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Video Game Review - Watchmen: The End is Nigh

by Reverend_Danger   March 20, 2009 at 5:47PM  |  Views: 104

Tapping into the vein of a comic book opus, Watchmen: The End is Nigh faces odds nearly as insurmountable as the ones shouldered by its big screen brother. Can a series, said to be impossible to be converted to film, be just as difficult to translate into a series of bits and bytes?
The End is Nigh doesn’t dig into the thick literature of the graphic novel, but around it, instead opting to dally in the days of fearsome twosome Rorschach and Nite Owl. It all starts with the duo answering a prison break call seemingly orchestrated by crime lord Underboss. But when the big cheese pleads the fifth, mysterious developments unfurl, leading to revelations about murdered FBI informants and clandestine assassinations carried out by a funnily familiar figure.

The story promises at intrigue and authenticity, featuring a script penned by Watchmen editor Len Wein. But there’s simply no soul; story sequences are limited to brief animated segments bookending each chapter, and the plot plays it a bit too safe. It’s bolstered, however, by spirited voice work from the movie’s cast, and truth be told, it’s more than what you’d normally expect from a beat-‘em-up. But in terms of a story-driven hook meant to wrangle in fans of Alan Moore’s quill, it just isn’t here.

Falling in line with classics like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, The End is Nigh is a 3D brawler that has you dishing out justice as either the gadget-enhanced Nite Owl or the rough-and-tumble Rorschach. You can either go it alone with an A.I wingman, or bring a second offline player along for the split-screen, cooperative ride. Online support does not exist.

Progressing through each stage isn’t quite as linear as its side-scrolling ancestors, but it comes pretty close. Objectives boil down to splitting up, teaming up, or beating up whatever is in your path. The game makes a few shy attempts at dynamics, with flighty Nite Owl grappling sections and locks for Rorschach to pick, but mostly, each stage borrows heavily from the same boring design template, and the repetition sets in quick.

Unfolding over six levels, it all leads up to a cliffhanger ending meant to segue into the next downloadable chapter. It’s a seemingly respectable number, but each level is so short that the game can easily be conquered in a few hours. It’s a game with few complexities and even fewer frills. Replay value comes at reliving the experience through the mask of your partner, but with negligible differences between each campaign, the effort isn’t worth it.

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As to be expected, combat comprises the major make-up of The End is Nigh. Drawing on a mix of light and heavy strikes, throws, combos, and counters, the game can actually feel pretty enjoyable at first--especially when silencing foul-mouthed fools with the blunt end of your fist.

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