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‘The Quiet Man’ is an unheard-of atrocity

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.

Double-edged art

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.

Image from Steam

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

Image from Steam

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.

Image from Steam

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.

Image from Steam

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.

Images: Steam

Featured Image: PlayStation

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