Get ready for some hard-hitting Raw Danger as you traverse a falling bustling city after a massive catastrophic earthquake.
The Disaster Report series is unfamiliar to a lot of gamers but not to me! I played the original Disaster Report and its sequel Raw Danger when they released on PlayStation 2 and had so much fun that when I saw that they were finally releasing part 4 in North America, I couldn't wait to try it out. Of course, the third game which released for PSP and is exclusive to Japan is still unreleased here but that's okay. Anyway, if you'd like to read more about the original PS2 games and discover a bunch more weird Japanese games for the console; make sure to check out our Top 10 Unique Japanese PlayStation 2 Games list.
Generally speaking, Disaster Report games have you play as someone surviving a catastrophic event then trying to leave the city while helping out strangers along the way. Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories began production almost a decade ago but it was paused after the story hit too close to home in Japan after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the country in 2011.
Thankfully, production eventually continued but unfortunately, the team never took the opportunity to improve the graphics and sound when it was decided to be released on PS4. The poor quality aesthetics of Disaster Report 4 will be very evident as soon as you boot it up but if that completely puts you off then you'll be missing out on a fun and strange experience. I recommend going into the settings and turning brightness all the way up as it allows you to see more detail in your environment as long as you don't mind missing out on the eeriness of some locations. As for the sound, try to avoid hanging around trees that have constant chirping cicadas and you'll have less of a problem. To be frank, Disaster Report 4's sound is laughably bad so it's a good thing that the gameplay is enjoyable.
At the beginning of Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, you get to pick your character and customize them to a degree. You can choose between male and female as well although for some reason, even though I chose female, I got the sense that the female option was just tacked on. For example, I often got stereotypical male options such as hitting on ladies that I met but never got a choice to flirt with a guy. It doesn't alter the gameplay but it does make some conversations quite peculiar.
Your goal in Disaster Report 4 is to leave the city after an earthquake rocks it and causes buildings to fall, giant fires to take over streets, and flooding to destroy the docks. Along the way, you meet a large cast of characters with unique back-stories. I quite enjoyed running into familiar faces as I travelled through the city and seeing how they managed to survive. Some of them can be befriended and travel with you for a while, too. Deciding to help them out will net you moral points but wrong actions will grant immoral points.
Moral points don't seem to matter along with the need to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom. I had my character starving and desperate for the bathroom for a long time but it didn't affect the gameplay other than a little icon on the screen in the corner. I wish there were consequences for not tending to these aspects and more of a challenge in finding a bathroom; the city seems to be full of them!
Along with finding food to quench your hunger meter, you also collect bag upgrades to allow you to carry more items, costumes to help you out of sticky situations (or to make you look funky fresh), and compasses that are cute and fun to collect. Speaking of which, compasses are the main collectible but I wish there were more and also different types of collectibles. For example, I'd often wander around a huge building without picking up a single thing and only talking to one or two people.
Disaster Report 4 does a great job of creating atmosphere; so much so that it felt a little too close to home given the current situation that everyone is dealing with in the real world, especially when you come across deserted streets and a stronger police presence. When the ground starts to rumble, you know an aftershock is coming so you can duck to prevent yourself from falling over and biting the dust. If you're on an unsafe surface, you might instead decide to run and hope you reach safe ground before it collapses.
Other than walking and climbing through rubble, there's a surprising amount of variety in how you traverse the city as you'll also row a boat, ride a motorcycle, and even pull a rickshaw. A lot of your time is spent trying to find the next opening to the adjacent city block but when you're not doing that, you'll help out citizens. This is where the gameplay becomes interesting as you gather items and decide how best to help those in need. For example, in one part, you're rowing a boat around a flooded apartment complex as you talk to residents and find items to fashion a rope to lift a sign out of the way. Although this is quite fun and can be challenging, you occasionally won't know what to do next other than talk to every single person again and hope that you clue in on the next action to take.
Finally, some parts of Disaster Report 4's story are very out of place and made me wonder if the developers were trying to convey some sort of social commentary on religion or something. This happened on a couple separate occasions and although it was fun picking the most outlandish answers and seeing where that got me, it didn't really fit in with the overall narrative of the story.
If you can look past the aesthetics of Disaster Report 4, there's a bunch of fun to be had escaping the broken city and helping out the residents as you struggle to survive and hopefully make your way home.
- + Does a great job of setting the atmosphere for a destroyed city
- + Gameplay variety remains engaging
- + Helping people is quite satisfying
- - Dated graphics and awful sound effects
- - Some out-of-place story sequences
- - Not enough collectibles