Watchmen: The Demo Is Nigh

By Alec Meer on March 5th, 2009 at 11:14 am.

Meer’s Journal, March 5 2009.

On Thursday morning, a literary classic died on my PC screen. Somebody threw its ideas out of a window, and when it hit the internet its head was driven up into its stomach.

Nobody cares.

Nobody cares but me. And thousands of other comic book geeks.

Are they right? Is it futile?

Soon there will be more of this. Millions of ideas will burn. Millions of proud creations will perish in sickness, misery and money-grabbing idiocy.

Why does one lazy videogame adaptation matter against so many?

Because there is good and there is lousy, and lousy must be punished. Even in the face of mildly annoying the game’s developers and publishers I shall not compromise in this.

500-odd megabytes of Watchmen demo is now available for free from the magic internet. Previously, we’ve been a liiiiiiiiitle bit down on the idea of making a flashy brawler out of Alan Moore’s superhero-deconstructing landmark comic, but perhaps we were wrong.

It seems this pays expert tribute to the themes of the book after all. It contains dialogue easily the equal of Moore’s greatest lines: truly, “eat shit and die” and “fuck-face” are quotes for the ages. Meanwhile, it cleverly references the symmetrical, mirrored nature of so many of Watchmen’s panels by smartly repeating the exact same environments and enemies again and again. And Rorscharch and Nite-Owl magically collecting new fighting abilities as they lurch through a thug-infested prison is a clear tip of the hat to the heroes’ slow rediscovery of their confidence and moral outrage throughout the graphic novel.

This, surely, is the first videogame that could rightly be called a masterpiece.

Alternatively it’s a brain-dead, charmless, repetitive, button-bashing, incoherent slice of overwhelming cynicism that we’d have thought poorly of in 1985. Quite pretty, though.

PS – according to my screenshotting program, Watchmen’s engine is called ‘Kapow.’

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128 Comments »

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  1. Theoban says:

    Oh man I’m going to buy this twice just to support the developer.

  2. Dizet Sma says:

    Newsvendor: “I see the world didn’t end yesterday.”
    Kovacs: “Are you sure?”

  3. Eschatos says:

    At least the movie isn’t as bad.

  4. Silent Witless says:

    But they’re superheroes!! Fighting ker-splat ker-pow is what they do, right?

    Right???

    Heresy of the First Order. I’ll get my pitchfork.

  5. Ian says:

    The accumulated filth of all their raped licenses and murdered ideas will foam up about their waists and all the abominable movie tie-ins will look up and shout “Play us!”… and I’ll look down and whisper “No.”

  6. matte_k says:

    @Ian: Seconded.

  7. DMcCool says:

    @ Ian

    Fantastic. I think I can handle this game existin as long as people keep making jokes this good about it.

  8. Xercies says:

    Sometimes i truly hate the modern gaming business owned by stupid companies like this. You and I know they don’t care about game they are just goign to cash into people who are stupid to play his game because it got released along with the movie.

    The problem is these kind of games do get a bit of sales and money which means they will only continue on with thier banging people’s head in a wall.

    Rorchsarch should beat all these people up that buy the game.

  9. Leman says:

    I bet Alan Moore is currently spinning in his luxury, well whatever Alan Moore sleeps in, I doubt its a bed.

    Has anything ever been converted from his original work and not come out terrible?

  10. Sporknight says:

    Did anyone else feel physically ill reading the screenshot from Rorscharch’s “journal”?

  11. Markoff Chaney says:

    So good you won’t even leave us a link to the demo! :)

    Hmmm. File Planet or Steam. Such a difficult choice. One I get the pleasure of waiting in line for over half an hour for slow speeds. On the other hand, it’s blazing fast with no queue. Whichever will I choose?

    I want to say this game sucks, but I think the Tachyons are messing with me since I haven’t played it yet. On a positive note, when’s the last time we had an old school beat ‘em up on our PC? Hell, the reason I broke down and finally got a PS2 was God Hand, universally despised and 110% awesome. Maybe this will rock and be mindless joy. How bad can it be doing finishing moves with Rorschach while a slim NiteOwl pummels baddies while you both ramp up with ever increasing powers unlocked by virtue of moving through a predetermined course? (Is that even a real sentence? I understand the words, but it just doesn’t seem to make sense…)

  12. Dreamhacker says:

    Heh, and here I thought comics were for kids! I must have been selling them short, because surely all kids would be insulted by this videogame.

  13. Rob says:

    @ Leman. No, unless you disregard Johnny Depp’s ludicrous foppery and Heather Graham’s painful strike-a-light accent in From Hell and just concentrate on Ian Holm being rather creepy.

    Can’t wait for the Nu-Metal Update of Halo Jones.

  14. Mark Stephenson says:

    Spoilers in a Downfall/Watchmen mashup which made me smile

  15. DMJ says:

    Coming next week, War and Peace: The RTS.

