By: JOHN LARSON
Most large video game publishers do their best to stick to titles with a lot of public visibility or from famous development studios. When Square-Enix, publishers of series like “Final Fantasy” and “Dragon’s Quest,” announced earlier this year that they would be publishing a brand-new IP, from a small studio promising experimental design, I was certainly interested.
They then stopped talking about it almost entirely until Nov. 1, when “The Quiet Man” was unceremoniously released to PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4. It becomes obvious almost immediately why their marketing department was running silent about the game for months, if you pardon the pun.
“The Quiet Man” attempts to blend the use of real-life cinematography with more traditional brawler-style action gameplay. It has the additional hook of our protagonist, Dane, being a deaf man. As he picks up a hot dog from a street cart vendor he seems familiar with, he’s given an address. He then goes down an alley inhabited by gang members, and after they threaten him the gameplay begins.
One has certain expectations of a budget title, this one sells for $15, but this is beyond the need for a bit of polish. The fighting in this game is incredibly difficult to understand. I thought I was certainly missing something. I had seen others play the game and have problems, but surely there was something they were missing. Instead, the entire game I was just kind of, doing my best and eventually I punched enough people until a cutscene begins.
“The Quiet Man” is supposed to be a story-focused game. Most of its three-hour run time consists of these real-life actors. However, the story it tells is difficult to explain. Dane’s deafness means that we do not hear anything in these scenes, despite there being spoken dialogue. The game has a subtitle option, but does not use subtitles at most points in the game. Even the few times sign language is used, which Dane should understand, the player does not know what it means.
This is where things get especially weird. Dane can also hold spoken conversations in many scenes. We have no idea what is being said, be he clearly does, with no barrier to interaction. It leads one to wonder if Dane is truly deaf. This may play into the idea that one is supposed to play this game multiple times to understand the story; after the first playthrough, one is able to hear the audio. No one would want to play a second time. The majority of the game is spent in these soundless cut scenes where things are implied, but nothing is explained, to the sound of nothing, for great lengths of time.
You feel every second of “The Quiet Man,” and every cent you spent on it. For a game that is supposed to be about story, it is incredibly confusing. It can convey things at first, but it quickly becomes a mess. For a game about fighting, it doesn’t have nearly enough time spent on the fighting to be worth it. For a game to represent deafness, well, the best I can say is that the deaf and the hearing will be equally confused for once in a game with no subtitles.