The Quiet Man is Square Enix’s most curious project in a long time

Square Enix is no stranger to unusual titles, but its upcoming The Quiet Man could be its most unorthodox ever – something caught between street brawling action-adventure, an investigative thriller, and live action movie. Oh, and it’s all played in a near-soundless void, and that includes dialogue.

You control Dane, a deaf man in New York, who is drawn into investigating the kidnapping of a singer, Lala, by a mysterious masked figure. Playing out over the course of a single night, the entire experience is designed to be completed in a single session.

The only sounds Dane – and you, as the player – ‘hears’ are ones he’s actually feeling through resonance, such as fists connecting in combat or his own racing heartbeat. There are also no subtitles for dialogue scenes, leaving you to infer what exactly is happening and why from context, in-universe writing (such as a ransom note left by Lala’s kidnapper), and keen observation.

Couple that with frequent shifts between interactive gaming sections and fully-acted live-action segments, and The Quiet Man is shaping up to be something unusual, if not entirely unique.

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The Quiet Man

“The live action scenes are very much challenging for you to follow,” director Kensei Fujinaga tells me, in a behind closed doors session at Gamescom. “It asks for your patience, for you to pay attention.”

Fujinaga says his original concept for The Quiet Man was wanting to create a sense of “communication beyond words”, and that he was heavily influenced by American cinema and the style of New York City. Development was split between American and Japanese arms of Square Enix, with the North American arm working on casting and shooting the live action parts. Fujinaga also brought on board US creative studio Man of Action – the team behind animated hits Ben 10 and Generator Rex – to help make sure they got the tone and feel of New York right.

However, the presentation of The Quiet Man was hands-off, so at present, I have little real sense of how it will play. Gameplay currently appears to solely consist of rounds of basic melee combat Fujinaga says “we believe the combat, the playable moment, needs to be very, very simple,” with some mild detective elements at work.

Transitions between live action and gaming appear fairly seamless at least, and Fujinaga says the longest acted sequence is only eight minutes. It’s currently impossible to say how the lack of sound will work in practise either, though Square Enix did work with the deaf and hard of hearing community to make sure Dane’s experience is authentic. However, it’s confirmed that while Dane won’t hear anything, there will be incidental music and other elements of sound design at work, which only makes matters more curious.

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The Quiet Man

Fujinaga knows his bizarre pet project is likely to alienate “traditional gamers”, but hopes the short run-time – an expected three hours – and undemanding mechanical gameplay will help it find an audience of new players or returning ones who no longer have weeks at a time to commit to a single game.

“Once you grow up and have a job [you start to] ask yourself ‘Do I have 50 hours, 100 hours, for a game?’, and you don’t,” Fujinaga says. “Nowadays, you have a lot of good dramas from the likes of Netflix, and that [alone] is too much to consume. There’s not enough time – you pick up a game and barely finish them at all.”

The unorthodox nature of The Quiet Man may be off-putting to some, but that’s reflected in the price. When the digital-only game launches, it will be priced at €14.99 (UK price TBD) – about the price of a cinema ticket. It has its work cut out for it, with gaming history littered with previous live-action hybrids such as Night Trap and Quantum Break never proving the crossover hit their creators hoped for, but the modern noir take and the unusual approach to sound could make this worth keeping an eye on.

The Quiet Man release date – when is it coming out?

Square Enix has confirmed that The Quiet Man is scheduled to launch in 2019 for PS4 and PC.

The Quiet Man Trailer – how does it look?

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