Watchmen: The End Is Nigh Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Xbox Live Arcade
Release date:
March 4, 2009
Warner Bros. Interactive Ent.
Deadline Games
1 - 2 (local)

Watchmen: The End Is Nigh

You might see it as a pretty butterfly.

Review by Nick Vlamakis (Email)
March 14th 2009

Watchmen: The End Is Nigh has problems. Most important, from the perspective of a gamer, is probably that it is a short, highly repetitive game that will keep most players interested for maybe five or six hours, tops. The game itself takes about two and a half hours on a slow, deliberate play-through, but the two selectable characters - Nite Owl and Rorschach - do not acquire all their moves until late in the story, so you may be tempted to give it a couple of goes. Besides repetitive action, which is the bane of beat-'em-ups in general, there is a shameless recycling of backgrounds and "puzzles." Over the years, I've come to appreciate that not every game has to be twelve to forty hours long, but if you're going to charge me the premium Xbox Live Arcade price ($20), at least give me something more substantial than this.

The other big problem is that, though this is a two-player cooperative Arcade game, there is no online play. So the only other person that's going to hear you complaining about how boring the gameplay is will be whatever unfortunate you can get to sit next you in front of the television set. Were it not for the graphic violence and other obscenities, Watchmen might have found its best niche as something to keep the first-graders occupied while you tended to more important matters. For the discerning gamer, however, you're better off doing almost anything but playing this.

That brings me to a point that is half problem, half benefit: the fact that, hey, it ain't Streets of Rage III, but dammit, it's a Watchmen game. The source material is the most celebrated and rabidly debated set of comic books you'll ever want to hear about, so maybe the reason we don't have online play is to spare our ears from the assault of random fanboys droning on and on about how Nite Owl's suit couldn't do that in the comics or how Rorschach would never say that. If you are approaching the game as a Watchmen purist, you may just want to move on. However, if you are a fan of the graphic novel and would like a glimpse of what life might have been like for these characters in the day-to-day activities that the other 99.9% of superheroes engage in, The End Is Nigh's take on things is pretty unobjectionable.

Each of the game's six acts is introduced by a short comic-style bumper illustrating life in the Watergate-era world of the characters, before masked heroes were outlawed by the Keene Act. Just as in the comics, the events portrayed are supposed to take place in a version of our own world, and in fact, a couple of real-life people that you never would have expected to see in a short action game like this (assuming you even heard of them) make a shocking appearance. There is ample in-game dialogue throughout, both from attackers and from the heroes, though it does repeat itself a lot. Overall, the look and sound of it all is acceptable, save for the aforementioned recycled backgrounds.

While trying to stay true to the themes that Alan Moore outlined in his original work, developer Deadline Games also went to great lengths to satisfy the target audience's bloodlust. The moves, especially Rorschach's, are brutal and hit hard. Beat up on an enemy enough and a random button will appear over his head. If you press the corresponding button on your controller, your hero will perform a finishing move on that enemy. The timing is very forgiving, so you will see a lot of finishers. There is a whole section where the game encourages you to attack and finish police officers, so I'm not sure if the finishers are officially lethal, but they do look extremely painful.

Besides the finishers, there are specials you build up to and Rorschach can use weapons that drop to the floor. Unfortunately, there is very limited interaction with the world beyond that, so that you can throw people against a wall but you can't kick barrels into them or smash boxes over their heads.

Buy Watchmen: The End Is Nigh; if you're a huge fan of either the comics or the game genre, but don't expect much. I played all the way through without losing a single guy and I may never even seriously consider playing the game again after this week, but I know how those Live Points beg to be used, so I'll forgive you.

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