Sunday, March 30, 2014

Watchmen: The End is Nigh (2009) Xbox 360

Watchmen: The Potential is Wasted
Rating:  2 out of 5 Illegal Costumed Vigilantes

Plot Synopsis:  Nite Owl and Rorschach beat the hell out everyone ever.  Out of both types of people, big and tank like as well as normal proportioned.

The Good:

-Nite Owl and Rorschach have pretty different fighting styles which makes each feel unique enough.

-Rorschach's mask shifts and moves like it should which is pretty cool.

-Both characters are always on screen fighting together.  When not controlled by another person the computer takes over the other character.

-Rorschach has the most brutal fighting style ever.  He just steamrolls over guys, his punches are wild and look like they hit with a ton of force.  The combos get really brutal, his counter attack is just vicious, especially against an armed opponent, and his “finishers” are almost hard to watch.  You only have a limited amount of finisher animations but the first time I saw them my reaction every single time was to hold my fist in front of my mouth and go “Oooooooooh ho ho ho, ha ha ha ha, that is awesome!” they are fun to watch.  They really captured Rorschach’s rage, it’s almost worth getting the game just for this.  It’s just so, so brutal, I want to go into more detail but I don’t think I can do it justice.

-Because I mentioned Rorschach’s fighting style I’ll mention Nite Owl’s.  Nite Owl’s fighting style is very controlled and precise.  There are a lot of kicks (Rorschach is almost entirely punches), chops to the throat and quick punches.  It’s less impressive when compared to Rorschach, you get some cool finisher animations but they don’t induce the same reaction.  It’s very much like playing Batman and it’s fun to watch but not in the same way as Rorschach.  I wish you could use more gadgets, you have access to a smoke bomb that’s good for crowd control and a grappling hook for taking alternate routes but some kind of throwing weapon would be nice.  He’s set up as a “gadget” man but offensively you maybe get two gadget’s: the smoke bomb and an AOE shock “taser” move.

The Bad:

-The AI on your AI controlled partner is hit or miss.  Playing as Rorschach I had more trouble with Nite Owl then I did playing as Nite Owl with Rorschach.  I don’t know if they have different levels of AI but playing as Rorschach, Nite Owl kept getting stuck on things and falling behind.  At one point at the very beginning of the game he got stuck on a doorway so I left him behind.  Eventually I hit a two person switch so I had to go all the way back for him and he was still stuck.  I was debating plugging in player 2 just to unstick him but then he suddenly teleported away and came running from the other direction so clearly the game just sent him to the two person switch and then the AI was compelled to come find me.  It was a ridiculous moment.

-It’s a beat ‘em up so you do a lot of fighting and after a while it can get boring.  Fight system isn’t terrible, I’ve certainly played worse but the lack of variety on a larger scale leads to some repetition, upgrades are few and far between (about one or two a level), what few boss fights exist are pretty much in the vein of “unique bad guy with a massive health bar”.  There just isn’t a whole lot that’s compelling to keep you going through the WHOLE thing.  What’s there really only accommodates a game half this long.

-When you get surrounded by dudes you can start having major issues.  You feel like a badass in the one on one or small encounters because you can fight well enough that the other guys don’t even get a hit in.  Once you get surrounded by 4+ guys though you aren’t able to control the crowd well.  It’s hard to switch from one bad guy to another and you’ll find that you can’t take that many hits.  The bottom line is you are too squishy for a real challenge.

-The combo system is a little weird and it took me a while to get the combo system down, but once I did my biggest hurdle was the actual gameplay, which can be laggy and slow.

-The story isn’t that great, it’s not very compelling but it accomplishes its goal of getting you from one place to beat up bad guys to another.

-There’s no discernable difference between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 except that you start with all your abilities in Chapter 2.

The Ugly:

-The game looks good for what it is: an early generation downloadable game made to cash in on a movie.

Final Thoughts:  I was actually really happy to hear about these games coming out and I was really looking forward to them, I downloaded the demo and played it quite a bit.  Then when I heard there were going to be two chapters my mind reeled at the possibilities.  They had already done Nite Owl and Rorschach so Episode 2 must be two different people.  Who could it be?  Comedian and Silk Specter?  Silk Spectre 1 (in a flashback) and Silk Spectre 2 (maybe working the same case years later)?  Nite Owl and Silk Spectre?  Ozymandias?  Nite Owl 1?  No way, maybe even Dr. Manhattan?  Nope, none of those, just more of the same.  If they were hoping the story would carry the gameplay through two chapters they were wrong.  The story isn’t that great and it’s not even compelling enough to get me through chapter 1.  I bought the disk version and it gives me the option for skipping right to Episode 2, which is just basically the same except the premise this time is saving a kidnapped girl.  I’ve been watching the cut scenes and I can’t even tell you the premise for Episode 1, someone broke out of prison and they need to get them back?  I don’t know.  Episode 2 lays it out pretty quick right at the beginning.

            I would have loved to have seen this series explore some of the other Watchmen characters.  Nite Owl and Rorschach are a good start but I was hoping for more.  Granted introducing someone like the Comedian or, to a much greater degree, Dr. Manhattan would totally change gameplay and a download game like this probably doesn’t have a huge budget to work with.  But it would have been nice to have seen more, even if they were going to re-use the protagonists then give us something different in Chapter 2, some additional combo’s, some additional gameplay, just something so it doesn’t feel so tacked on and extraneous.

            If you like the Watchmen movie, or like Watchmen in general, or are a beat ‘em up gourmand then I’d check this out.  Get the disc version though, the download version on Xbox is still at a full 800 points per episode (last I checked a couple of months ago) whereas the disc version was probably $3 on Amazon.  I didn’t pay much for it, it was absurdly cheap.  I think I got my money’s worth.  Chapters wrap up in about 45 minutes to an hour, 7 chapters in Episode 1 and 4 chapters in Episode 2, so about 7-10 hours of gameplay, if you can stick with it.  I couldn’t stick with it, I might continue to chip away at it over the next several months but I’m pretty much done at this point.

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