In a twist to the series’ plot and gameplay, Disaster Report 4 Plus actually has you revisiting areas that you’ve been to before. Or it would have been a twist, if this wasn’t a heavily-advertised point since the original version for PS3 that was cancelled. That said, it’s still a pretty big focus, and one that marks a change to the more realistic, as I highlighted previously.
At first, the protagonist is set on getting away from the disaster zone as soon as possible. But when it becomes an unfeasible venture for the time being, they decide to head back into town to help other people, like a woman who’s looking for her missing boyfriend. This sets up the opportunity to revisit areas you’ve been in, and see how things have changed.
The picture you see above is that of a hotel that was a well-known historic building, that ended up catching fire in the aftermath of the earthquake. It’s still burning when you first arrive in the area, with firefighters spread thin across the city and thus unable to stopping the fire.
A few days later, you come back and see the aftermath. Most of the building has crumbled, with onlookers agape at the destruction. Efforts have changed to focusing on removing the rubble to let people through once more.
Later that day, you finally reach your destination – the park near where you first start the game off. The park in question and the surrounding area have been turned into disaster relief shelters, with park benches making for makeshift beds, and efforts focused around opening up the route to the downtown train station. It’s a far cry from the disorganized chaos I opened up the game on right after the game begins.
This shift in showing the aftermath isn’t limited to revisiting first areas, though. In a later section of the game, you’re shown the remains of a shopping street that spent three days aflame under there was nothing left to burn. The residents are there, either unable to take it in, or trying to rebuild. The mom & pop convenience store is figuring out which products out back are still fine, the udon store is open for business, and the local kindergarten is in the midst of praying and honoring the children who were unable to escape in time when the fire started.
These sections aren’t played for drama or laughs – they’re presented as somber and downright depressing. And yet, I was presented the first efforts of people trying to move on. It’s unquestionably effective, and really hammers home the new reality people who are hit in disaster areas have to deal with.
It’s not a shift the series had to take, but I’d argue this is taking the efforts from 3 to make the game more realistic, to its logical conclusion. It’s not like the game doesn’t have its share of silly moments, but more that these sort of “down time” areas are a bit more common, instead of going from setpiece to setpiece. It’s a change that I very much appreciate.
Disaster Report 4 Plus is available on PlayStation 4 in Japan.