Who Plays the ‘Watchmen: Justice is Coming’?

 

Hurm, indeed. (The shirt is awesome…the game? Well, just read.)

 

Okay, I will admit it. I told Ron I was going to do a review of Watchmen: Justice is Coming (iTunes link) and I really believed I was going to write such a thing, but, my friends, in that regard, I am going to fail you. I can’t give you a review of the game because by the time I would be able to provide a thoughtful analysis and commentary on this game, it would be 2011.  What I will do, however, is give you my experience with the game so far and tell you what works and what does not.

(Can I just tell you that I haven’t bought new books in three weeks and I am scared to death of my pull box, yet at the same time, can’t wait to get back into things? Well, I am, on both accounts. Next week, I will be back to discussing actual comic books, I promise.)

So, yes. Watchmen: Justice is Coming is a game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Right now, it is being offered for 99¢ as a kind of introductory promotion. The big feature with this game is that it’s apparently an MMO (massively multiplayer online) game, yet when I played it last night, I bumped into exactly one other “real” person. If and when you do bump into that person, you can chat and fight with him or her, just like in real life. The game features “rich real time 3D graphics”, which means, I guess that the graphics are mildly immersive and move around as you move around (real time). I work in a software company so I understand the allure of using buzzwords to describe your product, but come on–the graphics look okay, they pixelate like mad depending on what you are viewing, and, yes, of course they are in real time because your little character moves around in them but, in the end, they are pretty basic. (Super Monkey Ball is much more immersive, if I have to give you something to compare it to). It also features a music sample that is repeated, over and over and over again… more on that later.

The game itself wants to be a little like Grand Theft Auto — you basically appear in the middle of New York City and are left to your own (mobile) devices to figure out what you are supposed to do. I guess there was a plague because I played this game and I bumped into a total of 7 other characters — one real player and six “Knot Top” enemies. The game features lots of vehicles that you cannot drive and lots and lots of shops, theaters and other locations that you cannot walk into. In fact, in the tutorial, the first thing that is discussed is that you can look inside of dumpsters to find items. It should be called Watchmen: You are Homeless.

Fight! Eventually!


Now, when you do bump into another character, you are supposed to fight them, because, I guess, you are some kind of vigilante (no one told me, at any point, what I am supposed to do in this game). Fighting is turned based, meaning that you have a turn then you have another turn and then you have another turn. The game moves away from the 3/4 view into a sort of Street Fighter view and then, while a clock winds down, you can click on one of three fighting/blocking actions. Now, you can add new actions as you get more experience, but you only have three at any given time (as far as I can tell). I think that some moves are more useful if you hit the attack button towards the beginning or the end of the countdown, but the clock that counts down kept skipping backwards in time, so I just hit the kick attack immediately and I won every fight (okay, I did an elbow strike too). But as far I could tell, timing had nothing to do with anything. When you defeat the other character you get experience, which I guess lets you go up levels, which I guess lets you get new attack/block moves. During the fight itself, the same music plays  — there are no sound effects during the fight itself (even a grunt or a wheeze would have been nice), but, like the rest of the game, it’s all eerily quiet. I suppose that perhaps the timing might make a difference when playing a real person, but, like I said, I haven’t seen more than one person since I started playing two days ago. But the game is still new, so that might change.

Now, the reason why a full review of this game won’t come out until 2011: every time you start a game session, after every single fight and after every time you go to a new map, the game has to load the level, which involves hearing the same music that you play to and a full on fly-through of the whole level, which can take anywhere from 60-90 seconds, at least. Like, maybe longer, depending on the level. This does not sound like a lot, perhaps, when you read it now, but like, it drove me crazy, especially since the maps I was on kept ended with a tight zoom onto some graffiti that said “The End is Nigh” — which, I get it, it’s in the book and it’s the end of the flyby, but, I mean, it takes away any kind of spontaneity and just kind of ticked me off. The first few times I kept hitting the screen to see if i could skip it, but no… you must fly through!!

