The Rorschach Test

Rorschach! He don't take crap! Rorschach! Shut your big yap!

This hysteria over the Watchmen movie really has to end. For Watchmen fans’ own good. For one thing, it can’t work out well for them, because the film can never live up to what they expect – nay, demand – from it. They’ve been waiting for this movie about as long as Star Wars fans were waiting for the prequel trilogy, and look how that turned out: George Lucas could have murdered Harrison Ford in a deranged offering to Palpatine’s ghost and there would have been less complaining. Not that the complaining was unjustifed or anything – Phantom Menace was a crime against science fiction – but really, can any movie hope to live up to twenty-odd years’ worth of hype?

And for another thing, they’re all getting bent out of shape about a comic book movie. Have a sense of humour, ya big saps.

Of course, if a reportedly relatively faithful movie adaptation is being mauled and scalped by the fans of the original graphic novel, they’re going to have collective brain aneurysms when they lay their hands on the game, the demo of which was released into the eternally bloodshot view of the internets today. After all, nothing screams “epoch-creating, intelligent, philosophical study of the superhero phenomenon” like a button-mashing beat ’em up. Sigh. What’s next – Dante’s Inferno as a God of War-aping third-person actioner?

It’s not that bone-crushing vigilante super-violence wasn’t part of The Watchmen‘s repertoire. But this game is even more two dimensional than the pictures in the graphic novel. The section of the prison riot level the demo provides plays something like this: punch punch punch, run, spin camera ineffectively, punch kick punch, pick up power-up(!!!), quicktime event, pull lever, punch. It’s repetitive, brainless, and – probably most galling to Watchmen fans – completely nonsensical in terms of the comic’s canon.

In fairness, the game has its pretty moments – the Rorschach and Nite-Owl models are quite nice, especially the way Nite-Owl’s shiny cape gets tossed around – and the violence feels good and sturdy. As a Streets of Rage wannabe updated to the 21st century, it’s effective enough. But I don’t think you could find two fictions further apart on the “depth of narrative” scale than Streets of Rage and The Watchmen, and trying to shoehorn the quirks and details of Alan Moore’s writing style and characters into a shallow, interactive punching bag was a doomed endeavour from the get-go. You’d be as well off trying to make it work as a Sims-style life management game – The Watchmen just doesn’t fit into game-adaptation the way the money-grubbing licensing types would dearly love it to.

But hey – it’s here, the demo’s free, and it’s decent fun if you forget what it’s based on. If nothing else, you can imagine the dumb, sweary inmates you mercilessly pound on are all Zack Snyder, and release your stewing, impotent fanboy rage in a fairly harmless manner.

Ya big saps.


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