  16. Optimaximal says:

    The funny thing is, WBIE are telling reviewers to hold off reviewing this episode before the second is out… Mebbe it features a more rounded experience. Mebbe they’re just chasing sales, hoping to cash-in before the ill-will devalues their efforts into mediocrity.

    Funnily enough, nobody is listening and posting them anyway. I’m still waiting on my product key… Due sometime today apparently :(

  17. Tei says:

    He was not Rorschach’s back then, he was Kovacs playing like Rorschach.

    Also, Is this the version of the movie of the book where everybody has mexican hats?

  18. Silent Witless says:

    So until they bless Phonogram with a Guitar Hero-esque tribute, Make Mine Marvel.

  19. ChaosSmurf says:

    LOOKS SUSPICIOUSLY LIKE SOME NEW GAMES JOURNALISM THERE ALEC.

    I’m pretty sure I’m not even going to bother. I don’t really want this to be my first Watchmen experience.

  20. Tei says:

    @Mark Stephenson: On the other hand, on the hollywood version of the bible, theres a happy end. Jesus don’t die, but create a army and invade and conquest Roma. And theres a cute side love history with Magdalena. And a hot sex scene.
    I like the hollywood version of the bible more than the other.

  21. Helm says:

    When I saw the first image after the jump I must admit it was very difficult to maintain calm. I said “fucking morons” under my breath (well, the Greek equivalent) and scrolled. Scrolled. Scrolled all the way down to the bottom of the page. And I had done so well otherwise trying to ignore the existence of the movie/videogame tie-in. Must purge negative emotions!

  22. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    For some reason I thought there was half a chance that this game would be ok and wouldn’t try and face rape me through the eyes.

    I was wrong, sorry internet :(

  23. Brother None says:

    Oh really, moral indignation at insufficiently respectful treatment of a license? We sure see a lot of that, if somewhat non-even-handedly spread amongst the gaming industry’s many license maltreatments.

    Movie tie-ins? They’re just an easy target. No big surprise there. As, no surprise there, it’s a bad game but also a bad take at the franchise. That is really, really just an easy target. I’d be more impressed if journos apply the same adaptation standards to games that are good.

  24. Jazmeister says:

    Imagine Dante’s Inferno.

    ‘I came then to a tall, forbidding arch. Virgil read it aloud, as if to further warn me:

    “Abandon hope, all ye who forget to quicksave.”

    It sent a chill down my spine, all the way to the f5 key.’

  25. Alec Meer says:

    You sure do like complaining, Bro 0.

  26. phil says:

    People, we’re missing the important point that the fourth quarter numbers were not in line with profit forecasters and a soulless, knuckle-dragging bucket of vomit product is marginally more cost-effective than making something of worth, once we realise that I’m sure we’ll all feel a lot better.

  27. Meat Circus says:

    Anyone who buys this should be ashamed of themselves.

    And not just slightly ashamed. The kind of shame that sickens one to the very core.

  28. Kelduum Revaan says:

    Well, I played the demo on the 360 last night (heresy!) and actually kind of liked it (double heresy!).

    And yes, I’ve read the Graphic Novel, but only relatively recently, and I’m disappointed there is not an accurate ending in the movie.

    And yes, I know the game is also wrong, Kovacs was still himself back then, before he properly lost it and went mental.

    Repeated environments, inaccuracies so on put aside, I kind of enjoyed throwing convicts into each other and over the balconies, as well as generally injuring bad guys in a traditional Double Dragon/Final Fight kind of way.

    Its certainly not a game of the year, but its not as bad as it could have been – Watchman Electric Cart Racing anyone? – and maybe it will help get some people to read the original graphic novel…

  29. Freelancepolice says:

    woah hold on there Markoff Chaney

    God hand isn’t universally despised – 1 particular ign review! It’s got quite the following

  30. Gap Gen says:

    Consolevania also rated God Hand quite highly.

  31. Kieron Gillen says:

    God Hand is amazing. I wrote a big piece about it for the Escapist, I think.

    And Quinns RPS uses God Hand as a model for life, I suspect.

    KG

  32. Percyprune says:

    Alan Moore will make nothing off this farrago. He has famously taken his name off the credits and refused all moneys (just as he did with the V For Vendetta movie) and handed all income off to the artist (in this case Dave Gibbons). Bravo! A man of integrity. Top bloke, too!

  33. Percyprune says:

    Sorry, I meant Moore has taken his name off the credits of the movie. I have no idea if he’s credited in the game.

  34. Theoban says:

    @Meat Circus – I’m going to buy you a copy now. No, three copies.

  35. Kieron Gillen says:

    He almost certainly won’t be credited in the game, for the reasons you describe.

    KG

  36. Ginger Yellow says:

    The funny thing is that, standing on its own, the Rorschach panel would make an excellent Penny Arcade-style satire of how the licensed games industry destroys everything it touches.

  37. phil says:

    @Percyprune
    I believe the game is a secondary marketing tie-in with the movie, rather than the book – hence he still gets nothing – though to be fair, with the game in particular – he probably prefers it that way.

