I know I tempered my expectations with Disaster Report 4. The game was supposed to be released on a previous generation of consoles and has been delayed for nearly 9 years. This was originally created with the PS3 in mind. Now the port is complete and Disaster Report 4 has been released on PS4, PC and Switch. Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4 Plus: Summer Memories has somehow escaped from its never ending development with a button to switch to first person mode but is this a new Duke Nukem Forever game where it should have stayed in the past, or was it worth the wait and we’ll have some summer memories worth sharing?
Disaster Report 4 is a very unique adventure game. You’ll be running, walking, crawling, driving, swimming or carrying from A to B either to simply progress the story or open up access to the next area. Although there are moments where you can climb over barriers, don’t expect to do any platforming as these are small moments in a long game of running back and forth. There are many moments where a small barrier will stop you despite the fact you scaled the side of a wall to get there. Every choice in the game has a ridiculous number of options which range drastically from super sleazy morally bankrupt demon to holier-than-thou saint. Disaster Report 4 has a Moral and Immoral points system to keep track of the choices but it becomes a token distraction. Your choices are largely just short term changes to the larger story being told. You can propose to a survivor and they’ll make a comment before going back to the main lines. Disaster Report 4 also has a survival system for keeping track of thirst, hunger and need for the toilet, but again the only downside of not taking care of these things is seeing your characters idle animation change and a constant groaning as you progress.
Even with a low expectation Disaster Report 4 is still a very rough experience. There’s a good reason the game won’t allow you to capture any video footage on the Switch. When you take a still image of the game there are moments that look pretty good but when it’s in motion the frame rate varies from choppy to almost unplayable. From start to finish there are sections of levels where everything will be running smooth enough and then for no visible reason it will tank down to 5-6 frames. This was in both handheld and docked it didn’t seem to make a difference. You can be walking around and a building can collapse in-front of you, impressively blowing out its windows and causing a realistic level of destruction and then you’ll be trying to walk towards a door and the entire switch will lock up. The clunky feeling isn’t helped with controls that feel stiff. Your character reacts to the kneeling button like they’ve the legs of a 60 year old. Everything requires extra thought because an accidental button press just results in more faff.
Unfortunately there is a ridiculous amount of faffing here and every area of Disaster Report 4 is stretched out far too long. You will find large empty spaces which require running across, busy areas where you’ll have to talk to every single npc and plenty of frustrating backtracking throughout. It would be nice to explore the areas but they all tend be the same prefabbed area with the occasionally different npc thrown in. Each new area is treated less as an exciting discovery and more like a new hub to run back and forth until boredom sets in again. A lot of the games unique and brilliant ideas are watered down to the point of being frustrating nuisances. A scavenger hunt through collapsing flats is ruined by needlessly slow backtracking. There are moments where you get to control vehicles and the scooters and bikes feel fantastic but these are incredibly short lived moments and the scene where you’re stuck in the horribly slow clunky boat feels like it lasts forever and it returns in the next area to just add in more frustration.
Any disaster game that tries to have a sense of humour is going to have to walk a fine line with tone throughout and Disaster Report 4 rocks back and forth on this. Finding your way into a shelter area is handled as expected, then selling those people “miracle water” and becoming worshiped is treated as ridiculous as it sounds but when a foreigner gets mistaken for a conman and has stones thrown at him the game makes it very clear at the start if you want to be immoral it’s not going to be funny about it. You find out that if you push it too far you baseball power throw a rock at him hard enough to knock him over backwards and the scene becomes a farce again. You can be dressed as a ridiculous sushi chef with a Tengu mask and baseball gloves but the impact of walking through a completely burnt out area is pretty powerful. Again that powerful misery only lasts a moment before an unsubtle Hitler looking landlord tries to evict tenants from the charred remains and stomps on a grave with no recompense and nobody taking any action. The tenants agree that it should be case and you just move onto the next train wreck Disaster Report 4 has to offer.
Disaster Report 4 is one of those experiences that throws everything at the wall to get you to feel some sense of emotion. The story is incredibly long and convoluted but the sheer amount of disaster packed in means there there’s likely at least one story thread to catch you before you finish. The problem is all of the threats are chopped up into tiny parts and sprinkled throughout. Schools girls in trouble? Time to move on. An office worker is trapped! Time to move on. A corner shop clerk is in trouble! Time to move on. A company is being spied on! Time to move on. Someone was murdered! Time to move on. The school girls again? Who cares? Onward! You’ll be in an area with a closed story but then that area vanishes off the map and that’s that. The backtracking through certain areas simply reinforcing how hard it is to care about these people and their lives when your driving motivation is to escape. There’s a feeling of Disaster Report 4 trying to be like Yazuka in the unique story telling but allowing the player too much freedom in the main characters motivation and little overarching story which results in a watered down experience.
One thing Disaster Report 4 manages well is the amount of voice acting. Although you’ll be sick of the yell button and the grunts and moans of needing the loo after long, there’s a shocking amount of voice work for almost every character and npc. It’s amazingly performed given some of the lines and horrors they have to go through and especially given the way the narrative can play out. The sound design is a bit of a mess though and you’ll find yourself turning down the background sounds immediately less you break your speakers to the sound of burst gas pipes. In one scene a busker is sitting on a path playing an acoustic guitar but the music playing is the games theme complete with drums and piano (without the sound of a guitar) the second a man steps up and complains the music abruptly stops and this feeling of choppy roughness is unfortunately present in everything.
There is a lot to get through in Disaster Report 4 and one of its biggest frustrations is how unnecessary all the padding is. A few good survival feeling moments that could have been put together into a compelling experience but there is so much bloat, the clunky broken engine is not worth enduring. There are a ridiculous amount of costumes, items and different compasses you can unlock just by exploring. This should be great but exploring is a chore. Every scene feels like there are a ridiculous amount of different options to explore but a lot are unnecessary. Checking out lockers requires every single one to be looked at even though only one will work. Although there are multiple endings all result in the same credits screen. Disaster Report 4 even has an epilogue mode where you can go back to the locations and explore much later after the events and the idea of going back at Christmas after the end credits should be a treat, but instead it’s a chore.
Disaster Report 4 mostly reminded me of Shenmue but if it were released in an unfinished state and instead of fixing the issues at hand, more content was added. You have quite impressive moments and ridiculous ideas, but they are watered down by needless busywork and an engine that fails to run. Out of curiosity I played the demo on the PS4 and was surprised to find the frame rate was just as bad on there as well, the Switch port is simply a lowered resolution version of that title. Disaster Report 4 is more a disappointment than anything else. It could have been an amazing game. The ideas here are sometimes brilliant and if you could experience the need to take in your surroundings and react when an earthquake happens it could have been special. Unfortunately you’re more likely to simply fall into to an instant Game Over and start again wondering why anyone would risk so much for so little.
3/10 – A Disaster to Report on but at least we’ll have Memories of Summer
Code provided by EU Partner Relations – NIS America Inc. Check out NIS here
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