Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately. It’s by far the least interesting thing about Granzella’s Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, the revival of a PlayStation 3 title originally set to come out in 2011, but your reaction to it will likely be the biggest factor in terms of whether or not you’re on board with what this fascinating game has to offer. Ready?
Disaster Report 4 is, by far, the worst-performing Nintendo Switch game you will ever see. Running on Unreal Engine 4, it certainly looks decent enough in static screenshots, but the game never even makes it to 30 frames per second, let alone anything higher. In some areas – usually busy cutscenes rather than gameplay – the frames-per-second figure drops so low you can actually count it by eye. Thankfully, there are no points in the game where the graphics performance is actively detrimental to your ability to do what is expected of you, and to the game’s credit, it actually runs reasonably well – perhaps even better, due to the lower resolution – in handheld mode.
If all that’s a dealbreaker, as it can be for some people, you’ll probably want to steer clear of Disaster Report 4. If you’re willing to deal with technical jank and have an open mind, however, there’s a seriously compelling and incredibly memorable experience to be had here.
In Disaster Report 4, you take on the role of a customisable male or female protagonist as they arrive in the fictional (but distinctly Tokyo-inspired) Hisui City, ready for a job interview. Before you’re able to arrive at your destination, however, a massive earthquake strikes, causing the bus you’re riding to crash and the adventure proper to begin.
Prior to the earthquake, you’re presented with a wide range of options that encourage you to think about what your priorities might be on visiting a big city, as well as how you might react if something terrible happened. And this continues as something of a pattern throughout the game: you typically have a broad range of possible reactions to the various situations in which you find yourself rather than simple binary “good or evil” moral choices. Though many of the decisions you are able to make might result in the same outcome or even have no impact on what is unfolding whatsoever, the fact that you’re presented with regular opportunities to really reflect on what’s happening gives the game a real feeling of role-playing and ownership over your character.
Once you escape the wreckage of the bus, you’re able to freely walk around, talk to any of the dozens of people in the area and try to figure out what you should do next. Should you attempt to help people, since you got away from the initial disaster without injuries? Or should you prioritise your own safety and look into escaping the city as soon as possible? It can be a little overwhelming to know where to begin, since the game doesn’t offer convenient floating waypoints and mission objectives for you to follow. Instead, you’re trusted to investigate and explore for yourself – though triggering a cutscene is generally a signal that you’re on the right track to uncovering something useful or important. And as you progress, you’ll visit a wide range of very different areas – from the busy, built-up city centre to the wealthy suburbs, and beyond to the more rural, very insular and incredibly xenophobic neighbouring communities.
The actual earthquake is one of the least important things about Disaster Report 4 – while it’s the catalyst for everything that follows, from that point on, it only occasionally rears its head as a gameplay mechanic, forcing you to determine the best course of action when an aftershock starts. Stand still and brace yourself, or rush out from beneath the large heavy thing you’re inevitably passing beneath when the shaking starts? Decide quickly, because despite the fact you have a life bar, in most of the game’s actively dangerous situations you’re either alive or dead, no in-betweens. And there’s no one catch-all answer; what works when you’re standing out on the open road most certainly won’t serve you well while you’re gingerly shimmying across windowsills in an attempt to reach a neighbour’s patio.
Instead, the focus of Disaster Report 4 is on people – specifically, how people respond to a situation that throws normality out of the window and forces them to live their lives in a way they might not be familiar or comfortable with. This is explored in a number of ways. The distinctly Japanese cultural attitude of just getting on with things even when the unthinkable occurs is shown through the random passers-by you interact with, many of whom seem more frustrated that they can’t get to work than terrified by the huge sinkhole that opened on the nearby crossroads.
The human desire to help those in need is shown particularly potently during a sequence where two neighbouring communities in the midst of a vicious feud come together to put out some fires before they become worse. And, throughout the narrative as a whole, we’re given plenty of reminders that a disaster situation, regrettably, tends to bring out the worst in some people as much as it encourages the best in others – whether that be through taking advantage of vulnerable people, using the situation to justify prejudice, or simply assuming that the normal rules and laws of society don’t apply when everything is in turmoil.
