“The Quiet Man”, developed by Human Head Studios and published by Square Enix for PC and PS4, is an action-adventure beat ’em up video game FMV hybrid that relies heavily on cut scenes to do the brunt of it’s experience. It’d be more appropriate to call it an Indie movie filmed with a far too high budget than it is offering with a tacked on fighting engine but I think I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s just dive right into it and explore the good, the bad, and the ugly that is “The quiet man”.
From the start you are given a splash screen that includes a picture of a skyline at night (later revealed to just be the first frame of the first cutscene), and what I can only explain as the menu options you got in the early 2000’s when using free DVD creation software. No title, no telling you who made this or anything else for that matter. Nothing is labeled properly outside of display settings (that aren’t tied to game play mind you) There is a scene selection, also not labeled properly, game play options that are nothing more than you illuminating neon tubes made to look like something that is vaguely depicting something but also not labeled leaving you confused as to what you even selected. (one such option is actually to turn on and off voices/subtitles but isn’t available till you beat the game but will be selectable out the gate.) You cannot have subtitles without speech without turning audio itself off on a separate setting. It’s a confusing mess that does nothing to help anyone; which is concerning considering the game is about a deaf protagonist which no doubt brought in attention from differently abled individuals. It becomes a greater barrier to entry then a stylistic choice which I can only assume was the choice they made thinking they needed something minimal that could be understood by those who can’t read.
The quiet man employs 3 different styles of graphics: Live action filming, CGI cut scenes, and the exploration/battle mode. The cinematography is the shining light on this otherwise dark experience. The lighting, camera work and direction is top notch. The actors are good looking individuals that are for the most part, seem out of their element (this is made especially clear once you do the new game + with added audio) The CGI cut scenes are OK for a low budget game though being made by a company known for games like “Bioshock: Infinite” it seems a little lacking. faces can border from competent to downright unsettling at times. The exploration/fighting where we see game play however is very stripped down in comparison to the previous offerings; with backgrounds looking far better then the characters that looked far better yet to foreground items (like a loaf of bread and DVD menu on a T.V. looking like they were ripped out of a PS2 game) Overall though it looks decent but quality is a roller coaster with all aspects of this game and the graphics were not spared this fate.
As mentioned with the graphics, There are four aspects to the game. I’ll concentrate solely on exploring and fighting. Exploration is very sporadic and feels completely unnecessary considering most of these scenes last under a minute and involve you walking from left to right a few steps. It was as if they took pity on the player for having so much inactivity and threw in a few scraps of interactivity to keep us from falling asleep. The combat is a whole other story. Human Head studios is known for making “Batman: Arkham Origins” and their experience with that combat shows here. That sadly however is not a compliment. For controls you are given a light and heavy attack. the ability to combo, evade, free run, and lastly to use a special “bullet time” like effect where things slow down; making combos easier. There is also a counter system in place which is how you can do the most damage and leave you invulnerable however it is not an easy to trigger instance and feels like a crap shoot if the trigger even sticks while dodging to initiate the special moves associated with countering. In fact combat in general is a crap shoot as to whether you are doing what you asked. combat feels like how choppy frame rate look like. Inputs are seemingly eaten at random and who you even attack is based on the direction you are pressing but heavily rejects that input and instead decides to attack whomever is closest instead. Several times I have had my character dash about the screen attacking randomly making crowd control a nightmare. Speaking of crowd control “The quiet man” has a lot of crowds. some enemies are literal punching bags, some with weapons block just about everything and can defeat you in a single combo (from full health) and others dodge everything and then tackle you for around half health, which despite my best efforts, seems unavoidable once the animation starts up. battles range from laughably easy to a full on crowd that will have you dying for half an hour before you are blessed with less aggressive AI keeping itself from crowding you and having a pummel fest. Bosses are also a roller coaster of easy to hard. They rarely get hit but once they do you can just mash the light attack to defeat them fully. A lack of tutorial or any kind of game play design that would allow you to explore your skill set will have your frustratingly mash until you win or give up in a fit of rage after seeing your dead mother wake you up for the 106th time.
Control schemes are unchangeable and include: QWERTY keyboard AZERTY keyboard (both can include mouse but unneeded), and an x-input controller (though wasn’t advertised and due to confusion with the title screen and options make up, was unknown to me until I looked up a walkthrough) If you value your time, and I’m assuming you don’t if you end up playing this game, “real quiet men” will use a controller. For those not so lucky you can attack with the mouse and move with the keyboard or do everything with the keyboard. The camera controls are the arrow keys and everything else is surrounding the WASD keys making for a choice between an overly cramped left hand in danger of carpal tunnel or praying for money so you can afford a third hand to play properly. Worst of all the second playthrough uses audio cues that make both combat and exploration easier to the point the game gets laughably easy despite the eaten inputs and glitching out of flags.
To sum it all up. Game play will leave you wanting a game that plays similar but far better like the Arkham series, an Assasins’ creed or even the Yakuza series.
The quiet man is a strange overachiever in exploring a theme while being completely oblivious to them at the same time. It is formatted to be fully consumed in two playthroughs; one of which is nearly devoid of sound and the other with all sound added. As previously stated in the audio section of this review; This does more to harm the story then it does add to the experience.
