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Using live-action cutscenes in video games is a trend that has largely fallen out of fashion. They often came across as cheesy and were usually poorly acted and of lower production value. However, the new title from Square Enix, The Quiet Man, has embraced the concept, and gone the extra mile, to make sure that its live-action sequences look as good as any movie or television show. I had a chance to talk to the team behind The Quiet Man At PAX West 2018, and producer Kensei Fujinaga explained that in order for the idea behind the new game to really work, real actors were necessary, because digital graphics still can't recreate the nuances of facial expressions that the story required. According to Fujinaga...
Lately, CGI and the photo-realistic visuals...it's getting there but we felt like it's not quite there yet. It's not yet good enough to do the most delicate, the slightest, the smallest [facial expressions]...We tried to bring some very mature story to the video game industry, to do that, and because the nature of the game was no audible dialogue and such, all those individual expressions were very essential so we really needed the live action, the real human being.
First unveiled at E3 earlier this year, The Quiet Man is an unusual game to say the least. You play as Dane, a protagonist who is deaf, and in order to convey those ideas to the player properly, the game is devoid of dialogue and almost completely devoid of sound. The story unfolds in front of the player entirely visually, with no explanation as to what it is you're seeing. It's up to the player to interpret what the story actually is.
Because the visuals are even more important for The Quiet Man than for most games, it means that every tiny visual detail is important, and in this case, that means facial expressions. The feeling was that using traditional video game characters the story could not be conveyed visually the way it needed to be, only actual human beings could do that. Check out the E3 trailer below.
In addition to having a chance to speak with the team behind The Quiet Man, I also had a chance to play the game for a while and I will say it is a truly unique experience. While the game isn't entirely without sound, the audio is incredibly subdued and muffled, as if you were listening to the game underwater. While I can't say it is anything like being deaf, it does cause you to pay much more attention to what is in front of you.
It's also true that the digital version of your protagonist, which you use during the combat sections, simply isn't the same. If there's a downside to The Quiet Man, it's the fact that there's a significant uncanny valley problem when looking at the digital Dane. In an attempt to make the digital Dane resemble the real-life actor as much as possible, they've unfortunately made the character look a little off.
The Quiet Man is certainly a unique title and it shows a particular sort of bravery from Square Enix to try such an unusual game. While the game doesn't have an official release date yet, it is expected to be available before the end of the year.