Review – Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories

This curious title has a backstory that might actually be more interesting than the game itself. Disaster Report 4 Plus: Summer Memories is an adventure game about trying to escape a ruined city that just got hit by a massive earthquake. Ironically enough, this game was originally planned for a 2011 release for the PS3, but it had its development halted because of a massive earthquake that hit Japan that same year.

Development only resumed in 2014, when another company, Granzella, bought the rights from all older Irem titles (including R-Type), deleted all previous progress, and started everything from scratch, aiming for a 2015 release for the PS4. It took them an additional four years to complete the project and release it in Japan. Then an additional two years to bring them over to the West. Was this nine year long drama worth the wait?

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…You’re clearly looking at your lunch on the ground. Duh.

It’s weird to play Disaster Report 4 at the time of writing for a multitude of reasons. The main reason being that it’s a game about trying to escape a city after a disaster, in which no one is supposed to leave their houses, and supplies skyrocket in value. There’s even a sidequest involving toilet paper and how scarce it is. Just like in my previous The Complex review, I am well aware that this might mean nothing half a year from now, but playing a game like this during a mandated quarantine felt bizarrely coincidental. The other reason why it’s so weird to play Disaster Report 4 in 2020 is because it’s absolutely awful.

NIS America usually knocks it out of the park when it comes to their curation skills. They almost never localize a bad game coming from Japan, but I can’t help but feel like they dropped the ball with this one. Disaster Report 4 is one of the worst games I’ve played this year so far. It’s a prime example of ineptitude in almost every single aspect of its design.

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Who gets EXCITED in the middle of an apocalypse??

Granzella has stated that the entire build developed up until 2011, the one originally intended for the PS3, was discarded in favor of this PS4-focused project. I wonder how bad that game originally was, because Disaster Report 4 features one of ugliest graphics I’ve seen in a non-indie game from this entire generation. It might be running on Unreal Engine 4, but I swear I’ve seen many games from the PS2 era that look a lot sharper than this one. The NPCs look absolutely simplistic and they move as if they were robots. I have action figures with more movable joints than these models. To top things off, the framerate is absolutely atrocious. This game hasn’t been optimized at all. I can only imagine how worse the Switch version’s framerate is…

The gameplay isn’t exactly better. There are some good ideas in here, but they’re not well executed at all. This is not quite an adventure, yet not a full survival game either. You do have hunger, life, stress, and bathroom necessity meters. However, with the exception of the life bar, they all deplete very slowly so you don’t have to worry about them that much, even though it’s important to always have a first aid kit or lunch box with you. You’ll spend most of your time trying to figure out where the hell you need to go next, interacting with NPCs, and messing around with dialogue choices along the way. Think of it as a distant cousin of Yakuza. But without the combat. Or the good level design. Or the interesting sidequests. Or the meaningful minigames. Or the constant 60fps. Or the fun.

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When you hire a 34 year old actress to portray a high school student.

I’ll give credit where credit is due; I was impressed with the sheer amount of options in pretty much every single dialogue I came across with. There were times in which the game literally offered me ten dialogue options, even though a chunk of them were comprised of what I can only describe as “creep options”, especially when a young girl was involved. There were also a few instances in which my character would start talking to himself and present a ton of options for me to flesh out his backstory, which was a neat feature, but ended up doing little impact in the overall story.

Going from point A to point B is a much more complicated task than I was expecting, and not only because the entire city is in shambles. The controls are absolutely terrible. Your playable character doesn’t only look like a robot, it controls like one. The controls are stiff, the collision detection is nonsensical, and the input lag is unbearable. The terrible framerate only makes things even more excruciating.

Is there anything that Disaster Report 4 didn’t mess up? To be honest, the voice acting is very good. It’s all in Japanese, but none of the characters sound like exaggerated anime clich├ęs, even when they’re supposed to say the most absurd crap you can think of due to the game’s terrible script. There’s a ton of voice acting in here, as there are more than fifty NPCs you can interact with. Does that make up for how incompetent the rest of the game is? Absolutely not.

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You don’t say?

This might be one of the most disappointing gaming experiences I’ve ever had. There are very small hints of a brilliant game in Disaster Report 4, but they’re quickly overshadowed by terrible graphics, controls, characters, and one of the worst framerates I’ve ever seen in a PS4 game. You can’t even say this was a rushed job considering it originally came out in Japan two years ago. It just stayed there, untouched and unpolished, until it eventually got localized and released in the West. This could have easily been a potential cult hit, but it just ended up being a laughing stock and one of the worst games released in 2020 so far.

 

Graphics: 2.5

Not only does it look like a PS2 game at best, but Disaster Report 4 features one of the worst framerates of all games I’ve played on the PS4 so far. It hasn’t been optimized at all.

Gameplay: 3.5

The amount of dialogue choices given whenever you talk to NPCs is nice, even though most of them are terrible options. Besides that, you’ll be constantly fighting against terrible input lag issues, a bad button layout, robotic movements, and the aforementioned terrible framerate.

Sound: 8.0

There is a surprising amount of good voice acting in here, which is the game’s sole redeeming factor. Sound effects are near nonexistent, with the exception of earthquake noises.

Fun Factor: 3.5

There are glimpses of a good game in here, but Disaster Report 4 was released in an unforgivably bad state. The interesting premise and myriad of dialogue options can’t make up for how unpolished and clunky this game is.

Final Verdict: 3.5

Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is available now on PS4, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories was provided by the publisher.