Chances are you're hearing a bit about Watchmen at the moment, with the movie set to light up the box offices this week. Watchmen the game, however, has been flying somewhat under the radar.
Backtrack 20 years or so, to when Alan Moore released Watchmen as a 12 comic series in 1986-87. Being sub-teen at the time, I can't say I really picked up on the critical acclaim, gritty realism, philosophical significance etc. That would be because I didn't read it right then and there (if I had I think it would have been quite impressive, not to mention remiss of my parents to let me.) But I read it eventually in its neatly packaged, acceptable for adults, "graphic novel" format, and it's good. It's really good. And I'm quite nervous about the movie living up to it, let alone the tie-in game.
Watchmen: The End is Nigh is to be released in several downloadable episodes. The game has had a somewhat confused conception, being based on an RPG co-written by Moore in '87. This has now been converted into pretty much a straight-up brawler, with a few crime-busting puzzles chucked in for good measure. The setting is the decade preceding the Watchmen comics, when the unlikely partnership of Rorschach and Nite Owl is going strong and masked vigilantes are still out and proud, prowling the night and beating up bad guys. The focus is on the fighting, which was never really the point of the comics, and it's unsurprising that Moore has washed his hands of the whole thing. The biggest nod towards the original Watchmen is that the fighting styles of the two characters differ greatly, based on their strengths, weaknesses and personalities. Is this enough to bring in Watchmen fans and keep them happy? I sincerely doubt it.
On the flip side, the game shows some solid character modelling with detailed combat manoeuvres. When you consider that we're talking about a small downloadable game and the voice acting is supposed to be none too shabby, could it just be possible that the rich backdrop taken from Moore's distinctive, complex and very real creation could add depth to an otherwise very simple game? Not overdoing the connection to the comics could allow fans to dive in, throw their weight around, and do some good old violent crime fighting, within a world their imaginations are all too familiar with. So there is every chance that taking this game at face value might just deliver a good time.
Well, we'll see which way this goes in a few days time.