We wrapped up The Quiet Man's conclusion no less than five minutes ago, and to say we’re baffled and bewildered would be an understatement. The bottom line is that Human Head Studios’ attempt at blending FMV with interactive combat scenes utterly fails in every conceivable way. In fact, everything about this project is truly perplexing, and to confuse matters even further, Japanese bigwig Square Enix actually forked out genuine money to publish this monstrosity.
So, where do we even begin? You play as Dane, a gentleman who is deaf. A protagonist who has lost their hearing is a half-decent concept in theory, but when put into practise, The Quiet Man gets it all wrong. Due to the disability, you won’t hear a single piece of spoken dialogue throughout the entire game, which immediately throws the overall plot into obscurity. From what we could piece together, Dane must rescue a female family member from the clutches of a masked figure.
It’s a short descriptor, because honestly, the game makes no sense whatsoever. Flashbacks to Dane’s childhood try to describe the relationships between characters, but they regularly contradict each other or continue to raise more questions than answers. And then back in the present day, motivations remain unclear, people come and go without rhyme or reason, and plot arcs are communicated horrendously. It’s this lack of verbal conversation that kills any understanding of what’s going on because despite characters and even Dane himself moving their lips and presumably speaking words, we never hear any of it. We seriously struggled to grasp any sort of cohesive narrative, and we’d be hard-pressed to believe that anyone else could too.
And then, there’s the biggest kicker of the lot. The Quiet Man doesn’t have a traditional ending, because it’s being delivered via DLC in a week’s time. This add-on will be free, but it leads to a scenario where the base game simply displays a countdown timer upon its completion. It felt like the rug has been pulled out from under us because after an incomprehensible three hours to make it to the climax, we’re made to wait a further seven days for what will most likely be one more ludicrous cutscene.
When you’re not trying to work out what each FMV sequence means, you’ll be taking the fight to supposed enemies in scenes where you’ll actually have to pick up the controller and play. Unfortunately, though, the combat system is just as atrocious as the ridiculous plot. Not a single one of its mechanics are explained, which led us to button mashing our way through the majority of brawls. And the biggest issue here is that there absolutely are cogs and gears for you to engage with, but we only know thanks to the Trophy list that speaks of close shave encounter attacks, beatdowns, and special environment finishers. We’ve unlocked each of those Trophies so apparently we did perform those moves at some point in the game, but we wouldn’t have known it at the time.
Boss fights do require a little more skill, with a dodge button becoming your biggest ally, but simply pounding on square and triangle will get you through most altercations. To be honest, the controls feel bad, with unresponsive inputs leading to a sense of clunkiness that never goes away. Woeful hit feedback worsens things with punches that fail to feel weighty and blows that can’t decide if they were blocked or not, while enemies themselves all originate from a few very particular character models. You'll often fight foes with the same appearance.
It’s this sense of cheapness that has a serious detriment on the transitions between FMV and the in-game sequences, too. The video looks fine, because of course it’s shot on high-quality cameras, but it’s this that makes the switch to the interactive scenes all the more glaring. There’s a very noticeable drop in presentational quality once it’s time to pick up the controller, with a sort of washed out effect that makes backgrounds and setting look incredibly lacklustre, while character’s faces could almost be an entirely different person. Obviously we weren’t expecting top of the line graphics, but The Quiet Man wouldn’t look out of place on a PlayStation 3.
As an overall product, we can’t state enough just how much of a negative impact the lack of sound has on the experience. It’s the title’s defining mechanic, but it doesn’t work in any practical manner. Long stretches of the game had us confused and befuddled by events on-screen, and at some point the wheels fall off completely and the whole affair starts to turn into a comedy sketch. It’s an experiment gone badly wrong, and an example to those who wish to dabble in the FMV genre of what not to do. We wish this was a "so bad it's good" situation where a slice of self-deprication could glean even a hint of enjoyment out of the experience, but it's sadly anything but.
There’s nothing else quite like The Quiet Man, and there’s a reason for that. The blend of FMV and interactive combat sequences fails on every level with an unfathomable plot that raises far more questions than it answers, and encounters that fail to explain themselves and do little to engage. The Quiet Man is the most baffling release of 2018, to the point where a post-mortem investigation into its sheer existence sounds so much more exciting than this bizarre and convoluted comedy sketch.