The Quiet Man, ironically, caused a lot of verbal outcry upon its release back in November from the media and gamers who chose to pick up this eagerly anticipated PC and PS4 exclusive. Upon launch, the game was a strange, confusing, and bizarre experiment which nobody understood or could see a purpose for existing – as such, the game was ridiculed, shot down, critically panned, and practically destroyed by major outlets.
I could have left it at that and moved on with my life but instead, I bought it last week in the PSN January Sale to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve played through the title twice in order to achieve the full experience, and personally – I enjoyed the title a lot more than the critics would lead you to believe. Let’s dissect it and find out why…
The Quiet Man is an action-adventure game crossed with a cinematic/FMV narrative experience. It’s a bit of a strange mixture but the developers seem to pull it off in some instances although they do resort to splitting up the narrative with combat segments far too often in my opinion. One thing I will initially praise them for is the seamless transition from FMV to CGI. There were times where the camera would pan around and I would be questioning if it was still playing a video or if it had transformed into the interactive parts. This first happens near the beginning as it’s an FMV until the camera pans to the left and it’s seamlessly swapped into CGI without any obvious switch.
It’ll be difficult to describe the story without giving away any spoilers as you’re meant to interpret the initial playthrough yourself from only being able to see what going on without any context or understanding (bar the initial cutscene which mistakenly always plays with voices enabled). As such, here are two descriptions of the game from the store page which sums up the story without giving anything away:
“Unravelling within a single night, players take the role of deaf protagonist Dane as he fights to discover the motives behind the kidnapping of a songstress by a mysterious masked man.” “Set in modern-day New York City with an undertone of film-noir, players will wander the gritty streets of the city to trace the masked man behind the kidnapping. More than a chase against the mysterious masked man, players will come up against an infamous gang and experience Dane’s own battle with his internal demon known as “The Quiet Man”, who will be the ultimate mystery in the story. Embark on an adrenaline-fueled motion picture like experience, which players can enjoy in one sitting.”
Human Head Studios, the developers of The Quiet Man, clearly wanted to try something new, give the player a reason to replay their game multiple times in order to gain a new experience and understanding – I feel this was one of the major issues with the game. Those who played the game on day one and posted about it on Social Media, the publications and their reviewers who rushed out a review in order to be the first to publish it, and those who posted videos of the experience on YouTube, were all part of the games initial negativity drive.
You see, the initial playthrough of The Quiet Man is a rather unique experience. We’re made to believe that we are hearing the world as the deaf protagonist is, the thumping of our heart, the vibrations from our own footsteps, the faint tinny mumble as people try to speak to us, etc… Thankfully the developers also included some subtle music here and there as well, so we don’t have to play completely silent.
Upon completing the game (and after downloading the update which dropped about a week after release), you’re given the chance to replay the game but with voices and sound effects added back in. On paper and in concept this should have been awesome – play the game initially as the protagonist and build up your own story based on the experiences and conversations you pick up on. Then, play through it the second time and realise exactly what was going on. However, I don’t think it worked quite as intended…
Personally, I feel the developers failed with their vision of playing and experiencing the world as the protagonist as I felt like I was a gamer with a hearing disability who was playing a video game with no subtitles (now I really know what it would feel like to be deaf and play Spyro the Dragon). Why do I feel like this? Because our protagonist can lip read and he uses sign language throughout the game, yet we’re never told what he’s signing or what parts of the conversations he is actually picking up on.
As such, it leaves you with the sense that as an observer, you’re actually deafer than he is and more in the dark than anyone else involved within the narrative. What I think would have worked better would have been if we were given subtitles for words the protagonist picked up on which lead to the decisions he made. For example, someone may have been saying something innocent, but if we only read half the conversation from lip-reading or only saw it from the side, we would have got the wrong idea.
Now, after playing the game twice, once without sounds and once with, I can honestly say that the above situation most certainly happens and we see the protagonist get rather aggressive when it does. However, we’re never shown what info our character is taking from the conversation. We either hear nothing and make up our own mind based on the actions, or we hear everything and don’t understand why he’s reacting the way he is.
I love the way you move
The second most talked about, and critically panned aspect of the game is in regards to its combat segments – of which there are many. I honestly didn’t hate this as much as the other critics out there. Don’t get me wrong, the combat within The Quiet Man isn’t very good – nothing feels weighty or like I’m actually hitting the other characters – which is strange as the development team included someone who worked on the Yakuza series, a game known for its impactful combat. It just got very monotonous very quickly.
The structure of The Quiet Man is simple – FMV sequence, combat, FMV/cutscene, combat, FMV/cutscene, combat, etc… A bit of exploration, investigation, interaction, or observation would have gone a long way in helping break up the two-scene mechanics. It doesn’t help that the combat is as simple as a button for punch, grab, kick, dodge, run, and dash. There are a few combos you can pull off, and a strange deaf-power move, but this isn’t Yakuza (unfortunately).
There are a few boss characters which you’ll encounter who require you to think before you attack. These help to break up the game from the waves of minions who find greater strength in the numbers they throw at you over actual brawn. However, is it enough to keep things fresh and exciting? Personally, I had fun. The bosses were a pain in the arse and beating up the low-life was satisfying enough I guess – however, I’m a massive fan of the Dynasty Warriors series, so monotony and repetition don’t bother me at all.
