As far as episodic content goes we’ve seen some pretty good examples of how well the Xbox Live Arcade can churn out some half decent titles with the likes of Wallace and Gromit and Tales of Monkey Island leading the way for the classic revival of point and click.
But how exactly, can what I can only describe as a cheap 3D brawler work as episodic content? Rewind back nearly six months and our own Sam Finch said: “On the face of it, The End Is Nigh is just a brawler, and it pulls it off pretty well, but for the recently increased Watchmen fan base, it will offer further content and back-story in which to indulge themselves and further understand the mystery, the magic and the murder that is Watchmen.”
What Sam failed to take into account at the time was the hideous price of 1600 MS Points (£13.60 in old money); fortunately this episode had dropped in price to 1200 MS Points (£10.20), a little lighter on the wallet but still over-priced all the same.
If you are new to the series, the game follows crime fighters Nite Owl and Rorschach as they try and eliminate the seedy underworld and ironically the first level takes place in the obligatory strip joint. There are no attempts to vary the level design through this ridiculously short, three chapter game and ‘repetition’ is one word that’ll crop straight up.
Attacking enemies look the same with dodgy 70s perms (the era the game takes place in) and you’ll be bashing buttons to try and perform combos, which sometimes feel less than convincing as you lose count of taking down the latest pervert.
The emphasis on whores and strippers makes the game somewhat tacky and distasteful, especially when it comes to kicking heads in of said prostitutes. We love how Grand Theft Auto sexualizes women, but in Watchmen it just feels awkward and cheap. The story doesn’t particularly progress from episode one and with a handful of comic-strip cut scenes to litter the levels it does nothing to enhance the game.
Visually Watchmen is fairly impressive for a download title. It feels like the XBLA has progressed from its early days of 2D re-hashes to where we stand today with a full albeit short 3D title. Sadly that isn’t testament to the rest of the game where the movement is sluggish, slow and terribly implemented and the slow-down and AI truly awful. This feels like a crap N64 title, especially when you consider both episodes were released on disc and therefore deserve far better technology implementation on its back-end.
The camera is jerky, the LB button which attempts to help find the way through the levels, doesn’t actually seem to help at all; no matter how many times the message pops up, a quick press of the button appears to do nothing. Now that is bad. The only saving grace is the lock-picking in the game, which for those of you who likes to think and crack puzzles; is actually the best of any system previously seen before. But that does nothing for something which adds nothing to the game other than frustration if you hate solving puzzles.
Despite the game being only three chapters long with off-line co-op, the whole package is quite simply awful, boring and dull, and with it being overshadowed and rightly so by Batman: Arkham Asylum and the slew of fantastic arcade titles we had over the Summer, anyone spending Microsoft Points on this dross is asking for a head examination. Steer clear, because this is the dark side of episodic content and let us hope we don’t see any more like this in the future.