Upon finishing The Quiet Man, my first thought was how did this game make it off the ground floor, let alone get released as an actual product you have to pay real money for? Developed by Human Head, the studio behind the canceled Prey 2, and published by Square Enix, The Quiet Man is so abundantly terrible that its very existence seems implausible. With some of the worst action gameplay I’ve ever encountered, a jumbled, nonsensical story that has more gaps than the Grand Canyon, and some truly puzzling design choices, mainly with regard to sound and live-action cutscenes, The Quiet Man catapults to a rare level of incompetence. It’s disastrous in a way that’s somewhat impressive but I wouldn’t call it so-bad-it’s-good. At the very least, it’s an interesting case study in atrociousness.
If you recall Square Enix’s supremely underwhelming E3 2018 presentation, you probably remember seeing a trailer for The Quiet Man. The one that demonstrated that Dane, the protagonist, is deaf and also very good at street fighting. Now, Dane’s identity as a deaf man could have actually made for a novel experience. As far as sound goes, you only hear thuds and dull echoes, a so-so attempt at recreating what it’s like to be him. When people speak, you’re left trying to read their lips. Admittedly, you can make out some of the words from the mouth animations, but Dane’s deafness really doesn’t make sense in this context. It’s not implemented in a way that adds to or contextualizes the story, which left me wondering why Human Head wanted to further obscure an already broken narrative. Perhaps that was the reason behind it. Adding to the mystery to “elevate” the artistry. The problem is there is no artistry here.
Here’s where I could issue a spoiler warning, but I’ll be honest, I still have only a vague idea of what happened in this story. At the start of the game, Dane purchases some food from a street cart vendor. The vendor tells him trouble is near and strangely, this particular line of dialogue is heard by the player. Dane heads into an alley to confront a gang. He beats up all the cliche bad guys and proceeds to set the doggy bag of food on top of a knocked out dude. What? I guess that’s cool? He served him his lunch or something.
Nonsensical is an understatement
From there, The Quiet Man only gets more incomprehensible. The mix of live-action cutscenes with real actors and rendered cutscenes with poor versions of said actors is jarring. You’re watching a movie, but you’re also playing a terrible game. The one thing that I’m positive happened is that Dane’s mother was murdered when he was a kid. Besides that, I’m really unsure. For a lot of the game, I thought Dane wanted to have sex with his mother. This is because Dane has a pseudo love interest that I think is played by the same actress who plays his mother. Yet, the bond displayed in cutscenes between him and this “love interest” seems more mother-son than lovers. If you’re confused, that’s because I am too.
Dane is on a revenge tour, hunting down the gang that he thinks killed his mother. For reasons unknown, the gang has kidnapped his stand-in mother (or girlfriend?). It turns out the man who killed his mother is the same man that Dane currently has an elaborate secret handshake with. But it also turns out that this gang is actually led by his own father, a detective, and the true culprit of Dane’s stand-in mother’s kidnapping. Since Dane’s dad helped him get through the gang’s hideout and was shot by Dane’s buddy turned enemy, I really don’t know how this plot was conceived. There’s also the fact that Dane is shot dead on a rooftop only to turn into the grim reaper, which allows him to regain life. Dane drew the grim reaper in a therapist’s office as a kid following his mother’s death, with his father looking on asking questions about why Dane is obsessed with death. It’s pretty obvious, Mr. Detective. Dane blames himself for his mother’s death. Maybe Dane is really just crazy. Maybe I’m crazy for completing this game.
If you’re mad at me for spoiling the entire story of The Quiet Man, fear not, I might be totally wrong. It’s nonsensical to a degree that would make Hideo Kojima and Tetsuya Nomura proud. But unlike those auteurs, The Quiet Man is neither compelling nor fun to play. The only gameplay to speak of is in scenes where you fight a series of goons in rundown buildings and alleyways. The combat is so godawful that it feels like a low budget PS2 game. Punches and kicks go through enemies thanks to rampant clipping. Enemies run through closed doors and stand there waiting for you to make the first move. The camera stutters and jumps all over the place. Controls are clumsy, and the animations are glitchy and laughable. However, Dane has the best posture I’ve ever seen since he walks like a wooden plank, no arch to speak of in his back or bend in his knees.
When you reach the credits after three woeful hours, you’re told that an update is coming to reveal the true nature of the story. In a strange move, a patch will be released later this week that will turn the audio on so you can hear the dialogue. So much for making a subversive game that puts you in the shoes of a deaf protagonist. I’m sure my interpretation of the story will be proved wrong once the update drops, but something tells me The Quiet Man will be even worse with clarity.
Although I only spent 15 bucks on The Quiet Man, I think the experience of chewing and swallowing fifteen singles would have been a more pleasant and worthwhile use of my money. And remember, all cash is riddled with fecal bacteria.