Whether video games can be considered art is an ongoing debate that will probably never end. Depending on your own definition of what art is, you may fall on either side of the argument. Every once in a while, a game like The Quiet Man gets released and fuels the flame of this never-ending debate. Unfortunately for all of us, The Quiet Man is a game that tries to present itself as something more intelligent and artistically unique than what it actually is. Instead of getting something that challenges the conventions of game design and storytelling successfully, we get a mediocre and halfhearted game that feels tone-deaf towards its audience and the goal it set out to do.
The Quiet Man is a very short game. You can play through its story in about 2 hours, the same time it would probably take to watch a full-length feature film. How long it takes to finish a game doesn’t always matter, but what you do within that timeframe is most important and can make or break the fun of the experience. The Quiet Man is a brawler game with very shallow fighting covered by a story that is incredibly confusing and unsatisfying by its conclusion. Most of the time you’re watching cutscenes with real actors that are shot very well, but the narrative is muddied up by little to no audio and no context for what you’re seeing.
The main character is a deaf character named Dane, and everything is shown mostly from his perspective. Yet the artistic choice of making us see the world from Dean’s point of view removes any part of the story that would otherwise make us connect with the characters we meet. We can’t care for our hero or the villain if we’re prevented from knowing what is going on since there’s a lack of audio and subtitles for the entire game.
When you finally get to control something after watching long cutscenes, you’re forced into fighting groups of duplicated enemies with broken mechanics that don’t work as well as intended. What’s worse is how the game never has a true tutorial or introduction to its combat mechanics, but instead opts to have a terrible light display in the pause menu that clues you into what the buttons on the controller do. It’s a horrible way to teach players how to play the game and doesn’t help ease anyone into basic combat.
Dane is a deaf character with seemingly powerful martial arts abilities, but the stiff animations and unresponsive button inputs will prevent you from seeing them at their full potential. There is a Sense ability and environmental attacks that you can use against enemies, but triggering them and getting everything to work properly is nearly impossible because of the poorly programmed controls and abundant bugs and glitches that happen frequently.
There are some moments in The Quiet Man where the game looks like a visual disaster compared to the real life cutscenes with the actors. Cutscenes will try to do a clever transition from real life footage to gameplay just before you start fighting, but it only makes the game itself look far worse in comparison.
The glare effects from the lighting and crazy camera filters get in the way of what you see, the fixed camera can get stuck in walls and other objects as you move your character around, and both enemies and Dane can fall through and be locked within objects as they are fighting. It often feels like much of the energy for The Quiet Man went into making the cutscenes look good while completely ignoring the importance of making a mechanically competent game.
Normally in a case like this, the review would be over at this point. But there’s something more that should be addressed about The Quiet Man which makes the package a whole lot worse. An additional patch made for after the game’s initial release adds sound and a few extra elements into the gameplay and cutscenes. (NOTE: We were asked to wait to publish our thoughts about The Quiet Man so we could see this additional content and factor it into our review.)
This new content makes the story of The Quiet Man easier to follow and understand, and in all honesty should’ve been the way how the game was released from the start. The story conclusion is clearer and offers a definitive narrative, rather than the open-endedness from before. However, the update does nothing to correct any of the bugs or broken mechanics with the combat. But is it worth going through the game a second time to understand everything that happens in the story with this new content? Honestly, not at all. The journey through it all just isn’t satisfying or interesting enough to do so.
The Quiet Man is not a good game. It tries way too hard to pass itself off as an artistic piece rather than being a quality game to enjoy first and foremost. It’s a shame that the work done by the actors and actresses for the real-life cutscenes gets overshadowed by a failed attempt to make a statement and be different from everything else. The gameplay is a mechanical mess, the in-game visuals look archaic, and the time spent trying to understand the story feels like a complete waste. There are many better games out there that walk the line of being considered great works of art, but The Quiet Man is not one of those games.
This review is based on a digital review code for The Quiet Man on PlayStation 4, provided by Square Enix.