Preview: ‘Watchmen: The End is Nigh’
As is typical with any comic to film adaptation, there’s bound to be a video game tie-in, and (sadly for some) Watchmen is no exception. But this isn’t your typical cheap cash-in on the film or graphic novel’s name…at least, that’s what the developers, filmmakers, and even some of the comic’s creators would have you believe. Watchmen: The End is Nigh takes place in 1972, over a decade before the events in the graphic novel and film, and tries to explore the days when Rorschach and Nite Owl were a crime fighting duo (just five years before the Keene act outlaws vigilantes and costumed heroes). As such, don’t expect to see the events of the film or book here…but fans will definitely have something familiar to look forward to.
As detailed in last month’s issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Zack Snyder (the film’s director) and Dave Gibbons (the graphic novel’s co-creator and artist) are both involved in the making of the game on a purely collaborative level. The game’s script itself is being penned by comic scribe (and creator Allan Moore’s mentor) Len Wein, who also served as editor on the graphic novel. It’s these elements that the Denmark developer Deadline Games hopes will separate the title from other such games in the genre. That and the fact that it won’t be sold in stores at all: the title will be available exclusively as an episodic download beginning in March for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and the Steam network on PC.
So, how would a novel that doesn’t feature very much “action” at all work as a video game? Well, considering the game is designed to be a prequel, the way the characters behave here may be slightly more on the “unrestrained” side of justice. Since the characters we know are held under a law that restricts vigilantism, the same characters in the game don’t have that same problem (not yet, anyway) and as such are allowed a bit more freedom to clean up crime on the streets of New York. Each character will have their own fighting style that holds true to the character’s baser roots. For example, Rorschach isn’t quite the nutbar he’s become in the book, so his fighting style is a little looser, but it makes him more of a scrapper, using items he finds lying around to win battles (and save his own hide). Nite Owl, on the other hand, is doing his best to uphold the mantle held by his predecessor, and as such has a more refined style. As for special moves, once again the developers try to stay true to the charcters, to make them feel more authentic. Rorschach builds up adrenalin which he uses to unleash rage against his foes and cause more damage, while Nite Owl builds up a charge in his suit’s armor to unleash and electric shock.
The game relies heavily on co-operative elements, and can be played by either one player (with the AI controlling the other partner) or two players on the same system (sadly, no online co-op is featured). As the pair battle their way through New York, they’ll have to work together to get through levels, as in one character boosting another over a fence, or teaming up against foes. And the foes won’t just be typical street scum either, as perceptive fans will be able to recognize Topknot gang members, Jimmy the Gimmick and Underboss (to name a few) mentioned from the graphic novel.
While it may not seem like an appropriate tie-in for something billed as “the least filmable comic ever”, I remain hopeful for this title. Its episodic content and pedigree behind the scenes seem to be in place to keep it as authentic and respectful of the source material, while still trying to bring fans something new and exciting to their beloved characters. Sure it would be very easy to screw up something as this, but until it comes out, we can only speculate. But, rest assured, once it does, I’ll be sure to chime in with my thoughts on it.
Ian Bonds is a comedian and video game retailer from Baltimore, MD. No, he’s not that Comedian.