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Watchmen: The End is Nigh Preview

Blake_Morse By:
GENRE Beat Em Up 
PUBLISHER Warner Bros. 
DEVELOPER Deadline Games 
M What do these ratings mean?

Step into the shadow now without complaint.

Rorschach: Used to come here often, back when we were partners.
Dreiberg: Oh. Uh, yeah... yeah, those were great times, Rorschach. Great times. Whatever happened to them?
Rorschach: You quit.

click to enlargeWhen it comes to all the hype surrounding the upcoming film adaptation of what some would consider to be the greatest graphic novel of all time, The Watchmen, I've been doing my best to avoid it. Like most fans, I'm skeptical, but the little geek inside of me can't help but be ecstatic about the idea (he just really wishes they'd picked someone better than the director of 300). And when Duke walked up to my desk last week and calmly asked me to go check out the upcoming Watchmen: The End is Nigh, it was that same inner geek that started shouting “woo-hoo” in my head. Of course, I took a moment to ponder my response and uttered a casual, “Yeah”.

Was it true? Would I really be one of the first civilians to get my hands on this epic title, this first installment in a series of episodic downloadable games? Yes. Yes, I would. And I knew when I told all the guys down at comic shop, they were going to be extremely jealous.

So what can you expect from Episode One? Well, first off, it takes place 10 years before the film or book. Before the Keene Act was passed. Back when masks were still legal. And the dynamic duo of Rorschach and Nite Owl roamed the back alleys of New York City, keeping the streets safe for law-abiding citizens.

You can choose to play as either  masked vigilante through six chapters of street combat or take on the forces of evil with a friend in co-op mode. This looks to be a button-masher sans the mashing. Combos must be executed with precise timing in order to be effective. If you just rapidly tap away, you're gonna get your ass handed to you. You'll also have some throws and brutal beatdown finishing moves to fill out your hand-to-hand repertoire. As you progress, you'll learn even more devastating combos.

click to enlargeBoth characters have their own style when it comes to brawling. The enigmatic Rorschach is a ruthless street brawler who's used to being outnumbered. He has an extremely aggressive style that becomes even more feral as you beat down more and more bad guys, allowing him to release adrenaline-fueled super moves like the bulldozer. And he's not above smashing a guy's face in with a baseball bat.

Nite Owl is more of one-on-one fighter with a background in kung-fu and a suit with more tricks than the Asian kid in the Goonies (Wonder where they got inspiration for him?). He can charge that suit up with electricity and zap opponents with a few thousand watts.

If you choose to go it alone, your A.I. partner will still be there you in a tight squeeze but there will be points where you'll have to split up in order to solve the case. When this happens, depending on who you've picked, you'll get to experience a different part of each level: Nite Owl takes to the rooftops while Rorschach battles his way through the alleys, or vice versa. There will also be mini-games that play towards their individual skills, like Rorschach's infamous lockpicking ability and Owl's enhanced strength to remove obstacles.

Stylistically, the game walks a tightrope between its drawn and live action incarnations. While it is meant to be more of a prequel to the upcoming movie, the animated cut-scenes before levels are done in an art style very reminiscent of the comics. Though none of it was drawn by Dave Gibbons himself, it's a very close facsimile.

click to enlargeAll of the mystery solving is looking very much like the film. Purple and red neon signs reflect off puddles as rain splatters down like blood on a smiley face button. Character models resemble their onscreen counterparts.

Even with that being the case, I'm sure that everyone is still concerned with it staying “true” to the source material, though. Don't worry, as you could have probably guessed, everyone working on it was already a big fan. There are lots of little things thrown in for fans with a keen eye and an encyclopedic fanboy knowledge of the comic. So you pessimists might not get as much flaming fodder for the message boards as you were hoping.

This is just the first episode, so who knows who we could expect to watch in the next installments. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to blow some Vietnamese up as Dr. Manhattan or see some of the more “Acrobatic” moves of at least one of the Silk Spectres. Or maybe some the original Minutemen?

While I doubt Allan Moore will be checking it out anytime soon, you can expect to get your first issue of The Watchmen downloadable games around the same time that the movie comes out (March 6, 2009).

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