I really wanted to like The Quiet Man when I first heard about the game. I’m surprised and delighted that video games incorporating live-action film have made a comeback after dying an ignoble death in the ‘90s. Some of them, like The Bunker, are incredible. The mixture of live-action and CGI in The Quiet Man is so subtly done that you can actually be quite forgiving of the lack of realism in the effects, sort of how like good practical effects with a dash of CGI can be seamless in a horror film. The Quiet Man isn’t that good, but for an art medium that rarely even bothers to try that route it's refreshing and bold.
That, and I liked the idea of playing a disabled protagonist. Playable characters with disabilities are very rare, but we are seeing more of them. I thoroughly enjoyed Last Day of June earlier this year, which has a wheelchair-using hero, and the prospect of playing Dane, who is deaf, in The Quiet Man was intriguing. The whole game is played with virtually no audible dialogue to simulate Dane’s world, though a mode to add it back in is due out this week.
So, lots of potential, but the game is just not very good at all.
There are two modes in The Quiet Man: watching cut scenes and fight segments. There are no exploration or puzzles. There aren’t even quick time events even though certain segments of the game almost scream for there to be.
In essence, the game is a highly stylized beat-em-up in the vein of Final Fight. Dane moves through a room, enemies appear, he kicks their asses, and then moves to the next room until a cut scene advances the story. If The Quiet Man took that idea and worked it until it shined we would be talking about a bold new re-invention of the genre.
Unfortunately, the fighting in The Quiet Man is so bad it’s actively frustrating to play. Hit detection is abysmal, Dane’s ability to dodge is severely hampered by the fact that the game can’t tell which enemy you’re dodging in tight quarters, the enemies can block while you can’t, and that’s just the start.
Dane has cinematic finishers, but as the game lacks any description on how to use them they feel random and unreliable. That’s double annoying because you aren’t getting through the game without them even on easy mode. I managed to trigger a few environment attacks purely on accident, but never did figure out how I did so.
Some of the people from the Yakuza series worked on The Quiet Man, but I was thinking of the Batman Arkham titles as I played. Specifically, the challenge levels where you perfect Batman’s flowing combat style against a set of enemies to try and better your score. They’re simple, contained levels, but murderously addictive thanks to the tightly-done work on the fight mechanic. It’s fun to beat people up as Batman, but it’s grueling as Dane.
Even later in the game when Dane gives into his dark side and his fighting becomes brutal and hyper-realistic the battles are drudgery. Villains take an obscene amount of punishment to dispatch, so that what should feel triumphant is just a butchery chore. There’s no joy to fighting, only exhaustion.
This wouldn’t be so bad except that this is the game’s only way to be a game. Everything else is looooooong cut scenes where the story is largely interpretative until the new mode appears. Even the death screen is an insult. Remember in the Batman Arkham games where the villain who killed you would taunt you so you wanted to get back up and exact revenge? Here, Dane’s mother smiles at him, and by the tenth incomprehensible loss because of the crappy fight mechanic you feel nothing but contempt for this woman. She’s not inspirational because the player now has to stare angrily at her until we can try again. That’s not how you’re supposed to feel about the character whose memory you’re presumably honoring.
Playing The Quiet Man is like seeing something great fail to happen. If it had honed its fight mechanic down to something engaging, receptive and fun to play and then tacked it onto an avant garde story it would be something truly special. Classic beat-em-ups blessed with dynamic fight mechanics and cinematic touches is something I’d crash my car to get home in time to play.
Instead, The Quiet Man disappears up its own ass and forces the player to slog through fight portions that feel tacked on just to achieve the designation of game. It even uses the same face models for cops and thugs in a laughable scene that highlights the feeling of contempt the game has for its actual playable segments. I mentioned The Bunker earlier, and how it seamlessly meshed live action video and play. It wasn’t terribly innovative, but it was done so well it didn’t have to be. The Quiet Man just doesn’t have that feeling of care. It’s a movie a player is occasionally forced to play to get to the next scene, and the artless development of its play does a terrible disservice to a wonderful idea.
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