Taking place 12 years prior to the events in the movie and comic book on which the game is based, Watchmen: The End is Nigh focuses on the characters Nite Owl and Rorschach. The plotline features story elements that are mentioned very briefly in the comic book. Rorschach and Nite Owl intervene to quell a prison riot, but soon find that the "riot" is a carefully orchestrated ruse to hide a more sinister plot involving the evil Underboss, Watergate, and the upcoming Presidential election.
The game is essentially a beat-em-up with some very elementary puzzles thrown in for variety every so often. In the single player campaign, you can control either Nite Owl or Rorschach through the extremely linear levels. When the game begins, you have three basic moves: a light, fast attack, a heavy attack, and a block or dodge move depending on which character you choose to play. As the game moves through each of its six chapters, the player learns more complex combo moves, including a counterattack and the ability to pick up and throw enemies. Nite Owl and Rorschach work together to get through the levels. If you're playing the single player game, the computer will control the other character. An offline co-op mode is available so that both characters can be manually controlled. Unfortunately, there are no online co-op or multiplayer options.
The game's controls are very simple. The left analog stick moves your character and the right stick moves the game's camera. The square button delivers the light attack and the triangle button is the heavy attack. Circle will throw an enemy. The R1 button allows you to dodge or block. Combination presses of the square and triangle buttons will execute the combo moves. That's as complicated as it gets.
When an enemy is stunned, an icon will appear above his head to indicate which button you should press to initiate a finishing move. The finishing moves are actually small cinematic sequences that depict Rorschach or Nite Owl delivering a painful attack. Sometimes it's a jaw-breaking punch followed by a neck-breaker. Other times, it's several elbows to the face of a prone enemy. Whatever happens when you press that button is always brutal and extremely visceral.
Both characters have an on-screen health meter and each has a special individualized meter of either Rage (for Rorschach) or Charge (for Nite Owl). These meters fill as you beat up enemies and can be used by pressing L2 or R2 during the game to help dispatch foes in a more impressive and powerful manner. Rorschach's Rage is a bull-run charge move and Nite Owl's Charge is an electrical-based power.
The graphics are very well done. The gritty, urban environment textures look amazing. The animations of the characters are also -- for the most part -- very realistic. Unfortunately, the game does have the occasional glitch now and then which causes problems with scripted events. If you or the computer-controlled character isn't in exactly the right place in certain situations, it's hard to tell what's supposed to happen or where to go. For example, I had a problem in the game's third chapter. A crane needed to move a shipping container that blocked the path to the next area of the game. As I approached the area where the crane was located, Nite Owl, who was supposed to use his grappling hook to climb into the control booth, was nowhere to be found. I had to backtrack and found him cornered behind a dumpster staring off into space. I had to punch and kick him to dislodge him before I could continue the game.
The between-chapter animations are based on the comic artwork and are very reminiscent of the animation seen in this year's Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic. Sadly, though, this game is nowhere near as intelligent or thought-provoking as the graphic novel upon which it is based. In fact, it's damn near mindless. Some reviewers have not been kind to the game because it's simply a beat-em-up using the Watchmen license but there's really nothing out-of-character going on here. My main complaint with the game is simply that it's very repetitive and each level is much like the last.
Watchmen: The End is Nigh is an extremely short game. I played through all six chapters in about three hours. It's available individually as a download from the PlayStation Store or as a part of Watchmen: The Complete Experience, which features the game and its sequel, Watchmen: The End is Nigh Part 2, as well as a copy of the Director's Cut of Watchmen, the motion picture, on Blu-ray Disc. I'd recommend picking it up as part of the Complete Experience package, which is what I did. The game alone on PlayStation Network is $19.99. The sequel is $14.99. The movie, on Blu-ray, is $24.99 in most places. The Complete Experience -- which includes all of that -- can be found for as little as $29.00 and also features some nifty Watchmen timeline artwork and a mini-poster. Due to the game's short length, it's a much better value as one-third of a $30 set than it is as a $20 standalone product.
A videogame based on a movie that's based on a comic book might sound like a recipe for disaster but Watchmen: The End is Nigh isn't half bad.