The Quiet Man is a game with ambition. That much was clear when it was first announced at E3 2018, looking to include a seamless blend of live-action footage with gameplay, and along the way more details about the project suggested that it would have been something a little bit different. Even if not entirely original, at the very least The Quiet Man looked to give gamers something that felt fresh.
Unfortunately, the final product is a serious let down. Whether gamers turn to The Quiet Man for a different setup on an action-based game, or whether they arrive to see if its deaf protagonist provides some much-needed variation in playable characters, they will end up disappointed. What initially had promise as a core concept fails in its final iteration, with issues across the board from its pacing through to the combat mechanics themselves.
The core gameplay, which acts in snippets between live-action sections and the occasional in-engine cut scene, plays it drastically safe. It’s a real shame, but given all the possibilities of gameplay The Quiet Man is at its center a rudimentary brawler. The player character, Dane, spends much of the interactive moments in the game engaging in punch-ups with goons, with little variety as the game progresses.
It’s nothing that players haven’t seen before, and in a year that has seen such engaging combat as God of War and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, it’s hard to get engaged in such simplistic and often awkward combat. Although it may feel a little unfair to compare The Quiet Man to such big budget releases, the title also feels unintuitive and uninteresting in comparison to other smaller launches seen in the last few years, with Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice a prime example of what can be done within this framework.
Outside of this, there’s a lack of polish that those here purely from a novelty perspective will not appreciate. Glitches and clipping are par for the course within the game’s combat, as Dane glitches his way from fight to fight without having to worry too much against the enemies he comes up against. Enemies that, it might be added, repeat a little too often in their designs for comfort.
Instead, players may turn their gaze towards the plot elements of the game, and at least here The Quiet Man takes more risks. The game’s gimmick is that the main character is deaf, and as such the title is devoid of sound, leaving players attempting to decipher the intricacies of a larger conspiracy that slowly descends from the mundane realism of awkward street tough caricatures down to bizarre supernatural mysteries.
It’s here that The Quiet Man could have really made an impact, providing a rare deaf video game protagonist and using an interactive medium to help portray this to players who may otherwise have had little experience of the subject matter. However, the game’s heavy-handed attempts to show what it is like to live as a deaf person never truly hit home, at best coming across as misguided and at worst showing a lack of understanding of what this means in the real world.
Something that really doubles down on this is the fact that The Quiet Man is offering up a New Game + that adds sound back into the game. Billed as a way to truly unravel the mysteries of the plot, it shows a lack of understanding of its own subject matter, and instantly transforms what is a poorly executed attempt at what could have been an unique prospect into something that undermines its own point. If The Quiet Man’s New Game + plans are to be believed, the concept at the center of this project is that deafness is something that stops true understanding from ever being achieved.
Outside of this framing, The Quiet Man’s plot and characters are a little hard to decipher. There’s a criminal underworld element to explore, complete with a tragic backstory to uncover, but its descent into bizarre elements of supernatural transformation and personal betrayal is quite jarring to say the least. Working out exactly what is going on isn’t easy, but it would have been much better for players to uncover the plot on their own within The Quiet Man’s self-imposed soundless world – and this, too, would have helped make its attempt at a deaf main character feel more enthralling.
All in all, then, The Quiet Man is a gaming experiment gone wrong. Although its blend of live action and gameplay doesn’t feel as awful as the terrible FMV games of the 1990s, its substandard brawling gameplay and heavy-handed use of the subject matter will do little to engage players. Although its sound-based update has a slim possibility of making this a cohesive – and tasteful – experience, one suspects it’s more likely to cause more trouble again.
The Quiet Man is out now for PC and PS4. Screen Rant was provided a PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.