'Watchmen: The End is Nigh'

The Baltimore Sun

$20 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3. Rated Mature ** (2 STARS)

Of all the comics properties that seem least likely to translate to video games, Watchmen leads the pack. But in the Age of the Inevitable Tie-In, all fans of beloved creations can do is grit their teeth.

Now, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and developer Deadline Studios offer Watchmen: The End Is Nigh, a $20 digital release connected to Zack Snyder's big-budget adaptation of Watchmen. What will fans who want to take control of Rorschach and Nite Owl get in the downloadable title?

At best, a mixed bag. The End Is Nigh sizzles with some of the best graphics available for any digitally distributed game. Quick, responsive animations invigorate the well-detailed character models. The downside comes with the gameplay. The game's an action brawler that harks back to classics like the Final Fight series.

Each protagonist has special abilities. Rorschach, the disturbed detective with the shifting mask, has unpredictable attacks from the Crazy Orphanage school of combat, with flailing fists and brutal, unorthodox finishers. He can pick up and wield weapons, either by disarming enemies or finding them in the environment.

His ally Nite Owl, the tech-savvy nocturnal avenger, uses more traditional martial arts moves along with stun grenades. His electrically powered uniform also gives him enhanced strength, while his grappling gun gives him alternate routes throughout levels. Both characters grow their moves and abilities by finding collectibles throughout the levels.

The game's plot builds on events referred to only in passing in Watchmen, namely Rorschach and Nite Owl's takedown of Underboss in 1965. The action starts in 1972, as that subterranean crime lord takes part in a prison break that may hint at something larger. The characters visit haunts in an effort to find Underboss and the secret of his escape.

Even in the Age of the Inevitable Tie-In, one of the best graphic novels of all time deserved better than a mindless beat-'em-up. The End Is Nigh's shallow fighting engine will bore you, and other poorly thought-out elements like repetitive level design and puzzle-solving will annoy you. The story's attempts to connect the movie and comic feel overcooked.

This review is based on a final build of the game provided by the publisher.


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