As the player character, you’re not exempt from all this, either. You can approach most situations as someone keen to help, someone reluctant to assist because they just want to escape, someone keen to make a fast yen off the back of people suffering or someone who is just a genuinely horrible person. Your choices result in “Moral” and “Immoral” points; these have no gameplay function whatsoever but serve as a simple numerical indication of how you’ve been living your virtual life amid the chaos. Decisions you make have long-lasting consequences, though; in some cases, characters live or die based on your specific actions, while in other cases the various sub-plots that are weaved around the main story of your escape come to various conclusions – or not, in some cases.
The narrative comes to one of several very different finales according to the path you take, and is followed by an optional and fairly lengthy playable epilogue that sees you revisiting the city several times in the six months following the disaster. This serves a couple of purposes: firstly, to tie up any loose narrative ends that had been left hanging by the main game, and secondly, to give you an indication of some of the sidequests, stories and characters you might not have run into on your first playthrough – which will take you about 15-20 hours, by the way. You can then start a second run, using what you learned from first time around to perhaps make some different choices along the way and see what else you can see.
From a technical perspective, the Switch port of Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is an absolute mess. Narratively and artistically, however, it’s one of the most fascinating games in recent memory. Its emotionally engaging exploration of a disastrous incident’s human aftermath is about as far as it’s possible to get from the Hollywood blockbuster treatment – and it’s all the better for it. If you can fight past the technical shortcomings – which, it's worth stating, are pretty considerable – then you'll find an experience that's totally unique on Switch, and that's no mean feat when you consider the depth of the console's library.
Don't care about the score.
Don't care about the technical issues either.
I am getting it anyway.
Who would carry a perfectly fine acoustic guitar like that?
Besides that, game still looks really interesting.
Wow, after the mauling Push Square gave it, I expected worse given the Switch is usually worse on the technical side. These games have always been really divisive though.
Have the game ordered. Should likely be her by the end of the week or sometime next week. Looking forward to play it .
I'm guessing this reviewer played as a female character and didn't come across the creepy stuff mentioned in the Push Square review?
Would be interested to know if/how that dialogue differs by your character's gender
I have such a soft spot for this series of games ever since playing SOS The Final Escape on PlayStation 2 many many years back. Mine is arriving this week all being well.
i'm definitely getting this game. I've played and enjoyed alot of low budget, unknown, niche titles before so I'm sold.
I didn't care for the demo at all. Maybe when it goes on sale. Hope everyone else enjoys it.
Game is good but some won't like it.
As for the performance, PS4 has also bad performance and it seems only the PC version runs stable with the right hardware.
Disaster Port 4 - Summer Patches
Games can be ported to the Switch just fine, these folks have no excuse.
I played the demo on PS4 Pro, and even that version was a total mess of technical issues. The PS4 Pro version looked like what you'd expect a Switch version to look like. Maybe worse. Almost makes me want to check out the Switch demo now just see how much of a train wreck that version is in comparison.
Aw how unfortunate... I'm still getting the game though. I don't like judging a game until I've actually played it
@nessisonett I have no idea why so many are saying they want to play it. The Push Square review not only savages it, but it highlights some really disturbing material in the game play. Why anyone would want to waste $60 on a title that's this bad, especially on Switch, beggars belief. It makes me wonder if it's the very prurient stuff that the Push Square's article mentions that has some of the folks here salivating...
I was on the fence with this one for a while so I did a bit of research a while back and decided to pass on it.
I played the first two on PS2 and swore they had issues a plenty. Seems more like a small team not having the expertise to handle large, reactive set pieces. Still interested though.
I want to play it because I played the original on the ps2 and it's sequel Raw Danger.
I also like quirky titles beyond what is generally accepted as the norm.
