It’s possible that The Quiet Man could become 2018’s breakout gaming hit, for all the wrong reasons. Gaming media has been beside itself for the past few days tearing into this unmitigated shiteshow, and we’re no exception, but for every bad word and awful commentary you’ve seen about this game, rest easy in the knowledge that none of it is hyperbole: this is the new Ride to Hell.
In fairness, that comparison isn’t entirely accurate, purely because Ride to Hell: Retribution had the good decency not to take itself seriously. The dodgy mechanics and awful shag scenes only added to its awful B movie aesthetic, making the experience more “enjoyable”, if you enjoy consuming pure unadulterated trash. The Quiet Man is a more dour, serious thriller that completely misses the mark in every conceivable way.
I’d talk about the story here, but I don’t really know much about it. The core conceit of The Quiet Man is that your main character, Dane, is deaf. This means that the entire audio experience for this game consists of muffled voices and sound design reminiscent of being underwater. Occasionally, you can lip read certain words, but you can’t say for certain what’s going on. The best interpretation we’ve got so far is that your love interest, who looks like your mum who was killed in a confrontation between your best mate and the leader of a rival gang, gets kidnapped. After that, things get weird. Shoes are involved.
It’s a strange decision from the developers to go about things in this way, as finishing the game unveils a countdown timer for a patch that’ll add sound so you can finally understand what the smeg is going on. On the one hand, you have to hand it to the developers to do something bold like this, but the way they’ve approached it feels inconsistent, muddled and purely for the sake of doing it.
In the story, Dane is clearly shown utilising sign language with certain characters. He can read lips and in certain moments, he’s shown actually talking to people, but we’re locked out of all of it. It creates a dispute as to the player’s role within the context of the story. Are we controlling Dane or are we merely an observer of the events that transpire? If we are Dane, why can’t we understand what he understands? If we’re an observer, what purpose does it serve to the story for Dane to be deaf?
You could argue that a statement is being made on what it feels like to be deaf, but I don’t know many deaf people who can batter the fuck out of a room full of guys while looking like the most generic emo protagonist in history. Besides, deafness is never shown to be a hindrance to Dane, so why is it getting in the way of the player’s understanding? Again, it feels disingenuous, like the developers made the decision purely for the sake of it. A gimmick for gimmick’s sake, as it were.
The failings of the story wouldn’t be so bad if the combat was up to a decent standard, but nope: The Quiet Man is dismal in this regard too. Easily describable as a piss poor Yakuza, the controls totally match SEGA’s superior product, as square deals light attacks, triangle launches strong attacks, circle grabs enemies and X evades attacks. Holding down one of the shoulder buttons enters focus mode, which can be used to deliver “hard hitting” finishers that actually look weak and ineffective.
There’s no feeling on impact from any of the attacks, with your attack animations and the enemies’ hit animations occurring independent of each other. Dane often teleports to different parts of the arena to deliver environmental attacks or just because he felt like it. The evade motion is the most stilted and momentum breaking dash I can remember in any video game, with success and failure against certain attacks decided arbitrarily.
Towards the tail end of the thankfully short experience, enemies begin to block and counter attack your moves and you’re given no indication with how to deal with this game breaking tech. Who knew being deaf meant you couldn’t cover up during a fistfight? The camera is a cruel mistress, often giving you half the view of the fight and getting caught behind scenery. Certain boss fights are also incredibly frustrating, as your opponent will just no sell attacks and wallop you, which doesn’t seem intentional. Again, this happens on a whim, so you’ll either destroy bosses or hit an insurmountable roadblock.
If you’re wondering whether or not there’s any positives in The Quiet Man, the character models look sort of okay. Nothing special. The graphics are probably the most unremarkable part of the game, as each level sees you punching the same few bad guys in generic urban environments until the credits roll.
With all that though, part of me still wants to recommend The Quiet Man. The truly awful state that the game is in right now means it just about falls into the “so bad, it’s good” category, making it decent fodder for you and your friends to rip into during a party. If nothing else, consider it a fairly cheap palette cleanser that’ll make you appreciate the much better games on the market.
Or just avoid the game completely. That’d probably be the smarter decision.
Crap gameplay, worse story and a terrible gimmick, The Quiet Man just barely manages to be ironically enjoyable, but you should probably leave well enough alone.