Watchmen: The End is Night - Xbox Live Arcade

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that Watchmen deserves a great game. The graphic novel is widely celebrated, the movie has fans divided but is generally at least respected, so we should have a high-quality video game to go along with it. We at least should have a game that has the same amount of effort put into it as the movie. Instead we get The End is Nigh, which is a standard brawler that features very little depth and lots of repetition. Strange.

Why would you take something like Watchmen, a piece of work known for having complex characters, a fantastic story, lots of layers and depth (could go on, won’t) and then proceed to turn it into a bare bones beat ‘em up, arguably one of the most simplistic of video game genres? Ok, I’m not saying that beat ‘em ups can’t have depth, I’m saying that this one in particular, does not. Hell the old Streets of Rage games on Genesis had more substance than this and the most recent one of those is from 1994. How can the Watchmen game not compete with something that’s 15 years old?!

The story is one of the few things the game does right. It takes place before the events of the graphic novel and highlights the relationship between Nite Owl and Rorschach. The between level cut scenes are stylish and they got the actors from the movie to do the voices, which is always a nice touch.

The real problem is what happens once those cut scenes end. You are then thrust into some of the most mindless combat I’ve encountered in a game in quite some time. I’ll admit that at first it was very brutally satisfying to beat people down. They certainly don’t skimp on the violence in this one. At first, some of the finishing moves are also fun to watch play out, and smashing people in the face with bats, clubs and bottles is enjoyable.

The key words in that sentence however, are “at first”. The novelty wears off real fast. It really does get monotonous before the end of even the first level. The combat just isn’t satisfying after a while and it becomes nothing more than walk to an area, beat up everybody in said area, progress to next area, repeat. Occasionally you get to do something different and pick locks, but it’s so un-fun that you can’t wait to get back to that boring combat.

I’ll say this though, the game certainly looks great. The characters look fantastic and I particularily like the animation of Rorschach walking with his hands in his pockets. The environments look highly detailed and are very impressive, and the lighting in the stages is fantastic. The game is definitely pleasing to the eyes, but not to anything else. Your mind is just going to be pissed.

The one positive is at least you won’t have to suffer through this for very long because even with two episodes (or “parts") this game is very short. The first part is six levels and the second one is half that! The second part doesn’t change a thing, except you get to beat up a lot more hookers in that one. Even that is only satisfying for so long because come on, we’ve been down the hooker beating road before. And on that road we got to have sex with them first, then get our money back post beating. Sorry Watchmen, you can’t touch that, though it would have made your game a lot more interesting I must say.

I should also mention quickly that there is no online co-op in this game, which is a little baffling. There is couch co-op, which is nice, but I’m guessing whoever you recruit to play with you is going to get bored, and then angry with you for making them play this.

To go back to my initial question of why they turned Watchmen into a beat’em up game….seriously why did they turn it into a beat ‘em up game?! There really weren’t even any fights in the novel. I can think of two offhand, and that’s it. I’m pretty sure when people think of the reasons they love the Watchmen universe, “kick-ass fights” would be nowhere near the top of the list. I’m not saying I know exactly what the game should have been, but I’m confident it could have been a whole lot better than what we’re getting here.

I really don’t know who this game is supposed to be for. I assume the diehard fans already bought Part 1 when it was first released as a download. So they obviously aren’t going to buy this because it has no value to them. Many others probably didn’t buy it because it didn’t interest them, so they won’t want this either. I’m curious to see how this thing sells because it’s existence is just flat-out puzzling to me.

I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear it, but I’m not recommending this game, not even to the most hardcore of Watchmen fans - hell especially to them. If you download the demo and play it, you’ve experienced everything the game has to offer. Even if you enjoy the demo (hell I kind of did), trust me, the fun does not hold up. Just watch the movie again. Hell that might last even longer than this game.