The job of turning the world’s greatest graphic novel into a videogame fell to Deadline Games, maker of tequila-slammin’, sombrero-catchin’ action game Total Overdose. But with just ten months in which to do it, making some grand Yakuza-style adventure wasn’t an option. “We had to come up with a concept that suited the timetable and the fanbase but also made sense as a game,” explains producer Soren Lund. “So we came up with a proposal to work with two of the main characters, Nite Owl and Rorschach, who describe in the novel how they worked together in the past.”
Put simply, Nite Owl and Rorschach are a good cop/bad cop duo who go their separate ways when the law turns against them. Nite Owl, a Bruce Wayne style gadget man, slips into retirement and grows fat; Rorschach, an ingenious street brawler and mentally scarred sociopath, takes his punishment of the underworld to brutal new heights. In their crime-busting past, developer Deadline saw the blueprint it was looking for: a good old-fashioned punch-up.
“What we did was say, okay, these guys are all dressed up to party, but when the novel actually takes place the party’s over,” says Lund. “In our game, the party’s still going on.” That party, then, is a downloadable beat-em-up for PSN that harks right back to games like Streets of Rage, Final Fight and Dynamite Cop. It’s six chapters long and deals with something the novel only mentions in passing: the search for an underworld kingpin aptly known as Underboss. Using sanctioned material from a pen-and-paper RPG, Deadline has fleshed out this historic character, along with another – a small-time hood called Jimmy the Gimmick.
Cast your mind back to when fighting in games occurred largely in alleys and sewers against waves of trash-talking thugs. Remember punching out increasingly complex button combos to pull off ever-nastier moves. Hit a crook and he drops his crowbar; pick it up and pummel everyone on screen. That’s the gist of the Watchmen game – nothing fancy, nothing clever. Bonus pickups boost your abilities, Rorschach’s being rage, Nite Owl’s being an electrical attack and defense. There are fast and heavy punches and kicks; throws and finishing moves. And unique abilities: Rorschach can unlock gates to reach bonus areas, Nite Owl gets the chance to use a grappling hook.