Disclaimer: This review is of the PC version and was conducted on a PC with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, i7, 8GBs of RAM.
I’m typically one for flowery introductions. Ones that will paint a picture of the legacy for a game or how impressive the story behind games are. There are great stories of development and publishing history that deserve to be recognized when analyzing a game. It’s a personal little touch, but almost every game deserves that kind of recognition.
I say almost, because The Quiet Man is one of the worst games I’ve ever played and easily tops my worst of the year list. There’s just so much wrong with this game that there’s no time to dance around the issue. This game is awful in so many spectacular ways, to the point where I’m almost certain there’s basically nothing legitimately good about it. That’s not an exaggeration. This game is legendarily bad, and everyone deserves to know about it.
The Quiet Man thinks of itself as an art-piece and, in a way, it kind of is. The people behind the game at Human Head Studios put a lot of love and passion into crafting an experience they believe to be truly unique. They released a 9-minute “Who is The Quiet Man?” documentary on YouTube, describing some of the decisions they made during development. It is very enlightening to watch after playing through the double-decker disaster they actually ended up creating. It’s like one of those tweets the Peter Molydeux parody account puts out was turned into an actual video game: “What if there was a game where the main character was deaf, and therefore the player was also deaf and could only understand the world through artistic and bold visuals?”
That’s The Quiet Man, and it results in one of the biggest blunders of 2018.
The story follows a young bodyguard(?) Dane/Drake/Deaf Punchfist (he isn’t named in the game itself, so I’m calling him that last one), a man who is hearing-impaired and was orphaned at a young age, only to be raised by some cop/detective. The opening is full of sound, immersive energy and is a fairly strong start to the game. After that, the game actually starts, and almost all sound disappears. The only sounds left are whooshing noises and wind chimes, probably to simulate the feeling of sound waves and vibrations. This, on its own, isn’t the worst decision. It’s not really executed well, but that’s only part of the problem.
During start-up of the game, a screen pops up allowing you to select subtitles. Except, it specifies that subtitles will only be shown if dialogue is “intended to be heard or understood.” This means that, of course, no more subtitles are shown. Deaf Punchfist literally speaks and communicates to the people he talks to, but we don’t even get to understand what he’s saying. It’s clear that our lead, despite being deaf, can perfectly understand people. Despite that, absolutely no subtitles are shown. This makes the already sloppily constructed narrative even more of a puzzle, except there’s no solution until the devs patch one in.
That doesn’t mean the story is inherently bad, right? It’s just hard to understand, and you need to have a very high IQ to decipher it. Except, just by watching the cutscenes and trying to decode this trainwreck with the rest of the internet, it’s still a poorly constructed mess that uses twists for the sake of twists with no setup or payoff. Making things worse, it’s just creepy that Deaf Punchfist’s love interest/girlfriend/client looks identical (and is literally played by the same actress) to his dead mother. This game is an epic tragedy in more than one way, it seems. And to top it all off, the developers are actually patching in sound a week after the game’s release.
That’s not a joke, and it was fully intentional as they are patching it in a week later. The game even ends on a timer with the text “Learn the full story!” or something similar. Watch out Toby Fox, Human Head Studios is coming for your meta-storytelling crown! The Quiet Man only wishes it could tell a story as cleanly as Deltarune.
The inglorious return of FMV
Remember full-motion video (FMV)? The next evolution of gaming, only available on CD-ROM discs for overpriced game consoles. Games are now like movies; how incredible! Except, FMV was never really good. It had cheesy acting and unintentional entertainment, but other than Wing Commander IV there aren’t too many good examples of FMV games. Modern FMV games tend to be independent projects, and can even be good sometimes. The lovely Her Story was an FMV game that was actually award-winning, but then there are things like Super Seducer which doesn’t deserve to be talked about. So, how does The Quiet Man fare in this new FMV age?
Let’s just say it’s like a Sega CD game developed combat from the Arkham series and pre-rendered cutscenes from the PS2 era. Does that sound enticing to you? If it does, seek help, because it’s unbelievably bad when it all comes together.
