The superhero trend was invented, penciled, defined, revolutionized, finished, polished and lastly redefined to the audience’s delight. Men in tights, with their underwear hanging out and clothes tighter than those of a professional hitchhiker, have defined society’s ideals for years and defended them frame after frame in comic books, cartoons and movies.
For the last few years, once the superhero concept was reinterpreted to reflect complex personalities and spectacular, deep narratives, a series of “hardcore” graphic novels were pulled out from the obscurity of elitist circles. Watchmen was one of them, but as it often happens when the masses hear about some sacred monster in any domain, they arm themselves with pitchforks, syringes and make-up and cut, simplify and shoot Botox while applying facelifts until the work itself can be comprehended by just about everyone – for no other reason than the fact that simplicity sells.
The next step, naturally, is to start manufacturing t-shirts, plush toys, fridge magnets and why not, video games on Chinese freighters in Zanzibar. It’s not even a new trend, considering two out of three blockbusters get a cheap game to match, conveniently placed on the shelves of some game store right next to the cinema since… ever.
By the time you’re swimming in posters, hoodies, lighters and turned into a walking banner you’ve forgotten the movie’s plot. And the fact that the clothes and accessories you’ve drowned yourself in have the sole purpose of raising its sale numbers, not extend the universe like it writes on the site you ordered them from or amplify the value of the message like your friends tell you doesn’t really help either.
It’s like one of our poets said “you’re an educated victim” – which only starts to sound bitter when you realize that you’ve begun to look only for the transparent gloss a marketing plan dictates you in movies, video games, music and life, and not for that absolute profound vibe only true art can offer.
Watchmen: The End is Nigh plants you in the shoes and boots of Rorschach and Nite Owl II, respectively, before heroes get permabanned by the Keene Act and start out squashing a riot in a prison. After an intro that closely resembles the semi-animated take on the graphic novel (Watchmen: The Motion Comic) you get struck by how great everything looks: convincing shaders which excellently render the materials, great lighting and phenomenal coloring – The End is Nigh is, without a doubt, superb when it comes to visuals. The rain dropping heavily on the wet sidewalk, Rorschach’s soaked coat or Archimedes’ lights orbiting around the prison’s yard are all incredible eye-candy.
The End is Nigh is sweet and pleasant at first – a sensation that lasts about as long as the movie’s trailer – until you actually hit the core and the game runs out of fireworks to woe your eyes with. In other words, you bitterly realise that the repetition is painful – so painful that even the producers’ claim that it would be a combination of beat’em-up and puzzles is a gross exaggeration. More on that later, though.
Rorschach and Nite Owl each have enough particularities so that we can label without any remorse as distinct characters. The former is faster, although his hits aren’t especially powerful, and relies entirely on his close combat abilities, while the latter has all kinds of gadgets with which he immobilizes his opponents. Perhaps The End is Nigh’s most interesting aspect is its co-op – but beware, you have to own a gamepad or similar controller to be able to play with a friend, because the game sadly doesn’t have this option set for online gaming.
The fights themselves don’t excel at anything – the control is intuitive, but not without its problems: the animations are somewhat interesting during the first half hour, but when you actually get to say that a four hour game (at best) is repetitive you’re basically sealing its fate, and the combos aren’t as spectacular as I would have expected. Adversaries on the border of unconsciousness will have a certain symbol above their heads, and pressing a specific key will trigger a somewhat brutal animation – but even these come across as deja-vus by the time the story ends.
As in every other beat’em-up since Double Dragon, The End is Nigh gives you makeshift weapons – bottles, bats, a wrench every now and then, IKEA knives, which, typical to the genre, become unusable after a few sloppy cuts through some poor sod’s jugular. It would have been interesting to see combos done with these weapons, but the more complex strikes must first be discovered (by collecting tokens that have your hero’s symbol printed on the side) and can only be done when you’re not wielding anything.
The main issue is that we not only have isolated phenomenons – it’s just like a tumor growing from one side of the game to the other, devouring enormous potential because of something I can only label as „laziness”. The enemies’ models are very few and the background changes are pretty superficial – most of the game is too homogenous, boring and linear to survive to even the most modest level design standards.