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Backlog Review | Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories

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Have you ever wondered how you would handle living through a devastating earthquake? Well, NIS America is back with a new survival adventure oddity, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories to answer those questions! 

Recipe for Disaster

You know, it’s surreal sometimes, natural disasters occur all around the world and have affected countless people, but having never experienced one first hand, I have a hard time fathoming what it would be like. I often ponder how I would handle such a situation and what steps I would take to not only survive, but also help the people around me.

Well, with the fourth entry in the long running Disaster Report series, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, IREM hopes to answer questions like these, as well as a few you may not have thought of, by putting you in the shoes of a survivor, stranded in a city torn apart by a devastating earthquake. And with the help of NIS America, they’re bringing it to the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC on April 7th, 2020! 

Hurri-can You Believe It?!

Getting its start in 2003 on the PS2, the Disaster Report games have always thrown the players into precarious situations, from a disaster laden island to a city flooded by torrential rains. Furthermore, in each game the player is met with moral dilemmas, weighing the outcomes of selfish survival and selfless humanitarianism. Meaning, you’ll be granted the power of choice to determine how you’ll handle specific situations and whether to prioritize personal gain or the gain of others. Of course, it’s then all wrapped up in a healthy dose of satire from time to time, leavening the game as a whole.

Disaster Report 4 follows closely in those footsteps! Only this time around, IREM worked hard to simulate realistic events, with the help of the Kobe City Fire Bureau in hopes to ground each scenario and make them more immersive.  

Down to Earthquake

The oddest thing about playing Disaster Report 4 was how chill it felt. I mean, apparently, I’m an innocent bystander who on their trip to the city in question, is stranded and nearly killed after a terrible earthquake. But here we are, wandering around casually talking to people and worrying about silly things like “How nice those clothes look on that mannequin”. This is even extended to many of the residents trapped in the city with you. They barely flinch when a building collapses and nearly kills a handful of people! 

On the flip side, because it was so chill, I really found it alluring and fun to explore! I could take my time and analyze the aftermath, imagining what it would be like to see something like that first hand! Additionally, interacting with the other survivors and filling their needs was greatly satisfying. Weirdly enough, it had a very survival horror vibe, minus the horror that is. I mean, you have limited supplies and you’re constantly trying to avoid getting yourself killed! Now, I could have just said it was a survival game, but there’s something extra here that I can’t quite find the words for. Frankly, it’s kind of like playing a Dead Rising game without the zombies and  time limit.That’s only fortified by the fact that you have to find sustenance including food and water, as well bathrooms to relieve yourself when “you’re in need”! Not to mention the variety of costumes available to find and change into! There was even a time when my costume helped me resolve a conflict in a convenience store because they thought I was an employee.

Social repair, and/or destruction, seems to be the bread and butter of this game at its core and you’ll find yourself being thrown into outlandish scenarios more often than not. Joining a cult, tricking people into thinking you have magical miracle water that can cure all ailments or even interfering with a police investigation are just some of the conundrums you’ll find yourself somehow immersed in. Which, in theory, feels out of place in a “grounded” disaster simulator, but also adds depth and intrigue to an otherwise milquetoast experience. It made me want to keep pushing forward to see what crazy machinations would play out next when I got tired of being fleeced by a certain convenience store owner. I’m just trying to buy a bottle of water, man! That being said, the scenarios can get even stranger when you’re given ten different ways to respond to each dialog tree, ranging from timid and shy, to assertively positive and even downright selfish and evil! I will say this though, having so many options with so many branching outcomes, really adds to the replayability. I’m most certainly tempted to revisit it, just so I can do an “a-hole run”!

Too Soon-ami?

Outside of a unique approach to the “survival” genre, as a game that you actually play, Disaster Report 4 feels a bit low budget. The graphics are generic like they were lifted from the Unreal Engine asset store, and many of the character models are replicated and reused throughout the entire game. At first, it felt like there was a lot of variety, but as you get further, it really starts to become apparent. This is especially true when you start revisiting areas from the beginning of the game. That being said, at times the environments are impressive and really hammer home the feeling of exploring a large city. Although many of the buildings can’t be entered, and you’re typically set on a linear path, these environments do a great job of making it feel like it was a lively city before all of the destruction.

This unpolished feeling also creeps into the controls and gameplay as well. More often than not, you’ll be fighting the camera, the shotty hit detection when interacting with NPCs and banging your head off of that dang ledge you’ve been trying to climb for the last 15 minutes! Luckily, there hasn’t been anything game breaking, but that lack of polish can really detract from the overall experience and break the immersion it seems IREM was going for.

Ahh Hail No!

When I first caught a glimpse of Disaster Report 4, I had my doubts that I would enjoy the game. Purely based on what I saw in screenshots and the available trailers, I worried that the amount of polish would inevitably cripple the gameplay experience. It wouldn’t be the first time I encountered something like that. But after getting my hands on it and really giving it a fair shot, Disaster Report 4 ended up being a surprisingly fun, albeit odd playthrough. I found myself thinking about it after powering off my PS4 and when I did go back, I’d lose myself in its world, helping its citizens and occasionally pocketing the odd yen or two when the cult members turned their back. 

Granted, at $59.99 for the standard edition, I would have a hard time recommending picking the game up on a whim. However, if you’re curious, there is a free demo available right now on the PS4 so you can check it out for yourself. Disaster Report 4 also comes with a fancy VR mode, so if you’re looking for some software to justify your expensive piece of hardware, then this might be the game for you as well! Unfortunately, I do not have a PS VR headset in my possession so I was unable to give that a shot.

Anyways, Disaster Report 4 really came out of left field and although it had its problems, I was pleasantly surprised with what I got when I dove in. And who knows, maybe you’ll be surprised by this oddity as well!