This loading screen is significant because it’s grabbing data from a server. You see, since it’s an MMO, you make a character with a name and a password (stored, oddly in plain view, so you can see it, which is… different), so you have to log in each time to play it — the game requires a constant online connection to play. I did not notice a difference better playing it on the normal (non 3G) Edge network and my regular wireless connection, which was surprising. I guess people are irritated that you need to be online, which makes sense if you are an iPod touch user since you would have to be near a wifi spot to play the game.  

The game suffers that same fate that all applications on the iPhone do — if a phone call comes in, the game quits so you can take the call. After you are done with the call, the game automatically launches again so you can play — but you still have to suffer through the fly-through sequence.

The graphics are okay. I didn’t find them especially rich, even when I looked really closely, but the shimmery reflections and everything all look pretty good, but nothing jaw dropping. You can customize your character with various clothes and hairstyles, which I guess keeps things fresh, but you only really see the clothing differences when you are fighting. The environment is distressingly static. Except for you and the other players and enemies, there are no other people walking or driving around — it’s a total ghost town. There are no ambient sounds so although the game’s graphics are mildly immersive (especially if you put the device right in front of your eyes), there is no sound to make it more interesting. Just the same music clip. Over and over again.

My avatar… is that fauxhawk?

The controls are extremely basic. You use your finger to aim the character in a direction to stroll (I haven’t been able to make my guy run) and that’s about the only interactivity in the game. Tilting and moving the device does nothing. The sound is almost non existent, except for the endlessly looping music. The game does not vibrate when you get hit during combat or anything cool like that. In addition to walking around, you can walk into a subway and be transported to a different game area, which you get to see much of during the fly-through when you arrive at your stop. I was not able to enter any vehicles and drive around, which is a shame because there are a lot of them parked around.  

Finally, the game is pretty buggy. I was booted off the server a few times when I first started playing, and there was one character that when I tried to fight would disconnect from the server. Every time you disconnect from the server, you have to go through the fly-through again, of course. The graphics were extremely buggy, especially during the fighting, with considerable clipping and skipping around. I assume much of this can be fixed, but overall, this really felt more like a late beta than a real release.

As you can probably tell, I do not really like the game. I appreciate that it’s only 99¢, since it’s a pretty easy thing to check out, but I doubt I will be interested in the game even if I start meeting more real people and, uhm, getting better clothing. It’s just that there was no hook to make me feel like I was part of a story, I literally was just this guy walking around, beating up people. There are apparently story points that I can collect, but, seriously, it takes so long to go between levels that I just couldn’t stomach going to more than a few of them. Gathering experience points by fighting was not attractive, either, because of the fly-throughs. So, I didn’t want to explore and I didn’t want to fight. Not a good thing for a game that is all about walking around and fighting people.

The game deserves some credit, though. The graphics are pretty solid, considering that it’s running on a mobile device and the idea of an MMO on a mobile device is pretty exciting. It would be fun to have a local network aspect to the game, where you could get a group of people to explore the game together, but, again, the loading fly-through portion of the game just makes the game impossible to sit through. You just lose any kind of momentum and drive to get through the story, and we all know that a successful plot is all about momentum. What if you had to sit through the opening credits of a TV show after every commercial — and couldn’t fast forward through either? You would just give up, which is what I did last night.  

Watchmen: Justice is Coming is an interesting attempt to do something different, but in the end, the actual implementation just does not work. You can’t waste people’s time when they are actively wasting time playing a game, you know? The loading screen between each and every significant event kills the game and until the fix that issue (highly unlikely), I cannot recommend you paying even the 99¢ for it. I like that they took an aspect of the story and made that into the game and although I guess it might be possible that we see other characters and plot points of the book in the game, I doubt anyone will be able to play it long enough to see them. Save your money, put down your phone, and go read a comic.

Uhm, not really.

