Watchmen: The End is Nigh: The Complete Experience Review
The graphic novel was destined to become a feature film and a video game, although Warner Bros. decided to go a slightly different route in the latter area and first release Watchmen in episodic downloadable form on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Marketplace. Not long after came the compilation on disc form that featured both Episodes I and II, and this Complete Experience is loaded with tons of battles and plenty of bloody, gut-wrenching assaults from the likes of Rorschach and Nite Owl. It’s entertaining and the control isn’t too bad, but for the most part, the longevity of the game suffers due to the insanely repetitive nature of the gameplay. If you don’t mind the endless streams of faceless foes, the storyline that never really seems to go anywhere, and the combos you performed a gajillion times already, you should have a blast. You just have to accept the fact that Watchmen can get boring relatively quickly.
The visuals tend to fluctuate between standard, ho-hum graphics we’ve come to expect from smaller downloadable productions and surprisingly impressive highlights. For example, when fighting through some rainy alleyways, you will note with pleasure just how slick and realistic the rain appears on the costumes of the two heroes, and the surrounding environment really brightens up under the falling water. The detail is solid throughout and even excellent for the type of game it is, and although the comic book-like cut-scenes aren’t exactly eye-opening, the gameplay looks good. The only problem is a significant lack of variety amongst the enemies you face, and a definite lack of beautifully designed bosses. Everything, including the visuals, just gets redundant after a while and despite the relative diversity of the environments, nothing really stands out. I kinda liked the blood effects, though…morbidly satisfying.
With only average voice acting and an almost complete lack of a soundtrack, the sound suffers a bit. The combat effects make up for some of this lacking, though, as the first time you clank some dude’s head off a piece of metal, you’ll flat-out laugh. The impact effects are very cool and in reality, they really help to make the fighting that much more appealing. We just wonder why they decided to implement your standard, generic music tracks that are barely audible and play an insignificant role in the adventure. We could’ve really used the atmospheric boost a great soundtrack can provide, and while some of the voiceover work was fair – I guess the two heroes are decent – the secondary voices fell well short. Still, though, this is one of those games where you’ll hear the smack of a lead pipe on an enemy’s skull and you’ll go, “oh, sh**!” That alone boosts this category to another level.
The gameplay is very straightforward: move with the left analog stick, control the camera with the right, land quick, light attacks with the Square button and heavy, slower attacks with the triangle button, and block with the R1 button. You also use the L2 button to enable Rage mode, where your hero moves a little faster and deals more damage, and you will see button prompts over the heads of bad guys from time to time; just press the correct button to unleash a nasty finishing combo. The latter is really the crowd-pleasing aspect of this game and it’s the only part that didn’t get boring after a few hours of play. Perhaps it’s due to the bone-crunching effects that go along with such a finishing move, or the variety and creativity of those “fatalities,” but whatever the reason, you’ll likely never tire of this brutality. The rest…well, the rest is too bland and too repetitive to keep you entertained throughout the entirety of both episodes. After seeing the umpteenth wave of enemies, you’re just like, “…again?”
The controls are fine, if a little unresponsive at times. You’ll soon find that your best friend is the R1 button, which not only blocks but with the addition of the left analog, allows you to roll free of your attackers. Because there are always swarms of foes and you’re easily surrounded, getting hit in the back is par for the course. This is why special moves like Rorschach’s Bull Rush and his Throw (toss one guy into many like a bowling ball into pins) really help, and when you execute one of those finishing moves, it’s like a mini-cut-scene; you can’t be struck during this time. The camera works well but sits too close to the action and you don’t have as much control over it as you might think. Then there’s the Rage meter, which fills as you beat on baddies; you can unleash that pent-up power with a press of L2, but it’s not anywhere near as spectacular as I was expecting. Really, it’s all about smacking people around and surviving the hordes.
Health regenerates over time so that’s a definite benefit and there isn’t anything overly challenging about the adventure at hand. You may want to test out both heroes because both really are significantly different, but the battles still feel very much the same regardless of who you control. The other problem is that you almost always approach every new battle in exactly the same fashion; you press the same buttons, perform evasive maneuvers in the same way, and execute many of the same combos and special skills. It’s kinda cool that you unlock new abilities as you progress forward – white emblems, clearly found in the battlefield, will grant you those new skills – but they just don’t have the intended effect. They’re supposed to build upon the basic fighting foundation and enhance the overall gameplay, but they don’t really serve that purpose. It’s just more of the same ol’, same ol’ after ten minutes or so.
Watchmen: The End is Nigh: The Complete Experience is fun, but it’s a bland, vanilla sort of fun. The foundation is good, the combat can be very satisfying, the graphics and sound are even a little better than expected, and the mechanics function fine throughout. That’s the good news. But we need a little more than what we see here; we need more substance; something beneath the surface that keeps us coming back for more. We just don’t have it, but as a cheap purchase or a rental, it might be a fine time to pass a rainy day.
10/13/2009 Ben Dutka