The first play through, without getting into too much spoilers (Cause y’all are obviously chomping at the bit to try this by now I’m sure…), Is a hodge podge of super hero origin story meets crime drama and psychological horror/sci-fi that is incredibly shallow despite it’s advertised depth. And quiet frankly that’s the best you’re going to be able to get from this play through. You will see flashbacks, break neck scene and setting changes, and an overactive imagination, cobbling together the pieces as you are strung along this mostly devoid of sound story. When you triumph over evil, despite the clichés, You will be met with dialogue and an end card stating the answer is now available to play. And it does indeed answer things. very straightforward stuff actually only it’s painfully dull and cliché to the point it’s ham fisted. worst of all: You will have a different story from in your head clashing with reality for it.
Acting is a mixed bag of interesting cast look alikes making for a feeling that stunt doubles were just told they were now the star. That said, some are amazing actors but the bad script and direction makes for a lackluster finish. Speaking of characters: The main protagonist is said in the steam store page, and at times in the movie, as being deaf. unfortunately he does not act like a deaf person at all. He uses sign language twice, talks far more than he signs, and apparently has superpowers that include the ability to understand people talking to him, even without seeing their lips. He is every kind of hearing impaired person you can meet but in a package that contradicts itself at every step because of it. Further adding to this ridiculousness You have a supporting cast that acts like he isn’t deaf at all. They talk normally to him,without eye contact or even face to face. Someone close to the protagonist starts to sign but ends up promptly discarding the idea while another person actually signs a real conversation after several scenes where he talks to the protagonist as if he wasn’t deaf at all. The whole time you are left questioning if anyone got the memo that the protagonist was deaf or if it was simply a gimmick tacked on in the middle of filming.
When combined with the terrible audio/sound direction of the first playthrough it wholly falls flat in it’s face and turns into a poorly done caricature of what I can only assume is the love child of high art and differently abled stereotypes used in an attempt to show support and advocacy. Or maybe it’s just a poorly implemented, high effort attempt at interpreting a dream. who knows…
Since new game plus adds dialogue and sound effects I will separate the two playthroughs accordingly as they are wholly different experiences for it.
When you first play “The Quiet Man” You will be greeted with a cut-scene. It will have full audio. After that first cut-scene you will have nothing but what I can only describe as “cheesy 80’s horror ambiance”. Softly wailing violins and synthesizer buzzing and static white noise is what you’ll get. It makes for a very unsettling tone to an otherwise action packed experience. Nothing is more Jarring then hearing the OST to psycho while ridiculous acts of martial arts play out in my opinion and if that’s what you like; well these guys nailed that aesthetic for ya. Rarely you will get the sound of a lightly punched towel for foot steps and contact in fights. half the time you won’t know if you are hit or if you hit someone between it and the lack of a HUD or life bars for anything. At the end of your first play through you will be met with more dialogue that explains why the events even transpired in the first place but when you are given nothing before that except hot dog man telling you it’s dangerous and some gangsters trying to aggressively shoo you away… It feels as though the inclusion of dialogue at all was a huge mistake and wholly unneeded except in the few spots where it seems wholly needed like scenes where the main character isn’t around, making me think the director hasn’t heard of dramatic irony before, and flashbacks from other people’s perspective (also wholly confusing as they are talking to the protagonist who wouldn’t comprehend the concept that they were given a moment of reminiscence.)
After your first play through you will be met with an option to play the game again with all audio as if you were an observer and not the main character. You will get sound effects, dialogue, you name it. it’s all there. Only… Why even bother? If you need dialogue to properly tell the story then that should have been the only option. if you were trying to make the player feel like the protagonist? Why include it? All it does is destroy each other’s purpose leaving for more frustration after you, against all odds, survive to the credits. On top of that subtitles are sporadic and randomly decide if they are going to show up or not. Sometimes They add words that weren’t spoken and they will only be in English when people speak another language without telling you as such. The only saving grace is the equipment they used and editing in post but that too just further confuses despite polish of that caliber.
Overall… Just done poorly at every conceivable possibility despite the second playthroughs best efforts.
Just don’t bother. If you are looking for a sorely lacking and deeply needed portrayal of a differently abled person done competently; it’s not here. If you want something cheap to tide you over while waiting for something else play similarly priced games that are actually fun and coherent like Yakuza 0. (an 80+ hour game compared to The Quiet Man’s 6-7) If you have even the slightest inkling of curiosity towards this game I suggest you simply watch a play through on Youtube as it’s basically a movie anyways and it will be a far better experience than needing to actually play it. I get what the devs were trying to do by making you create your own story before revealing the truth in an artsy experiment but anything you’d create in the first playthrough will beat that truth and no amount of poor gameplay and implementation of artistic vision and game design will change that.
Overall I give it a D+ that Feels like an F.
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-Amazing production value on the FMV side
-Two movies for the price of one!
-If you have the misfortune of needing multiple sessions to beat a very lengthy loading screen will greet you twice in a row before the untitled splash screen shows up.