Okay, in all fairness, the FMV itself is not bad. The scenes are well-shot and the acting is probably great with sound included. Compared to similar modern FMV titles, they aren’t the worst part. Surprisingly, considering the rest of the game and how it looks, I was praying for the 10-minute FMV cutscenes to carry me away to a silent world, where only wind chimes and repressed thoughts can be heard. The lead, Deaf Punchfist, is at least stoic in his role, even if his only emotions are wildly over-dramatic to the point of comedy. The fight choreography is also pretty solid, for what little FMV fight choreography there is. However, this isn’t just FMV; this is FMV into the future.
The FMV sequences were marketed as and are allegedly supposed to “seamlessly transition” into either pre-rendered cutscenes or in-engine gameplay sequences. I say allegedly because anything that’s done in-engine looks like a long-lost PS2 game. Initially, it could be thought that it was because of my elderly computer. Yet, I had the graphics on high and the resolution at 1080p, which is about what you’d expect from the console version of the game, and it still looked terrible. Characters don’t emote with their faces in these sequences, and the lip-movements are stiff and janky to the point where if you could read lips, you’d still have no idea what’s going on. During the first chapter when it “seamlessly” transitions between FMV into gameplay and then into a pre-rendered cutscene, I was baffled at just how bad it looked.
There was only one sequence in the game where it might be considered passable, and that’s during chapter two when Deaf Punchfist is stalking his girlfriend/client because she looks like Punchfist’s dead mother. It’s weird, but in those sequences the girlfriend/client looks like a real person, except the world around her is a pre-rendered cutscene. I’d like to believe they didn’t just green-screen an actress into their virtual world, especially considering all it did was contrast horribly with the fake world around her. But this is The Quiet Man; everything is terrible and the TV is on mute.
The Deaf Knight punches and kicks five different dudes
The Quiet Man is clearly trying to be an art piece, as explained before. It’s trying to create an artistic, linear narrative experience, except they still want to maintain gameplay of actual video games. It’s respectable, considering that many linear art-games are kind of dull to play through from a pure gameplay standpoint. Now, if only the gameplay was anything better than Rocksteady’s scrapped alpha-builds for Batman: Arkham Asylum.
The gameplay segments of the game consist of Deaf Punchfist using one of three cool moves to defeat a wide variety of five or six enemy types. He can do a punch, he can kick a leg, he can even do a grab on the enemies, but all of it feels terrible. I didn’t even know he had a grab until I realized that the neon signs in the pause menu were explaining the controls of the game. This game has absolutely no tutorials on how to do anything, which is fine if it’s clear what the character is capable of doing. With The Quiet Man, however, there’s no indication anything is happening other than two punches and a kick. Deaf Punchfist literally has the combat capabilities of Knack from Knack, a game which used to be the worst publisher endorsed PS4 title until this disaster came along.
Combat never feels satisfying to play through, just frustrating and sometimes laughable. Most combat is taken down by spamming punches until no dudes are left standing. When the special enemy types show up, the player is expected to do some kind of arcane ritual to dispatch them that I never quite figured out until, again, I realized that the pause menu was telling me the controls. It’s sometimes worth it to see Deaf Punchfist teleport over to an enemy to perform one of “5000 unique finishers”, but other than that there’s nothing fun to see in combat sequences. The “boss battles” also tend to just devolve into “wait for the guy to charge, then hit Q and spam left click.” Nothing in this game feels as fluid as the Arkham games or the 300 clones using the same combat style. At the very least, there wasn’t a time when I fell through the floor, although I did get stuck on geometry during a transition sequence, which locked my character in place and out of combat. Twice.
There’s something horribly wrong when the player would rather be watching the ugly, unintelligible cutscenes than playing the actual game. Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn was a better action game than this; at least then you could turn into a Shaqtus and consume Gold Bond. The Quiet Man achieves a whole new level of terrible brawling never before witnessed by the human intellect in the modern age. Good thing Square Enix published this instead of holding onto the license to the critically acclaimed Hitman!
To add insult to injury, when jokingly playing combat music over the fight sequences, they became much more enjoyable to play through. It’s ruining the vision of the game completely, but the vision is all this game lets me use so I might as well bring my own soundtrack. Hopefully, the devs patch in some real bangers when they patch in sound because then The Quiet Man might not be the worst thing this year. It’ll be the second-worst thing this year.
Featured Image: PlayStation
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