This looks right up my alley. I can handle technical problems-I completed Darksiders on my original PC that couldn't handle Assassin's Creed 1.
@AirElephant @nessisonett Those dialogue options are still present if you play as a girl. That's part of the whole "role-playing" part, though. If you want to play the game as an awful person, you can do — there are certainly plenty of NPCs in this who are terrible people, and as I note in the review, this game is an exploration of the very different ways people react when put under the extreme pressure of a disaster situation.
Games shouldn't shy away from challenging themes just because someone might not like them. In this game, it's entirely on you as to whether or not you choose to act like that, just as it would be in reality. Most people will make the "right" choice, but exploring morally reprehensible narrative content in a safe environment where no real people are actually getting hurt can be fascinating in it's own way, too. That's why we have tragic literature and theatre.
Is a game so poorly optimized that you can "count the frames by eye" REALLY worthy of a 6/10? Sounds unplayable to me. And, keep in mind, I'm not a framerate snob. But that sounds awful.
The game itself seems... bad, but with the possibility of being fun if obtained for a low price.
Well, score aside, I appreciate the reviewer candidly discussing its performance issues so prominently in the review.
I knew it wouldn't score well but I had to have this, should be arriving today.
Couldnt agree more,
Videogames are an interactive medium, and are as broad a spectrum, as any other medium.
Challenging material should not be shirked, especially because video games or interactive fiction, is the only medium you the player, have a direct say over how the story goes. ( most of the time )
And your choices can directly affect how the story goes.
I may not care much for The Walking Dead or other Telltale games ( because they offer no choice at all ) or The Last of Us.
But one cant deny that their stories don't carry an impact.
Nor that they both don't dwell in dark and reprehensible places.
A good movie doesn't need to be a happy movie for it to be good.
Why should video games be different or held to a different standard ?
Sometimes you want the narrative equivalent of empty calories or comfort food.
Other times you want something thought provoking or a morally grey narrative.
Cause not everything is happy go lucky and media and entertainment tend to reflect that.
Is it related to Disaster: Day of Crisis?
@PeteDavison I guess as long as they’re not presenting that crap as the ‘right’ option then it’s somewhat better. It’s still a bit disturbing that writers thought of it though, I couldn’t imagine even the worst of people trying to hit on a girl that had literally just been sexually assaulted.
No different series.
And developer that's done by Monolith Soft.
@KitsuneNight I hear what you're saying and I hope you enjoy your purchase.
Me, I can't justify rewarding them for what we are getting. It needs more polish, in my opinion.
@AirElephant Can't speak for anyone but myself but I wanted it because I was interested in a disaster game. Been interested in it since I first heard about it.
Don't really mind having a bunch of weird dialoge options, should add to the replayability. And the option to ask most female characters out may be tasteless but sounds honestly fun.
Nah... we need a sequel to Disaster: Day of Crisis
I'd argue both Close to the Sun and Ark: Survival Evolved run worse than Disaster Report 4 does.
Made in Unreal Engine 4? Maybe ported to 4, but with graphics this bad, I'd sooner reckon this game was made in UE 2.xx. It's not quite uncanny valley, but most of the characters look decidedly last gen or before. Things have evolved so far from that nowadays, that it just immediately stood out for me.
So, unless it's heavily discounted at some point, this is a definite pass for me.
Played the demo in handheld mode and my Switch fans were blasting to keep the processor cooled. Might want to play this in docked only if they don't improve performance.
Technical issues ain't a deal breaker for me though it isn't ideal.
Been interested in the series for a while so nowt gonna stop me enjoying this.
I hope the PS4 version performs a bit better (Or can at least have the performance issues ironed out someday when I buy a PS5).
That said, I never thought Disaster Report or Raw Danger were technical masterpieces, but the underlying game still pulled me in. I'm willing to play this even if the frame rate count falls well short of perfection, and suspect the uniqueness will again overcome the presentation.