  38. Ginger Yellow says:

    To further that thought, if WBIE had made the game into a meta-fiction about licensed games (a bit like the latest Simpsons game, I suppose), it would have been very Watchmen. As it is, not so much.

  39. phil says:

    Some reviews have been relatively positive; like
    http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3173076 – though the reviewer did feel obligated to state “I am not angry this game exists” which could act as a disclaimer.

  40. Markoff Chaney says:

    Apologies. I know a lot of us who actually played the game loved it, so universally was the incorrect form of hyperbole to use in that instance, but I know quite a few reviewers (ARS and IGN in particular) that utterly despised God Hand. All that made me do is never trust those idiots’ reviews again. HA HA! (/taunt)

    And now to torpedo any form of credibility I may anonymously have…

    It wasn’t half bad, as a 3-D Brawler.

    I still can’t wrap my head around the juxtaposition of the source material, but I had fun. I gazed upon my wife’s stunned expression and listened to her comments when she saw me fire it up before she walked out asking me “They made a Watchmen game that is a prequel? Isn’t anything sacred? Is this canon?”. I love that Woman…

    Anyway.
    – Repetitive enemies and weapons and textures and sounds and attacks? Check
    – Corridors of paths with little thought involved in “puzzles” and only one way to progress? Check (No blinking arrow or time count down though)
    – Context sensitive button presses with a subtly deeper experience and combo system than originally thought? Check
    – Cheesy dialogue? Check
    – Difficultish implementation of 3rd person camera with multiple enemies beating on you? Check

    It’s mostly all there. Regenerating health instead of random whole turkeys in prison garbage cans disappointed me, though. It’s all vapid and trite and repetitively repetitious with a lot of repetition. And yet I was almost late for work, seeing if I could get that next spinning token or see how I could break this guy’s leg or that guy’s face after throwing his buddy into 4 other people and stunning this guy with a combo. It was oddly enjoyable and, as I said, we have a Beat em Up on the PC at least. 360 controller worked flawlessly as well.

    I’m really confused on a couple of points though. Being pre-1975, he should have sounded more like Kovacs, as Rorschach wouldn’t open his eyes for another 3 years and thusly shouldn’t have a voice either. His manner of diction at the only meeting of the Crimebusters furthers the stability of this supposition. His abuse of those I fought against also didn’t fit my idea of molly coddling.

    Not sure if I’ll buy it (that 20 dollars would be better served buying my 6th copy of Watchmen and giving it away really) but I do want to get a friend and hook another controller up and see how it does Co-Op. It was worth the twenty something Peggles worth of bandwidth, if nothing other than to let you prove to yourself it actually does exist.

  41. groovychainsaw says:

    Another original approach, like a pulp sci-fi story reflecting the themes of the book (in a ‘tales of the black freighter’ style) would have been more in keeping with Alan Moore’s ideas.
    Or a game reflecting how insignificant people become when you are doc manhattan. Maybe wander round the world, 200 feet tall, killing people with a wave of your hand, seeing a kill counter go up to 6 billion, but never getting a reward or power up for it, no points, no score, but when you stop killing for a moment, your character flies to mars and the game ends, dissociated from the destruction by the insignificance of it all… ;-)

  42. Moriarty70 says:

    I think the Penny-Arcade one would end with comic Rorschach setting digital Rorschach on fire.

  43. cyrenic says:

    I couldn’t tell at first if that screenshot from Rorscharch’s journal was a photoshop joke or not.

  44. Pags says:

    The one good thing we can take from this game is that it has at least made for some entertaining comment threads on RPS.

  45. Jonas says:

    I can’t believe this game is made by a Danish studio. What are you thinking, Deadline? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!?

  46. Markoff Chaney says:

    I’m still trying to remember verbatim what one of the first thugs said to me as he saw me. Something about fucking me up while fucking up my real face you fuck or something. I think it was pulled from a Tennyson poem that Alan Moore adapted, IIRC.

    The “It’s as black down there as Moloch’s heart” line made me chuckle too. It was more of a mirthless self-deprecating “Yes, they really can rape your joyous dreams and fantasies and long standing loves in front of you while you cry (and hope it’s not your turn next), Virginia” kind of way instead of a joyful chuckle though.

  47. Okami says:

    Come on, it’s just a comic…

    *ducks*

  48. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    Yeah it was kinda pretty (which just for that will probably get a few sales) but other than that it was pretty crap. Read the comic again instead of playing this.

  49. Haml3t says:

    @groovychainsaw: I found your Dr. Manhattan suggestion to be really, really compelling. I really think someone should make a You Have to Burn the Rope-esque game out of it–less of a game than a quasi-philosophical point, a message conveyed through a game instead of an essay or book or film. Kudos, sir, kudos. You’ve got me thinking.
    And I’m going to download the demo, just to try it. I like punching things and breaking their faces.

  50. Jahkaivah says:

    @groovychainsaw

    Cool idea, I find that when you activate god-mode in any game you play, you often gain an insight on how Dr Manhattan must feel.