Friday, February 3, 2012

Who Plays the Watchmen?

Who Watches the Watchmen? was the question spray-painted on walls in defiance throughout perhaps the greatest superhero story ever told. The answer is that everyone does now. Especially with DC Comics' recent announcement that this summer would be highlighted by an extensive series of prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic twelve-issue maxi-series.

In 1986, Moore and Gibbons revolutionized the comics industry, and how we think about superheroes with Watchmen. It brought four color comics storytelling to a whole new level and told a tale of intrigue, betrayal, romance, politics, adventure, and even pirates and nuclear suspense. Utilizing a nine-panel grid layout and nonlinear narrative, it jumped through time and space and even plot to create a masterful and complex story of superheroes deconstructed in a real world setting. It was, and is, epic.

Now I'm not going to pass any judgment on "Before Watchmen," or at least not here on this blog, but it should be noted that a year or two back a movie was made of the comic series, one that I really did like, and from that, a videogame came into being, one that I've downloaded not just one part, but two. Yeah, this time, we're talking about Who Plays the Watchmen? That'd be me.

Watchmen: The End Is Nigh comes in two parts as a downloadable demo for the PS3. I've talked a little bit about the first part here. Part one happens during a prison break, and part two you get to go to a strip club. As the two playable protagonists, Rorshach and Nite Owl, in a time before costumed vigilantes were outlawed, the 1970s, you are promised to encounter villains from the comics who are only mentioned, like the Underboss, the Twilight Lady, as well as more famous (or infamous) folks like the Comedian, and even Woodward and Bernstein.

Now that might al sound like a blast to those of us who love the comics, and dig story in our videogames, but for folks like me, who have trouble with the controllers and aren't seasoned gamer professionals - we'll barely get through the prison and/or the strip club to any actual plot. Also, knowing there's a programmed-in ending, no matter what, is also a bit of a disappointment even before you play. The fight moves are repetitive, and it's always raining, so there's really not much to see, but it is always a treat to see characters you know as opposed to unfamiliar gaming characters.

And as an added bonus, this is technically a pseudo-prequel to the great comic series. Like the DC Heroes RPG module "Taking Out the Trash," a panel or two in Countdown, and of course The Question #17, this is one of the real addenda to the Watchmen saga before the announcement of Before Watchmen. Watch out, the universe is about to get bigger...

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