Watchmen Review

By James Youngblood - Posted Mar 11, 2009

In this X-Play Review, Morgan takes a look at the new downloadable game 'Watchmen: The End is Nigh', available on XBLA and PSN. Does this game do 'Watchmen' justice? Find out in this review!

The Pros
  • Good looking environments
  • Interesting fighting system
The Cons
  • Terrible story
  • Only a few enemy-types to fight
  • A little expensive

You have to be careful when you mess around with stories people love. Throw in one Jar Jar Binks too many and the fan boys will be beating down your door with torches and pitchforks. Warner Bros. Interactive thought that they could circumvent the nerd-rage by making a prequel to this seminal classic. Watchmen: The End is Nigh lets gamers take on the mantle of Nite Owl or Rorschach as you fight through a Pre-Watchmen world to find The Underboss. In this premiere episode of downloadable content, we get high production values, high costs, and plenty of cringe worthy dialogue.


Watchmen: The End is Nigh ReviewRiots have broken out at Sing Sing Prison and The Underboss has gone missing. Nite Owl and Rorschach are on the case, running through every dark alley they can find, and mentioning how unusual it is to be doing so every step of the way. Sure, when your source material is considered by some to be the Citizen Kane of comic books, anything you put next to it will only pale in comparison. While I’m not looking for Watchmen 2, a decent story would have helped.

The End is Nigh reads more like fan fiction that you would find deep within the recess of long forgotten message board. All the characters from the book make an appearance, but it’s done with so much winking and nodding that you would think that the writer had Tourette’s. There are more than a few winks thrown at events that happened around the same time such as Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation into the Watergate scandal. As for the dialogue, Nite Owl and Rorschach come off as the Hannity and Colmes of the superhero world, bickering more about the problems about society than wondering who’s behind The Underboss’ escape.

What developers do get right in the area of storytelling is how it’s presented. The cutscenes looked as though they were clearly ripped out of the book, covering everything from the art style to the distinctive coloring of the series. Panels move around the screen indicating action. Actors from the movie even lend their vocal talents to our heroes. Hopefully for the next episode, they’ll be able to focus more on story and less on cameos.

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They Played Us Hard

Watchmen: The End is Nigh ReviewAt first glance, The End is Nigh appears to be your average button-mashing brawler. And for the most part, it is but there’s an unexpected level of depth to the combat system. Along the way, each of the characters will pick up icons unlocking a new combo. Most of these icons appear out in the open with only a couple lying somewhat hidden from view. Combos add extra damage, stun an enemy, or knock him down. While there are only two flavors of attack, light and heavy, the way you build up a combo is more about timing than mashing. As the first two punches connect, buttons appear below the character. All you need to do is add in that third button or even a fourth button to continue the combo. It’s this rhythm that keeps you alive when a dozen or so enemies want you dead.

The End is Nigh has several other tricks up it spandex sleeve such as counter-attacks and finishing moves. Each is fairly forgiving, letting you start either one in the middle of a combo animation. The finishing moves add a bit of flair to the game by stylishly ending the life of one of your foes with a mini-cutscene. Counter-attacks, on the other hand, will often get you out of tough situations by allowing you to stun attacking opponents any time during their attack animation. It’s a useful trick, but in later levels, you’ll find yourself spamming groups with counter-attacks just to get some breathing room.

Gone are the days of player two just having a different colored jumpsuit. Rorschach and Nite Owl actually play a little differently. Nite Owl like to take on his goons one at a time, depending on his suit for electrical gadgets such as a stun grenade and a bolt of lightening that can take out most groups. Rorschach works better in larger groups, and picks up weapons left behind enemies. Unlike Nite Owl’s electrical attacks that require time to charge, Rorschach uses his attacks to build his rage meter for a massive dose of roid-rage and what can only be best described as Curly’s bull charge.

The Face of the City

Watchmen: The End is Nigh ReviewFor a downloadable game, this game has the look of a full title. The lighting effects play wonderfully against the shadows. Nite Owl’s cape flutters in the breeze as dust and other bits of trash follow behind him. One of the big problems with the game is the lack of variation when it comes to where you beat up societal miscreants. Even though the game takes place in several different locations, they all have about the same look or feeling to them. The back alley of the pier looks only slightly different than the back alley of a bar. And even though there’s a polish to all of the levels, do we really need another sewer level in this generation of gaming? Even the characters seem strained to explain why they have to start so far away from their destination, which they only get to in a cutscene.

Enemies come in three flavors – small, medium, and large. Not to say that every one of them won’t block your attacks if you start using the same button over and over again, but they have little personality to them. With every chapter comes a new enemy but it always feels similar to the last. It’s the same guy with a different skin or a new baseball bat. Later levels become monotonous as you use the same strategies that you used for the last angry mob that attacked you. The only thing that keeps combat fresh is your ever growing assortment of moves – and even those run out after awhile.

Who Plays the Watchmen?

Watchmen: The End is Nigh offers a solid foundation with high production values and surprisingly good combat as the first of perhaps many episodes to come, but is it worth sacrificing your Jackson for a chance to slip into Rorschach’s trench coat? The answer is… up to you really. Fans of the movie probably won’t be disappointed in its head-bashing action. Fans of the book, however, may just start firing up the torches. If the game provided a little extra content or came down in price, then you might find me prowling the darkened streets as a virtual vigilante.   

Written By: James Youngblood
Producer: Tim Jennings