The Quiet Man Review
Silence isn’t always golden…
In something of a reversal of the usual result of games that use live-action cutscenes, Human Head’s ambitious attempt to tell a story from the perspective of a deaf protagonist gets a lot more right about its video half than its game half. Its cinematics are technically competent – even impressive – at conveying characters’ emotions without sound, but the story it’s telling is uninspired and the playable third-person combat sequences are overly simplistic and repetitive. At times, The Quiet Man feels like it was made for network television, and the interactive elements are more of an afterthought.
The Quiet Man’s minimal use of sound does effectively add tension, making it difficult to look away from the screen for fear of missing some important plot point during the live-action sequences. The hero, Dane, exists in a nearly silent environment with little to no audible dialogue. This creative choice forces you to focus on the actors’ facial expressions in order to interpret what he or she is saying in a given scene – and the actors do an exceptional job of conveying their emotions. When someone is speaking to Dane, the only sounds are the haunting, ethereal noises that let you know he understands what’s being said. We also get muffled sound effects whenever he lands a punch or kick.
In terms of its story, The Quiet Man is familiar and, at times, uninspired. After enduring a childhood fraught with abuse and tragedy, Dane enters into a life a crime and works as a bodyguard for one of the city’s top crime bosses. In typical Hollywood fashion there’s a forbidden love component, a damsel in distress, and a bunch of stereotypical (often dark-skinned) ruffians in need of a good beatdown. I did find myself becoming a better lip reader by the halfway mark, but I wished there were some clever twist to the plot to make the effort worthwhile.
Instead, The Quiet Man distinguishes its live-action scenes with production quality that feels like a well-made episode of TV – minus the sound, of course. Its gorgeous cinematography includes long tracking shots of New York City’s streets and the intimate confines of a swanky nightclub, and the only times I felt engrossed were in these beautifully crafted cinematic moments.
I found myself just button-mashing my way through every cookie-cutter gangster I came across.
Things take a turn for the worse when the cameras turn off and you’re given control of Dane for some third-person action. At first, the close-quarters combat seemed tense and exciting, especially when you perform a perfect dodge or block and follow it up with a satisfying slow-motion finisher move. However, the lack of additional moves and abilities to unlock meant I found myself just button-mashing my way through every cookie-cutter gangster I came across. Even during the span of its short three-hour campaign, the number of times you have to fight the same lackluster baddies over and over again quickly becomes repetitive. There are a few thrilling boss battles that offer unique challenges, since they’re more powerful and agile than your average opponents, but it’s not enough to carry the gameplay segments. It doesn’t help that, unlike the varied live-action scenes, most of the in-game environments are forgettable – after the third or fourth graffiti-ridden hallway or dark alley you’ve basically seen it all.
There’s currently little reason to replay The Quiet Man after you’re done, but the developers are promising an update later this week that will let you enable the muted dialogue and audio to reveal what’s really going on. That may entice you to give it another playthrough, or at least give those parts a watch on YouTube. However, with a straightforward and sometimes predictable plot, audio is unlikely to improve it much, especially since the creative use of silence is the main thing that makes it interesting right now.