Watchmen: The End Is Nigh Download
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
When Talking About the Watchmen graphic novel, it's difficult to avoid words like 'revered', 'important', and 'really, really, good'. The phrase at the top of the cover - "One of Time Magazine's 100 Top Novels" - shows how much respect Watchmen commands. In the '80s, it was hard to get people to call them graphic novels instead of comic books. Going a step further, and getting a serious magazine to drop the word graphic altogether? Well, that let everyone know this was a bunch of pictures and words that properly qualified as grown-up literature.
While you, the educated reader, will have read the book six times, and completed your doctorate in the works and quirks of snakeworshipping anarchist Alan Moore, but for everyone else, let me describe Watchmen. It's set in an alternate '80s, in which the US won Vietnam, the threat of nuclear war looms thick and soupy, and superheroes were generally equipped with body armour and powerful punches instead of laser vision and ice breath. The notable exception being Dr Manhattan, whose atomic disintegration and self-willed reconstruction gave him God-like powers over matter. He now exists beyond humanity, and has the power to see time's line from the outside; although, cripplingly, not the power to change its direction.
In the book, the age of the superheroes is over. The once-prolific villain Screaming Skull is referred to only in passing, in the first chapter -he's given up villainy and focused on raising a family. After a period of civil unrest and resentment, costumed vigilantes were made illegal, with the passing of the Keene Act, which forced masked crusaders to register with the government. Only the brain-bollocked Rorschach maintains his crusade, cheerfully torturing his way to confessions and resenting the other sell-outs who unmasked themselves or went into hiding. If you've even got the vaguest interest in an intelligent look at the world of heroes, this fantastic book is where you should be starting.
Which brings us to the game. Thanks to a combination of two loose briefs from Warner Bros - which can be paraphrased as "make an orsum game plz", and "you have 10 months starting NOW lol" Deadline have decided to make an action brawler - available only for download to the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and - it's tentatively suggested, though not confirmed - Steam customers.
"We know it's not going to speak to everyone - there's a lot of action in the game, and not much action in the book," admits Deadline. Being generous, the choice of genre makes some sense. What's the alternative? Contemplative point-and-click mystery? LEGO Night Owl? Call of Duty: The Comedian Goes To 'Nam? Dr Manhattan's Populous? It's not a book Games, when they try to be interactive stories, will always have to balance the impact you can make on the world, with the exponential increases in work these options create for the writers and developers. To keep it workable, you either have to funnel big moral decisions into an insulting absurdity (eg BioShock's 'Kill Little Girl?' Y/N) or render any impact you have to be basically meaningless, beyond a new hat and a vendor discount (all MMOs). Even when you try both, something has to give - the NPCs in Fallout 3 don't react convincingly to events around them, and in a world so otherwise full and open, it's a belief-draining moment.
The Lost Words
Dead Space originally had a lot of scripted dialogue. Much more than made it to release. Whereas this will have upset the original scriptwriter, and the gamer will never know what he's lost, the game is wellpaced enough to suggest it was a good idea. Video logs were woven into the gameplay cleverly, and not so often as to break the sense of isolation. Unforgivable controls aside, Dead Space is an excellent example of economical storytelling.
Mirror's Edge gets it wrong, but in a curious w way. Whilst the storyline and characters almost completely fail to charm or engage the player in the game itself, it's difficult to tell from the game whether that's the result of bad editing. One cutscene has been reduced to Faith simply running, which breaks the game's pattern of exposition, and feels like a confession: "We've not got any story here, so have a bit of running." Mirror's Edge has an accompanying comic - as does Dead Space - so hopefully the story and world will come to life in that Certainly, the full emotional impact of living in a city in which information is now forbidden - or how that even affects a normal person's life - is brutally neglected in the game.
The Watchmen book forces the reader to focus. In the scenes where the newsvendor talks while a kid is reading a comic book, it's like Moore is defying you to try and do something else while you're reading it He's giving you two stories at the same time - you really do have to take off your headphones, and put that Rubik's Cube down to read it.
The decision to remove a serious or complicated storyline from the Watchmen game was probably sensible. Disappointing, maybe, but reassuringly respectful of the original work. We can only hope that the game is priced to reflect its length and simplicity of play.
There are two playable characters. Nite Owl, a man not unlike Batman in his use of technology and a large inheritance. And there's Rorschach, a troubled young man with a sociopathic inclination to see the world in terms of good and evil. Nite Owl has a more controlled combat style, and relies on his electrified suit. Rorschach is a street brawler. Deadline say playtesters are evenly split in their choice of character, which is what the company wanted.
The dev team are aware of the revered status of its subject matter. They've been careful not to introduce new characters so they're painting from a profoundly finite palettd. So, they have chosen the least-developed foes, giving them a chance at some creative development. Underboss and Jimmy The Gimmick - two characters who are briefly referred to during a bar scene in the book - are the characters you'll be fighting against. And yes, there will be a sewer level.
Lots In A Name
Combat features fast and heavy attacks and combos, with each character having a distinct play style. Deadline's adherence to the book forbids them giving combos names like "Spinesnorter" or "Wobbly Bob". So Rorschach's longest six-button combo is called "Even More Damage". Although the book's original artist, Dave Gibbons, was on the team for the semi-animated comic-book cutscenes, the cooperation between film studio and game developers has been minimal. The game's authenticity and similarity to the film is a credit to Deadline's vision.
The developers have also reined in their ambitions. As it stands they have a competent, unambitious slog through a series of thug-smattered streets. They freely admit the storyline - and the gameplay - is thin on the ground. It had to be this way - anything else would feel presumptuous, and be eclipsed by the source material. And any attempt to create a complex game was prohibited by the time constraints of the movie schedule.
Watchmen looks set to be a good-looking and competent brawler. In a niche of the gaming market where developers are working on unitshifting products, Deadline have been sensible, sincere and uncynical, and limited their ambitions to delivering a short, canonical romp. Their engine - the Kapow - looks fantastic, and the combat connects impressively.
You might, however, be wondering who the game is actually aimed at. And you'd be part of a big club.