Game review: The Quiet Man is fascinatingly awful –

What may be the worst game of the year is a masterpiece of bad ideas and terrible execution, but is it so bad it’s good?
The video games industry has reached a level of maturity where it’s extremely rare for a major publisher to release a truly awful game, and if they do it’s more likely to be a microtransaction-filled mobile game than a console title. That’s probably all the hint you need that The Quiet Man is not going to be winning any game of the year awards. It may well end up with the Golden Raspberry equivalent but there’s something strangely alluring about a game that can get so much wrong at once…
Appropriately enough, The Quiet Man slipped out last week without a drop of publicity. No review copies were sent out (we had to buy ours) and we only remembered what it was when we recalled its baffling E3 debut, where publisher Square Enix made no effort to explain what it was or why you should be interested. At the time they seemed distinctly embarrassed at the game’s mere existence, like the least-loved relative at a wedding that you were hoping to avoid introducing everyone to.
In gameplay terms The Quiet Man is very simple: it’s a third person fighting game vaguely reminiscent of the combat sequences from Yakuza, interspersed with live action cut scenes. (It’s also weirdly reminiscent of PlayStation 2 launch title The Bouncer, with even some of the locations being similar.) But what The Quiet Man is, is a far easier question to answer than why it exists. And we get the feeling we’re never going to get an answer on that one.

The central gimmick of The Quiet Man is that main character Dane is deaf. That seems a perfectly interesting premise for a video game, the sort of high concept idea that’s common in movies but which gaming rarely makes use of. But rather than creating some unique new gameplay concepts to illustrate how Dane views the world the game’s big idea is to instead not have any sound or dialogue of any kind. And we don’t just mean you can’t hear anyone – there are no subtitles either.
This idea is patently stupid on several counts, but one of the most galling is that Dane himself clearly understands what people are saying even if you don’t. This creates an impenetrable disconnect between player and protagonist where you never feel like you’re really playing as him, because he seems to know everything that’s going on and you’re left completely out of the loop. It’s a mistake Quantic Dream’s David Cage has often made but not even he has ever failed on as grand a scale as this.
In some cases, it’s fairly easy to lip read what people are saying but it’s hard to tell whether that’s what you’re supposed to be doing or not. Bizarrely, the storytelling is even more contrived than that though because the game is filled with flashbacks that happen at seemingly random moments and which frequently seem to contradict each other. All you can really be sure of is that you’re chasing a guy in a bird mask in order to save your love interest (either that or it’s Dane’s mum, we’re genuinely not sure and just hope it’s not both).
Although the FMV cut scenes are competently shot the fighting sequences are of such staggering ineptitude we’re almost impressed Square Enix had the nerve to release the game. Just like the plot, none of the controls are ever explained but in this case it doesn’t matter because the mushy, skilless combat requires no effort to excel at. As long as you can back an enemy into a corner all you need to do is mash the attack button and you’ll win every time.
It also doesn’t help that the graphics are so painfully poor. Many of the face models don’t match up with the actors and for the majority of the game you fight the same three or four clones, all of who suffer from the same jarringly poor animation that sees them flick between actions like they’re in a child’s flip book.
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Whatever good intentions Square Enix and developer Human Head Studios (best known for the original Prey) had here they’re lost in one of the most tedious and frustrating gameplay experiences we’ve ever sat through. And if you want an example of exactly how pretentious it is the game, despite only being three hours long, doesn’t have a proper ending. Instead it finishes on a timer and tells you to wait a week for some free DLC.
Clearly The Quiet Man wasn’t being rushed to release in order to satiate a demanding public so it was done that way on purpose, but why is completely unfathomable. The DLC will also bring with it the option of spoken dialogue, but you’ll still have to play the game through once to unlock it. Which we don’t advise you do.
Whether the game’s low price is meant to be an admission of its short length or its quality we don’t know, but it can’t be both because otherwise it’d be so cheap they’d be paying you. Perhaps the worst thing about The Quiet Man though is that it’s not so bad it’s good. It’s too boring and confusing for that. If we were Square Enix we wouldn’t just have kept quiet about the game, we’d have cancelled the whole thing.
In Short: A terrible idea poorly realised, with a mixture of pretentious, gimmicky storytelling and banal combat that is almost awe-inspiring in the full extent of its incompetence.
Pros: The live action cut scenes are decently shot and the game as a whole is mercifully short.
Cons: Almost everything. The story is completely incomprehensible and a chore to sit through. The combat is terrible and the lack of enemy variety embarrassing. DLC ending is just unforgiveable.
Score: 2/10

Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed) and PC
Price: £11.99
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix and Human Head Studios
Release Date: 1st November 2018
Age Rating: 18

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