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 »

  1. Nick says:

    @Pags – that was brilliant.

  2. Craymen Edge says:

    I do love it so when people get precious over someone else’s creative output. :P

    I applaud them for not trying to squeeze the actual storyline of the Watchmen into the game style they’d chosen to make. Instead they chose a story that wasn’t explored in the book – Night Owl and Rorschach taking down the underboss. That said, I don’t really care to try the demo for the reasons already mentioned – it looks like a repetetive movie tie in.

  3. Jockie says:

    Seconded, that was genius.

  4. Haml3t says:

    I’m at school so I’m afraid I can’t watch Pags’s link, but I look forward to doing so later. I still want the Dr. Manhattan game.

  5. Tei says:

    @Okami: “Come on, it’s just a comic…”

    A dead body as the same number of particles a alive body.

  6. Pags says:

    In future, I’m just going to link to other people being funny rather than attempting it myself.

  7. Lord Skwizzal says:

    Would I be correct in assuming that if I said I liked this, I’d be hunted down and shot?

  8. Ian says:

    Meat Circus is on his way to your location as we speak.

  9. Markoff Chaney says:

    Only if you buy it though. Then he shoots shame at you until you can be shamed no longer. Then he shoots more just in case.

    I can’t wait to get home and see Pags’ link. Silly proxies!

  10. Lord Skwizzal says:

    Meh
    I’ll probably ask my buccaneer friends to let me aboard their bounty vessel and offload it slowly.

    If you know what I mean.

  11. AndrewC says:

    I’m not sure Meat Circus would like his ammunition described as ‘shame’.

  12. Matthew Craig says:

    That cartoon is pure brilliance.

    But why did it have to END?

    Awww…

    //\Oo/\\

  13. groovychainsaw says:

    Had a follow on thought, that you also ‘win’ and go to mars if you don’t kill anyone and stand still, completely bored, thereby making the choice to do any destruction even more meaningless. If only i could program, eh?

  14. Markoff Chaney says:

    It’s some kind of core seeking, self-impacting, sickening +5, infinite ammo type of shame that he holds in reserve for those whom purchase this game. He found it in a crate he smashed open. Or maybe it was a box – I couldn’t really tell since the resolution was wonky due to transcoding.

  15. karthik says:

    The Rohrshach’s Journal clipping can’t be from the game. Oh, god, no.

  16. Alex says:

    Having read that journal screenshoot, I will shortly be ascending the nearest clocktower to begin shooting at passersby.

  17. Chaz says:

    So the Watchmen gets turned into a lame 3D beatem up. *sigh* It’s a sign of the times. In the 80′s of course Ocean Software would have made it into a 2D platformer.

  18. Tei says:

    @An_Adult “It’s a fucking comic..;.Get over it and grow up!!!”

    Non non, non.. you get it all wrong. Is a history that use a comic to be written. We call that “Graphic Novels”, and watchmen is to the graphic novel genre what Ulises is to poetry. You don’t use Comics Sans with Rorschach, period. PERIOD.

  19. apnea says:

    Good going, Alec. You found the courage to go past your Reviewer’s Aversion to “mildly annoying developers and publishers” and became all critical on us.

    Now if only the rest of the Hivemind would follow your lead…

    (j/king – don’t want you guys to lose your insider status ;))

  20. Jockie says:

    I gave the demo a go out of curiosity, the journal thing isn’t from the game. The writing all seems a bit obvious drawing lightly from the comic (mentions of Woodward and Bernstein), but quite shallow.

    The gameplay was super repetitive, run round here, kill 5 blokes, pull switch, kill 5 blokes, interspersed with aforementioned lousy dialogue.

    That said, the combat itself isn’t -that- bad and it looks pretty, the game might be worth playing if you fancy a streets of rage-esque beat em up. But of course its a pretty terrible use of the watchmen license.

  21. Heliocentric says:

    My prefix-girlfriend just got my watchmen as a gift. I’ve not read it yet. I can only promise you i’ll read it before i try this demo. I wonder if my fanboy rage will be like some of you guys given the pace of my transition. But know this she got it after seeing the game on steam and asking what it was about.

    The game brought me into this thus.

  22. Cedge says:

    Waa, boo hoo hoo.

    Game is fun.

  23. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    While I very much like the Watchmen graphic novel, I can’t help smirking at how AIMs arbitrarily decide which franchise adaption is bad and in need of some raping. Anyone complaining about Fallout 3 would have been hamstrung, but I guess Watchmen is more precious to them.

  24. Thirith says:

    Except, of course, lots of people complained about Fallout 3, not only the NMA crowd. So what exactly is the point you’re making?

  25. J-Man says:

    Uh.. after reading that Rorschach journal picture I feel like vomiting.

  26. Funky Badger says:

    I’m sure there was a kerfuffle over Fallout 3, sure of it…

  27. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Except, of course, nearly all complaining about Fallout 3 was dismissed on account of it being perpetrated by pubescent rabble with a weird sense of entitlement. But with Watchment, it’s a sin.

  28. Nick says:

    Nah, just the borderline fanatical drivel that only a select few peddled was dismissed, sadly giving a bad name to places that didn’t deserve it. You aren’t doing anything but perpetuating that misconception right now though.

