Developer: Square Enix, Human Head Studio
Platform Played: PS4 Pro
Completion: Story Completed
Hours Played: ~5
Review Read: ~7mins
After the credits rolled, I got the feeling that The Quiet Man was Square Enix and Human Head Studio’s attempt to revive a beat ‘em up subgenre like the first Playstation’s Jackie Chan Stuntmaster or Shiny Entertainment’s Enter the Matrix – games that were lost in translation as the industry went into focusing on mainstream AAA game types. I was also torn between deciding if the intent of developing the game with that very purpose justified its creative direction.
Too Quiet to Understand
The Quiet Man plays in a mixture of mostly live-action cutscenes to drive the story while gameplay is dependent on the in-game renders. It’s centred around the main character who’s deaf – We even experience every cutscene in tandem to how he does: Without any distinguishable audio. When characters speak, we are only able to hear their muffled voices and observe their expressions and body language. When it’s time for us to pick up the controller to play, every single audio is also muffled.
With the given creative direction, there is still a story that drives the game. The protagonist (The quiet man) encounters a cloaked bird-masked man who has kidnapped a female performer whom the quiet man is very fond of (Romantically or not, I cannot say – not because it might lead to a spoiler, but because I do not know either throughout the course of the game.). In his journey to rescue the femme fatale, he has to fight through hordes of gang members to reach the top.
As a gamer, I’m naturally invested in how games tell stories. So, when the game started, I kept asking myself questions and filling in the gaps of how I should be understanding what’s being played out on screen. However, once the game reaches it’s third act, those story-based questions changed to questions like “Why is the game doing this”, or “Is this experience even necessary.”. It was an interesting idea to experience 90% of the game as a deaf person (the remaining 10% didn’t help with telling the story either), but the cutscenes have me wondering if it would’ve just been better if subtitles were added on top of the ‘deaf-person experience’.
Sure, once we reach the credits, we more or less know what happened on the most shallow, timeline basis; but even on the second playthrough, I still failed to understand the nuances of every character – What are their motivations? Why do they do the things they do? What are their philosophies on the bird mask macguffin? All these questions are answered (or could be answered) but are either hidden too deep inside the creative direction or made non-existent because of the idea of being in the shoes of a deaf person.
You’ll also get the sense that many of their cutscenes both in-game and live-action seemed to be out of focused for their camera.
As a whole, The Quiet Man is just too quiet to understand the entirety of the story
Too Boring to Play
When we’re given control over the gameplay, it plays out almost the same throughout. You use a combination of the square and triangle buttons to punch or kick, circle is to grab someone, X to dodge, R2 to run, and L2 to activate this thing we call ‘focus’. If you do play the game, you’ll realise you won’t use much of the circle button because there is no incentive to – It’s always faster to just beat the crap out of your enemy using just the square and triangle buttons. When your quiet man gets overwhelmed, you would instinctively activate focus to break away from the group. Imagine just doing that for four hours until the game is done.
The elements that may have made the process more interesting is also few and far between – The beginning 60% of the game, you would see the same animations over and over again. Then when the story ramps up, the protagonist fights slightly different in his animation but it still kind of feels the same in how we activate his commands.
When the game reaches its final stages, it gets interesting because it introduces an additional element for your protagonist to use against his adversaries, however, It is sad that once the gameplay got just a tad bit more interesting, we are very close to where the game is ending. And even though this element is introduced, how we activate the protagonist commands are still pretty much the same.
The game may have been better if it introduced some kind of weapon system (Like several other beat ‘em up games), or introduce a more dynamic environment hazard system where your character could pick up bins to throw at enemies – In short, the gameplay for The Quiet Man is too bareboned to be enjoyed.
The character models are also a hit-and-miss. You can tell that more work and effort was spent to how the character models for the protagonist and antagonist would look identical to the live action actors. But supporting characters do not look like their live action counterparts.
The Quiet Man had potential (No matter how small) to tell a good, interesting story – but its creative direction proved to be a detriment to its very intent. The gameplay is disappointing and boring. I hope this IP would improve if any future sequels of the game would be developed.