Considering this started out as a PS3 game, it is really disheartening to read that even the PS4 version is anything but smooth sailing. Still, the setting is certainly intriguing and it has a certain "zeitgeist" quality to it for sure. Not something high on my list though, esp. when it screams 75% off at Blackfriday. This goes double once I consider that this game IS ugly. That is not crucial to anything, but it is also not something I can flat out ignore. Other companies put a ton off work and passion in making their games treats for all senses, be it visuals, sound, voice acting or music, and some ... well, some don't. It would be unfair to pretend that this should not be factor at all.
@Ralek85 It started out a PS3 game, but none of that heritage is here. Granzella started fresh when they bought the Disaster Report IP.
Oh another low quality game on the Switch - big surprise.
Oh another low quality comment by you - big surprise.
The technical issues hurt but I'll get it on sale eventually. Been looking forward to it.
Call me crazy, but I’m kind of glad it’s full of janky technical issues. I love, LOVE, the PS2 games and their terrible frame rate, wonky controls and bad camera were all part of the low budget charm.
I got my special edition version today. I’m really enjoying it, mostly in spite of, but partly because of the technical issues.
I’d say it deserves a 6/10, because it offers such a unique (other than the earlier titles) gameplay experience. If you’re curious about it, maybe wait for it to go on sale.
If it didn’t have the atrocious technical issues Id get it.
@GammaPhonic I really enjoyed the demo and its so fun to role play your character and dodge the earthquakes (which tbh look quite impressive). I also like how the HD rumble goes mental when the earthquakes hit.
What does the special edition come with?
Wow, I know I'm beating a dead horse but NL will really give away 6s and up without a care in the world.
@Atariboy I did read that as well, that is them starting from scratch after getting the rights. It's just odd then that much of the footage I saw, textures and all, look quite alot like a PS3 game actually. Maybe some they could re-use some assets? I dunno, but in the end, it might as well have started as a PS3 project.
I played through the demo and enjoyed it. I'm not sure if I want to buy, but I'm interested in games that try something different. If a game is exciting enough I don't mind its performance that much.
I didn't read all of the review (because I don't want to be spoiled) but can someone tell me, is it all just earthquakes or is there more to it? Don't wrap up the whole game - just up to chapter 2 or 3, that might win me over.
@JMR_Alden the special edition comes with a soundtrack CD (the only reason I actually bought it) and a survival backpack like the one you find in the game. It’s pretty dumb.
Why is this game so expensive?
I was interested in this game, and anything quite playable that grabs my attention like Disaster: Day of Crisis on Wii did, had teh advantage that I WANT to enjoy it, and look past some flaws. But I played the demo, and just couldn't get into any of it. Maybe when the physical version drops below €20 and some patches are released, I might try again to look past the flaws, but not as it is, not at such a high price.
I tried the Switch demo and was appalled at the performance. I then tried the PC demo and it was a locked 120fps. Even with a high frame rate the game still feels like a budget PS3 launch title. It's incredibly rough round the edges.
@Atariboy The series began on the PS2. I had the original back in the day, and it was a technical mess.
After playing the demo I can only conclude that the game is a disaster.
The game looks nice in pictures but runs horribly... But worst of all... you walk at a snails pace.
Jeez, life's too short. And why the heck is it like £53 on the eShop? Honestly? What a massive rip off.
@ramu-chan I know, I even said I played through Disaster Report and Raw Danger in the comments.
I'm assuming you neglected to look at the comment I was responding to. Ralek said "considering this started out as a PS3 game, it is really disheartening to read that even the PS4 version is anything but smooth sailing."
When I told him that while it started out a PS3 game, none of that heritage is here since Granzella started from scratch, I wasn't talking about the franchise. I was talking specifically about Disaster Report 4.
No PS3 era code, art, music, voice acting, or models were recycled from the cancelled Irem game that originally was going to be Disaster Report 4.
Playing the demo right now, and damn, dude, I can't even read the scrolling text in the newsticker, the framerate is that bad.
I like the idea, but the execution seems really off.
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