 


Mike Romo is an actor in LA who is waiting for his XBox to come back from a bout with the red ring of death. He can be reached at mike@ifanboy.com, followed on Twitter and faced on Facebook.

Comments

  1. It can’t be worse than the crappy game they have on the PC and consoles.

  2. i’d be interested in hearing what people thought of the XBLA game. seemed a little pricey and i understand the co-op can’t be done online – only with two people on the same system.

    so is it our demand that these games be released sooner which keeps ruining them or that the developers just don’t care? i’d rather wait to play a ‘good’ game than play most the garba’je they put out these days. hell, i might even be willing to pay more than usual for it.

    Watchmen: Justice is Coming sounds agonizing to say the least. likely i wouldn’t have made it as far as you did Mike. i f’n HATE load screens

  3. I can only barely understand what they think this has to do with Watchmen. It’s like a Star Wars game based entirely on moisture farming in the desert.

  4. They should have a level where you play as Kovacs and just walk around holding the "THE END IS NIGH" sign all over town.  That sounds more rewarding.

  5. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    It’s really funny to imagine Alan Moore sitting in his parlor, wreathed in snakes, eyes glazed, playing this game for hours in the dark.  

    "Alan?  What are you up to?"

    "It’s uhm…I’m…."

    "Is that a video game?"

    "It’s Victorian pornography, I swear!"  

    "Hurm." 

  6. @Jimski – hey, man, say what you will, but I think Star Wars: Toshi Station 2: The Power Converter Shortage was a damned good game that added breadth and depth to the whole SW mythos. I personally think it’s more important than Phantom Menace.

  7. Mike: gameplay aside, what I’d really like to know is if this game captures the dense, meta-textual layering of the source material. I mean, does this game comment on OTHER games?

    And… how do they handle the Hollis Mason text pieces in the game?

  8. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    (The Phantom Menace games were actually really, really awesome.)

    Did anybody pick up the Watchmen console game?  I’d love to hear how they structured that one.   

  9. i want to play as Joey so i can find my cheating girlfriend and beat her in front of the news stand, yay!!

  10. I think Alan Moore would kill himself just so he can roll over in his grave. sounds like if someone made a watchmen facebook game it would be more entertaining then this.

  11. @P Money aka Pizzle

    I downloaded and played the demo on PS3 (full version = 20 bucks).  It’s got some nice Gibbons-style cut-scenes and to me the game looked and played like a below-average button-masher.  Kick-punch-kick-random combo.  Very boring and very easy.  The first stage has Rorschach and Nite Owl quelling a prison riot.  There’s cursing, too!  Maybe worth 20 if you’re not expecting much.

  12. The XBLA game is horrible!  Like ultimatehoratio said, it’s a plain button masher.  The cut scenes are ok, but the dialogue is flippin’ horrible (not poorly acted, just poorly written).  Definitely not worth the $20 price tag.  Wait for the movie to exit theaters and this will probably drop to a much lower price.

  13. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    If they’d done it as a campy, old-school 2D side-scroller like Streets of Rage and the TMNT games…hell, I’d buy 6.  

  14. The novelty of playing as Rorschach wears off by the time you finish the demo.  Worth the free download if that interests you.

  15. @P Money, et. all-It is nowhere near as good as Streets of Rage or TMNT.  The novelty does indeed wear off after a few minutes.  And there are several more "chapters" that will be available later, each for $20 a pop. 

  16. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Well, nothing is as good as Streets of Rage 2.  It’s the pinnacle.  

  17. @Piddy Sense

    The book is better.

  18. @P-Money- Word!!!  Streets of Rage 2 was amazing.  My brothers and I would fight over who got to be Skate.  It got brutal sometimes.

  19. ugh…looks not fun

  20. You can google for the PC demo and you can all try out demo on the XBLA/PSN. I tried the PC demo.

     

    Remember how awesome Streets of Rage. Well it’s the exact opposite of that. There’s a lot of talk about the price:length ratio, well the price would’ve been justified if the game was actually fun. 

     

    Stay away.