The Quiet Man is essentially doing the story presentation of Hotline Miami 1, but doing it poorly *spoilers*
By BisonHero 4 Comments
This is what I have concluded after watching the New Game + for The Quiet Man. Allow me to explain.
*SPOILERS FOR HOTLINE MIAMI 1 AND THE QUIET MAN, IF THAT MATTERS TO YOU*
Hotline Miami 1's story and presentation, in a nutshell:
- You play some guy (Jacket) who is very good at murdering criminals.
- Due to the game's minimal exposition, it's unclear how much the main character knows or what his motivations are regarding what is going on and why he is being given direction to beat up these Russian gangsters.
- Jacket works his way to the top, and murders the top Russian gangster, and the player still has no idea really if there was a point to it or who was orchestrating all of it.
- Then just when the game could conceivably be over, some nonsense happens where the player switches over to the other playable character, Biker, whose storyline contradicts Jacket's, and results in Biker doing a better job of finding out what's going on.
- The player then completes an epilogue as Biker that sheds more light on what actually happened.
- Convoluted Explanation Time! (that recontextualizes the earlier events the player has seen in the game): this weird patriotic/nationalist organization is directing all of these masked guys like Jacket to attack Russian gangsters as part of some convoluted conspiracy to damage American-Russian relations that doesn't make much sense.
The Quiet Man's story and presentation, in a nutshell:
- You play some guy (Dane) who is very good at murdering criminals.
- Due to the game's minimal exposition, it's unclear how much the main character knows or what anyone's motivations are regarding why MomWife is kidnapped, why the Dominican gangsters would brazenly steal her mid-performance from a club, and why there's a weird Crow with a stun baton.
- Dane works his way to the top, and murders the top Dominican gangster, and the player still has no idea really why MomWife was kidnapped by the Crow or who was orchestrating all of it.
- Then just when the game could conceivably be over, some nonsense happens where the game keeps going, but without audio, it's kinda baffling why ChildhoodFriend would hit MomWife and Dane after Dane defeats top Dominican gangster, why Dane then goes on a revenge spree against ChildhoodFriend, why CopDad is involved in any of this, and why Dane and CopDad fight at the end of the game.
- The player then completes a second playthrough with sound that sheds more light on what actually happened.
- Convoluted Explanation Time! (that recontextualizes the earlier events the player has seen in the game): CopDad is indeed the dad of Dane and husband of dead MomWife, and CopDad is in fact super shitty to Dane in literally every flashback to young Dane. To free herself from working for ChildhoodFriend, present day MomWife allowed herself to get kidnapped by CopDad (dressed as the Crow) to start a war between the Dominican gang and ChildhoodFriend's gang, as an excuse for CopDad to murder/arrest all of them for their parts in death of MomWife. Then despite being shot, CopDad fights Dane to either kill him, or overcome Dane's Crow persona who developed after MomWife's death, or something; even with the audio, the motivation behind this final fight doesn't make much sense.
It's not a perfect comparison, but it's the first thing that came to mind as far as games that keep the player in the dark about what is going on, but near the end of the game suddenly fill in a lot of the reasons for why anything is happening.
But here's the thing. Hotline Miami 1 works because there's really only one huge outstanding question (who is making the phone calls directing masked vigilantes to beat up Russian gangsters), but even without that knowledge the story sorta makes sense and has some closure if that's all you want to play. After a tedious collectible hunt, the player can fully complete the epilogue with Biker and get the answer where you learn about the weird American nationalist group.
The Quiet Man doesn't work because there are soooooo many outstanding questions, both when the player is uninformed and after they've learned more. Granted, the no-sound playthrough deliberately obfuscates that MomWife agrees to her own kidnapping and that CopDad is Dane's dad, but without that knowledge it's completely unclear why anyone would kidnap MomWife or why CopDad is involved in the story in any way, and it also makes no sense why the game wouldn't just end after they get MomWife back from the top Dominican gangster. Instead of a collectible hunt and a short epilogue, the player must instead play through the entire game again just for the dialogue scenes that explain character motivations. And then even with the audio, you don't get enough answers: how does CopDad convince a bunch of Dominican gangsters to help him kidnap MomWife, and how many of them knew about CopDad's involvement? Why does MomWife just kinda appear after Dane punches top Dominican gangster through a window? How does ChildhoodFriend even deduce that he was played once MomWife is rescued by Dane? How does the rooftop fight between Dane and CopDad in any way resolve his weird Crow persona, and does CopDad actually want to help his son or just beat him to death? After the fight, Dane goes to prison, and how the fuck does CopDad not go to prison also? After Dane gets out of prison, where the fuck does CopDad get off thinking that he and Dane can get a second chance at being father and son? After the rooftop fight, where the fuck does MomWife go, since she doesn't appear outside the prison whatsoever?
It has been a truly baffling ride to watch The Quiet Man's release. To first be presented without any audio (dialogue, music, foley, anything) and barely make a lick of sense, and then watch it later be presented with full audio that fleshes out the story but still has a million issues, has really been something. In the end, the presentation doesn't achieve something meaningful. Without character motivations to go off of, the final 20% of the game makes absolutely no sense, and there isn't enough visual information to come close to understanding what's happening when absolutely all of the audio is muffled into oblivion. It doesn't become a clever last act reveal, because you know at the completion of the first playthrough that the game wasted your time with silent dialogue scenes where you know you only understand less than half of what's going on, so of course the ending is almost meaningless to you.
There's a way to make a game where the first act confuses the player and the second act has a satisfying payoff that brings things into focus, and The Quiet Man is not even remotely close to an effective way of doing that.