Blazing inky trails of onomatapoeic exclamations and comic-book capers, the iconic graphic novel, Watchmen, was met with critical acclaim and was quickly garnered a cult status among comic-store customers and highbrow critics alike. Having been converted into a hotly anticipated motion picture, it is now time for the flawed heroes to take a sweeping leap onto the versatile, interactive stage of gaming.
Watchmen: The End Is Nigh opens with a menu screen littered with stylings and icons from the graphic novel, from here you can select one of the two available characters to play as – the manic Rorschach or the heroic Nite Owl. Slipping quickly into the game, selecting to play as Rorschach purely for the guy’s costume, I was introduced to the character and their story through the comic-style cut scenes, to be then thrown kicking and screaming straight into combat. From the forceful introduction of what would emerge as the primary focus of the game, It was clear that this was going to be a no nonsense approach to the much attempted, rarely perfected genre – the Brawler.
The graphics are, for an arcade release, very good. When I first played the game, I was under the impression that I was engaging in some form of interactive cutscene, but the clear, crisp graphics went on and on. Comparable to Grand Theft Auto in aesthetics, the game is certainly not the best out there, espescially when thrust into competition with the likes of Gears of War 2 and the latest Call Of Duty outings. It is, nonetheless, a very pretty game to look at, and in some places had me as immersed in the vivid imagery as some of the retail games lining storefront shelves today. The colours central to the Watchmen graphic novel, namely yellows and blacks, reign supreme throughout the game and this consistent theme only highlights the appealing textures of some of the environments.
The level design, however, can not be tarred with the same, yellow-dipped brush strokes of greatness. Following a generic, linear style, the predictable alleys and monotonous corridors are broken only by swift and equally clichéd quicktime events involving simple climbing/door-opening puzzles. With the same 3 enemy types packing the very dull levels, the grimy backstreets of Average City mould in with the infamous ruins of a burning prison without the player even noticing.
It seems that the makeup of the game mirrors that of the game’s characters – good at heart but with some very obvious flaws. Having covered the monotonous level design, I will swing the grappling hook of judgement back over to the good. The voice acting packs a definite punch with grunts and groans galore, and believable set-pieces and cutscenes to match. Further pleasure can be derived from the extremely satisfying animations. The characters attacks and movement styles are tailored to match their personalities, with the psychotic Rorschach having a very erratic fighting style and the run of a focused madman. The finisher moves offer further pleasure, as the wide variety of context sensitive actions, activated by a well-timed button press, are as satisfying as they are violent.
The achievements included in the game ensure that you explore every aspect offered, and leave room for plenty of replay value, ensuring that you rid the city of evil, and the choice of two characters offers twice the game time for all you stalwart completionists out there. All-in-all the game is faithful to the fantastic graphic novel and will appeal more to comic fans than to the general gaming public. 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 fanbase, it will offer further content and backstory in which to indulge themselves and further understand the mystery, the magic and the murder that is Watchmen.