lasting around 4-5 hours, your getting quite a bit of time from it. But with no online multiplayer, its not really worth paying so much when you can acquire great multiplayer games on the marketplace for the same price, if not less. It really comes down to if you care that your not getting any online gameplay. If not, then you cant go wrong for the 50 dollar price tag.
Watchmen: The End Is Nigh is a must have for any Watchmen fan or hardcore beat-em-up fan's. Many gamers will get sick of the repetitive gameplay and scenery, but if your one of the previously mentioned fans, then you will easily be able to overlook this and love the games story and concept. The game does have its flaws, but for an arcade title, it is still pretty solid and a good buy. There is still potential in the series for an even better game, but until then, The End Is Nigh will keep fans satisfied. The Watchmen series doesn't die with this video game, it gives fans what they wanted.
AAG Score: 7/10
1. Great Voice Acting
2. Stunning Graphics
3. Fighting Is Very Enjoyable
4. Good Price
1. Terrible AI
2. Grows Repetitive
3. No Online Play
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott