Have you ever played the game where you mute a TV show and then talk your own dialogue over the top of it? In some ways, The Quiet Man is like this except without the fun and with barely the same amount of interaction.
The Quiet Man is a game of two halves. One half is an FMV movie that is linear and non-interactive. You simply watch it. Muted. Our main character is deaf and whilst there’s some excellent sound design so that the world around you is muffled and sounds internalised through your bones rather than outside and around you, the game is essentially silent. This works initially for about five minutes until you realise that whilst our main character can sign and lip read, we actually can’t. The film is shot cinematically but edited in a way that means you’ll not quite see the mouth of the character move and so you’ll only catch odd words if your lip reading skills are on point, or you’ll just be reading facial cues and hoping to piece it all together. It seems unfair and immediately disengages you from the entire experience. I can handle being deaf and having it a solid game mechanic but this game is made to make you feel deaf, blind and dumb due to the lack of information too.
When the FMV isn’t running, you’ll be transported into a polygon world to take part in 3D brawler sections. Think Jet Li’s Rise to Honour meets The Bouncer meets Streets of Rage meets Gang Beasts. The controls are floaty, slow and the hit detection is all over the place. Characters don’t run into the room, they magically appear, then get stuck in the air, or in a table, or just stay still – and then you can’t hit them until the game remembers the characters there and it starts moving again. There are clearly a lot of special moves, and a lot of specific environment moves like throwing people across tables, or my favourite was burning an arm on a stove. What’s less clear is how you trigger them because there are no instructions beyond a vague neon controller that places a picture of what it does. Combo’s and finishers are there but as to what triggers them I don’t know. Similarly, the game screen likes to flashback to traumatic events and changes colour tint at certain times. I’m sure its key to blocking to countering but as the game is so inconsistent and the instructions non-existent, I have no way of knowing for sure. During these sequences, the camera often gets stuck looking at the sky or right into my head. It’s a mess and whilst I like the graphical sheen, which reminds me of Quantum Break, the whole thing is riddled with bugs.
The final kick in the nuts is a spoiler so be warned if you read this paragraph. In the end, the game reveals a countdown to “the truth”. Apparently, this is for a free DLC to let you replay the game as a New Game + but with all the dialogue back in again. It makes me feel like the developers realised just how utterly confusing the entire experience is that they’ve had to add it in.
The game itself takes about 2.5 hours to get through on easy mode. I daren’t try the other mode because I was frustrated enough with all the bugs on easy. On the plus side, the acting is quite decent from what I could see and Imogen Heap sings a closing credits song which is lovely. A week after release the game then added a patch that gives you the voices back in a second playthrough. It did make things better, in a cheesy b-movie way, but that makes The Quiet Man feel like it isn’t confident in its convictions.
The Quiet Man
I love that the Square Enix initiative continues to fund more experimental and unusual game concepts but The Quiet Man goes artistic for art sake and not for fun nor immersion. The fighting sections are a mess and the story will only make more sense hopefully when the audio is provided in new game +. A bizarre oddity.
A genuinely unique experience (although I'm not saying that's all good).
Imogen Heap's closing credits track.
Feels like a hammy b-movie.
FMV story completely linear and as its muted it makes little sense.
Fighting sections are buggy, slow, frustrating and feels rubbery.
The experience goes out of its way to make you feel not part of it.
All the bugs and issues take you out of the cinematic experience.
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