I am a huge fan of disaster movies, have been since I was a kid watching movies like Twister, Earthquake, and The Day After Tomorrow. So when a game comes out on PC that basically throws you right into the middle of one of those disasters, I am all for checking it out.
Cool environments. If there’s one thing that Disaster Report 4 really gets, it is the immense scale of destruction brought on by natural disasters. Although graphics aren’t the game’s strong point, the artists have really done some good work with regards to the game’s environments. You’ll find yourself dodging falling debris, crawling through collapsing buildings, rowing around flooded areas, and maneuvering through panicking crowds, all while just trying to survive. Disaster Report 4 has perfectly captured that disaster movie atmosphere that I love in video game form. In fact, it’s probably the only game I know of that has done so to this degree.
Cheesy, yet fun writing. Okay, so when I went into this game, I was expecting a serious story about the struggle to survive, as is usually the case with similar movies. While that impression held for the first couple chapters in the game, the story eventually transitioned into something else entirely, something not quite as serious, but just as fun. You’re still struggling to survive a natural disaster, but you’re also dealing with a cult trying to recruit you, a water source that provides miracles, and some terribly, terribly cheesy character interactions.
The writing becomes an absolute mess of stuff just thrown together, but I mean that in the best way possible. It’s kinda hard to take a story serious when you’re able to ask the town mayor to change the name of the game itself in exchange for water, but that’s exactly the kind of comedy the game ended up going for. With that said, do not go into the game expecting some serious survival story, but rather something along the lines of a Yakuza game.
Boring core gameplay. Disaster Report 4 may have nailed the disaster movie atmosphere and paired it with some fun writing, but it pretty much fails entirely on the gameplay front. Whether you’re helping out victims from the disaster, acquiring supplies, or listening to other people’s stories, there’s just very little to the actual gameplay. For most of the game, the gameplay consists of you wandering around hoping to trigger some cutscene to advance the story. In other cases, you’re tasked with talking to some unmarked NPC, finding some random object (that also happens to be unmarked), or doing so very, very light puzzle solving.
Oftentimes, the gameplay ended up falling into a cycle of talking to some NPC to get information about which NPC to talk to next, an NPC that would then direct you to the next one and so on. For example, at one point in the game I had to clear some debris from a railway in order to progress. To do so, I needed to enlist the help of two others. I then had to walk around aimlessly in an area I had already explored hoping to find these two individuals. Once I found one of them, I was tasked with saving their family member from a collapsing house. I would then go to help said family member, only to then be told that I needed a carjack to help him.
I then had to wander around and talk to NPCs that I had already talked to hoping that one of them would now give me a carjack. I could not have gotten the carjack beforehand as that line of dialogue is only triggered after finding the man in the collapsing house. After getting the carjack, I had to go back, save the man, and talk to his family again, at which point the father agreed to help me clear the debris. But wait, that was only one of the two individuals that I needed help from, I still had to go through another little mini-quest to enlist the help of the other.
That is exactly the kind of fetch quest-style gameplay you can expect from Disaster Report 4. It’s painfully slow and even outright frustrating at times, and the game’s slow run speed and animations are definitely not doing it any favors. It shouldn’t take me forever to open and close a door, cross a narrow gap, or crawl through a tight space. It just makes the process of finding the next NPC to talk to that much more painful. There are even some gameplay segments where you are forced to carry someone, crawl while bound, or otherwise walk at the lightning speed of one mile per hour.
For what it’s worth, I thought the gameplay was fun for maybe the first thirty minutes or so, but past that point it fluctuated from tedious to outright annoying.
Awful camera. As if dealing with the slow animations wasn’t bad enough, the game also has you wrestle with its camera. While it works fine out in the open, once you’re in a tight space (or really any indoor area for that matter), it just becomes a pain. It’s either far too zoomed in or fixed at a really bad angle, making it difficult to see certain objects or even what direction you’re heading in (as your character goes invisible when the camera is too close). It wouldn’t be as bad an issue if most of the game took place out in the open, but a large chunk of it takes place indoors.
Wonky animations and clipping issues. While the PC port itself is fine (even if the controls leave much to be desired), the game is full of clunky animations, clipping issues, and a bunch of other graphical oddities. The animations are what I’d expect from some 3D early access game, with stiff facial expressions, jarring limb movements, and just an overall lack of life. The clipping issues are what I’d expect from some PS2 game, with characters sticking limbs into walls and objects being half in the ground-half above it, even during cutscenes.
Then there’s the numerous other little graphical quirks, such as the occasional body snapping back into place, the NPCs all conveniently dying and laying down in the same way, and even the untranslated word or two. I can forgive a game having some of these issues, but it’s unfortunate to see so many of them stack up here, especially when the game is priced the same as a AAA title.
For a game that has so perfectly captured the atmosphere of a disaster movie, Disaster Report 4 sure is a disappointing mess. The wonky animations, clipping issues, and uncooperative camera are unfortunate to see for sure, but they pale in comparison to how bad the core gameplay is. It’s essentially a fluffed up walking simulator with some very light puzzle solving, where the puzzle is you figuring out which NPC to go to next to advance the story. The story, while cheesy, is at least fun, but is not enough to carry the experience. It’s a shame really, as this is the closest I’ve seen a game get to emulating that disaster movie atmosphere that I love so much.
You can buy Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.