Embrace the silence.
During Square Enix’s E3 2018 livestream, the title that stood out the most to me was The Quiet Man. It was neither a JRPG nor a big budget Western title like Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It mixed FMV (full-motion video) with traditional video game cutscenes. In addition, it starred a deaf protagonist and promised that players would experience the story as if they themselves were deaf. Call me intrigued. And thus, I resolved myself to eagerly await the game’s release. Square Enix kept quiet (hah!) about the game for a long time and then suddenly released it with very little fanfare. Having played through it once, I kind of see why.
I guess you would describe The Quiet Man as a third-person beat ‘em up video game. It is technically narrative-driven with several lengthy cutscenes spread throughout though there is a fairly large issue with this (which I’ll cover down below). Despite this, there are many opportunities to engage in the game’s combat. The first thing I will mention about said combat is that the game explains absolutely nothing about it. Not a single word is expended explaining the ins and outs of the combat. They must be discovered through trial and error. I did figure out (after fighting a few groups of enemies) that, when in the pause menu and if I pressed a button, a neon-lit illustration would demonstrate what that button does. After I figured that out, the combat made a little more sense and I did improve at it. Despite this, it still had some major issues.
The first major issue with the combat is that whenever I was facing off against a new type of opponent, I could never figure out what exactly I did to defeat him. There were times when I would simply button mash until I started damaging an enemy. For example, towards the end of the game there is a boss character who is fairly strong and he defeated me several times. There was one point in the fight where he would lower himself to the ground and then run straight at me. I figured out that you if you dodged this attack, then you could land a few punches on him. The two times I faced him after I gained this knowledge, I would weaken him to the point where a short cutscene would trigger and then the fighting would resume. He defeated me both times after this scene but on the third try, after I had dodged, I damaged him again and, instead of the short cutscene, a longer cutscene played where the boss was punched through a window. For the life of me I have not figured out why it was different the third time. This is but one example of me not knowing how I won a fight. By the time the credits rolled, I had learned just to accept the fact that something had worked and move on.
And the two biggest issues, by far, that I faced while playing The Quiet Man was the camera angles and the lighting level in each fighting scene. While fighting a group of enemies, the camera wouldn’t focus on Dane (our protagonist) even when he was at the edge of the screen. Truth be told I don’t even know what the camera was trying to focus on the entire time. There were times when both Dane and the enemy he was fighting were just off screen and the camera wouldn’t shift to focus on them. I would have to run back on screen and attract my opponent to the center of the camera just so I could get a clear view of the action. Even when I managed to do this, I still had to contend with the fact that the screen itself was so dark. There were times that the screen was so dark that I could only see general outlines of Dane and his opponents. This made it difficult to dodge incoming enemy punches and to counterattack. I even tried to adjust the brightness of the game but it didn’t help very much. In addition, whenever Dane takes damage, the screen gets darker so that only compounded the problem. Both of these issues made for an exasperating experience.
And now we come to what will be the most divisive issue of the whole game: the story or, more accurately, how it is presented. As I said before, Dane is deaf and therefore the creators of The Quiet Man decided that players would experience the game as he does: in complete silence (except for the opening and ending sequences). And, if you remember, I said there are many, many cutscenes spread throughout the game. This raises the question: how do we, the players, know what is going on if we can’t hear anything? There were many ways the developers could have handled this issue. Does Dane have to keep looking at people’s mouths in order to lip-read? Or is there a lot of written material that can be read? If you thought either of those solutions were in this game then you would be wrong. The solution the developers came up with is that the cutscenes would be viewed in complete and utter silence sans subtitles. Yes, you read that right. Every single scene (which can last up to ten minutes) is without words or subtitles. You just have to sit there and guess what’s going on (As a side note, if you can lip-read, then this is definitely the game for you). I promise you that the “novelty” of such an approach wears off after the first hour.
Since there was neither sound nor subtitles, I was left to guess what the story was about. It seems to revolve around a gang, a songstress, a kidnapping, a cop, a cool-looking villain who wears a bird mask, and a pair of shoes (yes, shoes). There are flashbacks of Dane with who I assume is his mom but his mom looks the same as the musician who is kidnapped decades later (when the game takes place). It is really confusing and I wish there was a way to clear the story up while playing through the game the first time. There is a way to understand what’s going on but the game has to be played through a second time. The second playthrough has all of the audio in it and I will be playing it so there will be another review of this game coming in a few weeks. Make sure to stay tuned here on The Pretend Gamer!
Before I wrap this up, I do want to talk about what I liked about The Quiet Man. I did approve of the overall aesthetic of the game. I especially liked the simply menu system and the neon-lit illustrations on the menu which demonstrated what each button did. I also thought the FMV scenes were well-produced and the actual video game portions were decent enough. As mentioned above, I thought the main villain had a cool design even though he didn’t show up very much. It’s a shame that all of these things are hidden behind poor design decisions.
You can say what you want about The Quiet Man but you have to admit that it is an interesting video game. The overall design aesthetic, the cool villain design, and the FMV scenes are all very good. With that being said, the combat, the brightness (or lack thereof) of the combat scenes, and the lack of sound during the extensive cutscenes all keep the experience from being an enjoyable one. I would only recommend The Quiet Man to those who want a short, unique experience. For those who want something more “put together,” as it were, then I would advise you to look elsewhere.
Final Score: 4/10
- Overall style of the game
- Cool villain design
- No audio whatsoever
- Trial and error combat is hit or miss
- Fighting scenes are so dark
Thanks for reading this special edition! I will write and post the second half my review for The Quiet Man (the part with sound) in a few weeks! Maybe my opinion of the game will change when I can actually tell what’s going on.