5.5
Score

Pros

  • An interesting experiment
  • The live action footage looks fine
  • Clean UI

Cons

  • The story goes off the rails in spectacular fashion
  • Everything feels thin and inconsistent
  • You hear things that the character should not
  • The character understands things the player does not
  • Save points feel unforgiving

Scores Are Arbitrary

I’m just going to start talking about The Quiet Man and hope that it makes sense. This is going to be one of those games that floats around the memories of the PS4 generation as a cult classic. It’s not good, it’s not Deadly Premonition, but it has some interesting ideas going on. It’s a weird mix of full motion video with real actors, standard beat ’em up gameplay, and a story that’s just there at best, and actively repellant at worst. In general it just confounds. It is what it is – unapologetically so.

The whole idea with this game is that the main character, Dane, is deaf. You experience the world through his perspective. What that boils down to, is that you don’t hear dialogue and music. This is a huge point for the game, but does it to an unnatural degree. Dane speaks with a mix of sign language and spoken words and as the player, you aren’t given subtitles for any of it. He ends up speaking more than signing, and comes out on the other side knowing more about what happened in the story than the player does. Worse than that are the scenes where people talk to Dane with their back to him, and he understands them. These are moments that look nice on camera, but are obviously unrealistic.

Watching the cutscenes in general requires a neutral, quiet environment to get anything from them. In film school, they say the best movies are ones that can be perfectly understood with the sound turned off and, well, The Quiet Man can’t even touch those film. This method of gleaning essential details from the visual language of the scene works at first, but as characters talk more and more, there’s less and less to gain. By the end, there are whole monologues bring spouted out, and all the audience can do is stare at an open mouth flapping.

Portions of the story in The Quiet Man are told using real actors.

The only thing players really hear is the foley work. Developer Human Head Studios likely figured that players need to know if their punches connect with enemies. So, they tasked their sound effects people to come up with a dynamic range of sound just loud enough to be heard, but not so loud as to break the illusion that the protagonist is deaf. I understand what they’re going for, but I shouldn’t have to explain the futility of it in the first place.

As far as brawling goes, one of the nice things The Quiet Man has going for it is a clean UI, so no tutorials are in play at all. It’s not too big a deal, as the combat is a mix of punching, kicking, dodging, and countering with little variation. At the same time, the developers are trying to attempt realism in a game where you have an immersive UI, but only five character models for enemies. Why would I care about how well I see everything when I have three identical racist Mexican gangster stereotypes in front of me?

I hope when I’m near death, my life looks like a Nicolas Winding Refn film

To make things worse, the story itself just nosedives at the end. The first five chapters of the game move along because what story there is, is thin. Dane’s life is just as uninteresting as his romance with a lounge singer and the childhood trauma he cannot overcome. The ending goes too far by adding in several plot twists that are so asinine and worthless, the game would actually benefit by cutting out the last chapter. It’s sapped most of my goodwill. I’ll give credit where it’s due and say that I think some of the editing choices are interesting to look at, but I feel like there’s little else to compliment.

In many ways, The Quiet Man has the same charm as The Room or Troll 2 – and just the same level of incoherence too. A lot of fights begin with Dane entering the room and squaring up with the thugs magically behind the door. Many non-combat moments involve walking five feet, waiting for the controller to vibrate, then entering a door to the next scene. Without the proper context to fill the player in, this game might as well be called The Fighting Room.

I appreciate that Square Enix and Human Head Studios took a risk and made something. You might get something out of playing with friends and sharing in the confusion, but this is more involved than a great bad movie like The Room. It’s three hours long, needs a lot of interaction, and will probably offend as many people as it charms. If it lives on, it’ll be by luck, carried by the people who want to know how it ticks. If you don’t want to be sucked in, get out now before it haunts you too. It’s too late for me. I’m too intrigued.

-5.5/10

Check the video above for an example of a typical enemy encounter in this game. You can contact me on Twitter, or by email at dcichocki@tiltingwindmillstudios.com.

This review was conducted using a digital PS4 copy I bought off the Playstation Network. It is also available on PC.