When The Quiet Man first showed up on Square-Enix’s brief E3 2018 Showcase, it rightly baffled people. What exactly was this live-action/video game thing? The Avengers game, perhaps? A Hollyoaks vigilante spin-off I’d always dreamed of? An advert for a particularly macho aftershave maybe?
Well, The Quiet Man is finally here and I’m pretty sure it’s two of those things, but I’d be the proverbial ape’s relative if I knew what the rest of it can be classed as beyond ‘majestically awful gubbins’.
This glossy tale of a deaf white male model (who appears to be mute) who beats up copy/paste ethnic gang members whilst looking super stylish is seemingly about some kind of revenge for his mother being shot. A flashback scene showing this tragic moment of an accidental shooting is unintentionally hilarious as two men look like they’re wrestling over the last meatball sandwich of the day from Subway rather than a loaded weapon.
The game is split into two distinct, and equally laughable, sides. The first is the live-action cutscenes, which you may have already gathered, aren’t exactly The Wire. For a barometer of just how low-rent they are, if it was a movie, the Movies4Men channel would reject it outright for being below par. The protagonist’s deafness is used as a gimmick to have cutscenes with no sound. This is supposed to make you watch the scenes intently in order to get the gist of what’s going on, but it’s applied haphazardly, with subtitles applied when the game feels like it, and for no particular reason.
In fact, the deaf gimmick, and make no mistake, it’s very much a gimmick, is just utterly, utterly pointless, and when you hinge a game on something like this and it’s pointless, well, you’ve missed the point somewhere, haven’t you?
Instead of using the deafness to create inventive cutscenes, it’s just set up as a regular movie, with normal scenes that just don’t let you hear the audio. There’s the odd attempt at sign language, but Christ in Heels, surely you should be focusing on that, or a simple equivalent if your whole schtick is about not bloody hearing anything?
There’s, unsurprisingly, no payoff for this nonsense. It’s just a bunch of loosely-collected scenes about little of interest. Even when it shows a flash of intrigue via its ‘mystery’, it’s handled in a bizarrely obtuse manner.
All of this and there’s minimal connection to the actual gameplay. Often, our protagonist will have these glossy, nonsense cutscenes, and suddenly he’s in-game and somewhere else, being accosted by slight variants of the same goons.
These gameplay sections are finite, and while occasionally you get the exquisite thrill of WALKING SEVERAL METRES, you mainly just beat some folk up with some simple, unspectacular combat. You can punch, kick, throw, and dodge your opponents and frankly this physical combat holds all the weight of a fart in space. The environments for these fights don’t even allow for all that much impact either, with foes regularly shifting through scenery when pushed. Given their ability to phase through solid objects, it’s hard to see how they get hit by Captain Mute Beauty.
Anyway, these gameplay segments are very brief, which is sort of a mercy, but you suspect that’s because it’s an attempt to rush past the fact they’re so limited. So it’s back to another overly long cutscene about nothing that might be (100% is) an excuse for a change of scenery to batter some folks for two minutes.
My favourite of these is when our floppy-haired hero visits his lady friend at the bar where she sings and plays the piano. This makes him happy because she’s happy doing it. That’s what it’s trying to go for, I’m sure, but to me, it appears more like a man who can’t hear went to watch somebody perform music so it could set up the swanky bar as a setting for a dull fight that lasts as long as it takes to boil a kettle. Just one of many ways The Quiet Man not only squanders an opportunity, but flies in the face of it with all the defiant grace of a shitfaced gymnast.
You can see that this was an interesting concept for a piece of interactive media. The idea of seamlessly blending live-action into gameplay has been the Holy Grail for many in the games industry, even if it is an ill-advised dream to follow. The Quiet Man falls short of this lofty ambition, even if to its credit, it does try a bit of smart camerawork once to transition between live-action and gameplay. The seams are there though, great big ragged seams with whatever nightmares fuelled this slipshod monster’s creation spilling through the gaps.
Despite being successful as something to joyously mock for its absurdity, The Quiet Man is a catastrophic failure on every level. It’s perhaps telling that the nicest thing you can say about it is that everybody involved got a lovely selection of clothing out of it.