  29. JKjoker says:

    i really don’t get movie tie-ins, they could just make a nice looking pseudo 3d Final Fight(or other simple but fun game) clone with the characters, going for short but fun and sell it for 20-30 bucks without that much investment (even less if they license an engine) and with a very fast development cycle ending up with a forgettable put passable game.
    But nooooooo, they need to make an awful full 3D game with a new engine that never finishes development and releases in alpha stage usually trying hated or unproven gameplay elements end in a boring and extremely annoying turd with a $60+ tag making the poor(or idiot) customer that gave your game a chance resentful against them for the rest of their lives

  30. Pags says:

    @Diogo Ribeiro: the difference is that Fallout 3 was a semi-decent game which showed that Bethesda still had some imagination, even if it wasn’t exactly canon (although the idea of a Fallout canon is pretty preposterous anyway, as Fallout 2 wasn’t exactly faithful to the original Fallout either).

    Whereas this game is a rather insipid Streets of Rage copycat.

  31. Homunculus says:

    Has Saturday Morning Watchmen been linked in a relevant thread yet? I feel it should.

  32. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    @Pags: True, but if you’ll note, I’m only addressing the tolerance or absence for the criticism itself. Yes, Fallout 3 is semi-decent and this Watchmen game is – at this point – feeling like yet another stillborn cash-in. But I wonder how much of this has a link to the object of criticism rather than the quality of the game.

  33. JKjoker says:

    @Pags : wtf man, you cannot compare the differences between Fallout 1 and 2 and the ones between Fallout 1 and 3, F3 is a completely different game without personality that sucked enough juice out of the raped fallout franchise to feel fresh to the unwashed ignorant masses who never tasted the real thing, its like giving diet ice-cream to somebody that never tasted one, they’ll tell your its awesome because they don’t know better

  34. subcommander says:

    Ugh

  35. Pags says:

    @Homunculus: I beat you to it!

    @Diogo: Fair point, people are probably more ready to dismiss this game than they would have been with Fallout 3.

    @JKjoker: lol.

  36. Down Rodeo says:

    God Hand, awesome. The Let’s Play of it is awesome.

  37. Azazel says:

    So… less blood from the shoulder of Pallas and more blood from a stone. Hur hur.

    Hmmm, that doesn’t really work :/

  38. Down Rodeo says:

    Argh, that’s a terrible comment. My apologies. What I’m trying to say is the Let’s Play of God Hand not only made me want to buy the game but also made me want to buy a PS2 to play it on…

  39. Nimdok says:

    I disliked the comic for various and sundry reasons which I won’t go into but generally involve my distaste for Moore and his works. The movie I might see just to see if it improved on the comic or stayed about the same.

    Just finished the demo and, you know, I liked it; brawlers have always been my preferred console and arcade experience, and this is a nice, simple brawler with a bit of variety: unlimited specials attached to a charged bar, cinematic disarms NOT attached to quick-time events, although I kinda wished the dialogue was different depending on which character you played as, I wish the demo had controller support, and the fact that I never liked Rorschach’s speech patterns was made worse by hearing it spoken aloud (I found myself remarking on how many times he left out words and how unnatural it sounds). For twenty bucks, I’ll buy it.

    Bitter and jaded gamers make for the best (worst?) critics, especially when the game involves a “beloved” franchise. If it weren’t “Watchmen” I’m sure there would be more positive comments.

  40. apnea says:

    Nimdok is something else.

    Distaste for Moore (and some of his new-agey stuff), I share. But dislike for Watchmen?

    No reasons too sundry/various for my ears. Do tell.

    (Okay plotting is not always up to par, but come on – dislike?)

  41. DBeaver says:

    I growned out loud seeing the Rorschach’s Journal screenshot

  42. Nimdok says:

    Moore’s too heavy handed, too into himself to realize he’s not a very good writer of dialogue OR plot, let alone decent characterization. Watchmen was too much an obvious conglomeration of every comic he’s ever read, or written crapped out onto paper and called a tour-de-force. It wasn’t a tribute to the comics of yesteryear, it wasn’t even a send-off, just a blatant grave robbing.

  43. Kieron Gillen says:

    Nimdok: Let’s go for the obvious – who do you think is better?

    KG

  44. Nimdok says:

    KG: Thaaaan? Better than Moore?

    That’s a trap; no matter what I say there could be a legitimate argument which would, more than likely, render my point(s) moot. Besides that, by making the ‘better than’ argument I’m showing myself as being judgemental as opposed to opinionated; I will say that I LIKE writers like Warren Ellis, Dave Sims, Marv Wolfman, G. Willow Wilson, Rob Schrab, Grant Morrison, Bob Layton, Mark Schultz, Eastman AND Laird, Enki Bilal, Alan Grant…

    Put it this way: Moore falls low on the scale.

  45. Nimdok says:

    Aww, crap; added an extra S onto Dave Sim’s name…

    No edit button and no going back make Nimdok something something…

  46. The Ironic Review says:

    Aaaaaaaaaaahhh…

  47. JKjoker says:

    i thought Black Summer was a lot better than Watchmen, and im sure it would make a better doomed-to-suck-comic-based-movie (it has more BANGs!)

  48. Mister Hands says:

    Nimdok: “If it weren’t “Watchmen” I’m sure there would be more positive comments.”

    Well, yeah. Isn’t putting the wrong game to the wrong license generally a valid point of criticism? I thought the gameplay was fairly solid, even fun for the duration of the demo, just not the gameplay a Watchmen game needs or deserves.