Was it worth it?
I paid £7.99 for The Quiet Man in the sale and I’m fine with that – I don’t feel ripped off or regret my purchase. I got approx 6 hours of gameplay out of it, three for each playthrough, and I thought it was an interesting, yet poorly implemented idea. I went into the game thinking it was going to be an FMV adventure with combat elements to break up the flow – the reality is that it’s a story-driven cinematic experience with combat segments. I know those two descriptions sound the same, but it really isn’t. FMV brings thoughts of Super Seducer 2 and The Shapeshifting Detective, games with multiple choices and outcomes – a cinematic experience is a single story with no deviations.
Is that a bad thing? Not at all, I just had my initial preconceptions wrong as to what I was about to experience, so it was a bit of a let down when I’d played it for an hour – but that was all on me and my thoughts of what it may be like. Speaking of being let down, the combat wasn’t great although it was strangely satisfying when you use the deaf-powers and slam your enemies into the floor. One thing which didn’t let me down though was the actual story.
Okay, the story and narrative have got a lot of negativity around it, thanks to certain publications, but I honestly thought it was well done. Ignoring the fact we aren’t playing the game as the protagonist the first time around (as he understands more than we do), the way the game shows us that our own minds can construct a story when presented with no dialogue, only to have it be completely wrong once you add in the voices, is great. For example, at one point you think everything is going great and peachy when there is no sound, but in reality, there is so much hatred and anger playing out in that scene once the voices are turned on.
I’m on the fence with the visuals of the game. Obviously, the FMV segments look great and the acting by the real-life actors is spot on and exactly what I wanted in a game with actual video in it. However, once the game transitions to the CGI world, things get a bit interesting. The majority of the textures and visuals still look good – The facial reconstruction looks great as the characters based on the actors all look like their real counterparts whilst within this mode.
The issue is that certain elements aren’t done very well such as clothing and hair – they look very ‘static’ and ‘clingy’. Kind of like early 3D where the clothing is just an extension of the body wireframe and not actually a separate entity with physics. I will say that the environments all look pretty cool though, especially when it pans and changes from real to CGI yet everything still looks the same.
Audio-wise, The Quiet Man is a very interesting game. It has two methods of play, one open to interpretation and the other is there, to tell the truth behind what’s happening. I do feel the experience and atmosphere both versions of the game portrays is done really well, but I still stand by the fact I believe they could have done the ‘deaf’ version a lot better.
Also, and this might just be me being picky, Dane (our deaf protagonist) has perfect pronunciation and speech tone during the second playthrough. I don’t know if the developers or sound designers have heard a deaf person talk but someone who has apparently been deaf since they were a child will not know how to pitch their voice correctly. As such, I was pulled out of the immersion when I heard him talking ‘normally’ and without any incorrect stresses or uncontrollable volume bursts. As I said, it isn’t a major issue and was probably done so people can understand him better, but I would have opted for a more realistic and incoherent style.
If I had one suggestion to the devs, I would say go back, watch all the cutscenes with the sound off, see where Dane is looking at the characters who are talking and provide subtitles for what he’s seeing as well as when he signs to people throughout the game. This will result in a lot of broken English, sentences that don’t make sense, miss-interpreted words, and a much more immersive and interesting experience. It will also educate people on body language and facial interpretations which hearing disabled people may grasp if they don’t fully understand the context around what’s going on.
On a side note, if you wish to play The Quiet Man, and I actually recommend you do if its concept is something that intrigues you, then DON’T watch the ‘Answered’ Trailer. It’s basically the trailer telling you about the free patch that adds in the voices, but it stupidly gives away a lot of the story, things you wouldn’t even guess whilst playing it in mute-mode. As such, I’d recommend staying away from that if you want to discover the truth by yourself and have your own interpretations first of all.
Official Accolades Trailer (Very Funny):
For a game called The Quiet Man, it sure did make a lot of noise upon release! Launching as only half of the game, with the full-audio mode coming a week after release, many people were tainted by the muted version of the game and instantly put off, which I feel is a bit unfair as the game doesn’t have the best first impression. You have to play the game twice in order to understand the truth of what’s going on around you, this means reliving the unskippable narrative segments and the awkward combat moments twice over!
If you can deal with the clunky combat, be open to interpreting things the first time around so the second time surprises you, and have a thirst for an interesting experimental gameplay mechanic, then The Quiet Man will most likely surprise you. I went into it expecting to come away disappointed and in tears, yet I actually enjoyed the game and loved how different the story is when you’re finally given context.
Also, if you’re going for 100% (as there is no platinum) then good luck. You have to complete all combat segments without getting hit once – This is the one trophy I don’t, and never will have…
The Quiet Man£11.99
- - Creative, if flawed, way of telling the same story with multiple interpretations
- - Seamless transitions from FMV to CGI
- - Interesting story and characters
- - Can be played though in one sitting, so you don't have to split up plays and forget what's happening
- - The initial 'mute-mode' could have been done better if they implemented subtitles for the parts Dane actually understood, said and signed
- - The combat is quite clunky and unappealing, even though the deaf-powers special moves are satisfying
- - Some of the animations are wonky, such as if you walk into something then you'll remain mid-walking cycle as you appear stationary
- - There are a lot of combat segments which breaks up the story. I would have liked more diverse segments such as exploration or investigations segments