Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: February 7, 2006
Buy 'RESIDENT EVIL: Deadly Silence': NDS
It's amazing; when you actually stop and think about it, the Resident Evil franchise will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. Where has the time gone? Sure, sequels and spin-offs have abounded for Resident Evil after the success of the first and subsequent titles, and the series has had its share of troughs and crests to contend with over the years, but the original Resident Evil, that visceral, edge-of-your-seat, I'm-too-afraid-to-open-the-next-door foray into the near-virginal world of survival horror, remains a classic that still shines, and frightens, to this day.
So here we are, nearly 10 years later, and Capcom has released yet another version of their beloved Resident Evil progenitor, this time in the portable form of Resident Evil: Deadly Silence for the Nintendo DS. How does the game stack up after all these years? Does this version offer anything new to warrant yet another purchase of the original game? I've just finished taking a refresher course in Resident Evil 101 with Deadly Silence, and though the game is still as enjoyable as it was 10 years ago, despite Capcom's best efforts to spice up the title with a beefier story mode and limited multiplayer support, Resident Evil: Deadly Silence still comes across as more of the same.
Remarkably, Resident Evil is intact and none worse for wear by the portage from the consoles. Everything there is to love about the original game is here: the horrid (yet strangely charming) voice acting, the ominous sound effects and subliminal musical score, the menagerie of bloodthirsty monsters and other denizens of fright, and, most importantly, the oozing atmosphere. There is something special about being able to play Resident Evil wherever you go, no longer confined to the sofa in front of the television. Historically, the handheld market has not been known for flawless console ports, but this Nintendo DS version of Resident Evil surpasses expectations. Little is lost in the translation.
Deadly Silence controls like the other titles in the Resident Evil franchise. The directional pad, when pressed up, moves your character forward, and left or right pivots him or her. Because of the static camera shots that the game favors, control can be a chore at times, especially in tight situations when you are suddenly surround by zombies or hellhounds. Even after growing accustomed to your character's movement, in times of great stress — for example, when you are trying to escape from a deadly Hunter — you may find yourself running into walls and taking hits that you never should have suffered. Still, this is par for the Resident Evil course, and the stiff controls ironically add to the overall tension of the game.
Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield have a few updated moves in their arsenals this time around, and some are quite useful. New to the original game is the quick turn, which lets your character quickly spin 180 degrees and flee in the opposite direction of his or her attacker. Another new move is the quick reload, which lets you replenish your ammo without having to enter the inventory screen. Holding down the right trigger and tapping the dash button will eject the current clip and slam home a fresh one. The last trick for the Deadly Silence version is the knife attack. Anyone who has spent time exploiting the knifing strategy in Resident Evil 4 will instantly recognize the importance of this technique. The knife is no longer an inventory weapon that needs equipping, but is instead mapped to the left trigger. Pressing the trigger puts your character into an offensive knifing stance, which is useful for attacking enemies when you want to conserve ammunition. This works well on zombies playing possum.
Another augmentation in Resident Evil: Deadly Silence is the ability to skip the door opening-sequences. Once upon a time, when opening a door into another room in a Resident Evil game, you would be forced to watch said door open, creak, and slam behind you. This created a sense of unease as you moved throughout the mansion one door after another. With Deadly Silence, you can skip all of that. By pressing a button, you can bypass the door screen and jump right into the next room. While this speeds up the game significantly and lets you maneuver around the house without fear of backtracking through a dozen load screens, it also steals away some of the game's suspense and curtain of fear. When you are sitting on the edge of your seat, wide-eyed and uncertain what lies beyond the next threshold, and have to listen to the door slowly open and close before you can progress, you are dangling by that awesome sense of horror that Resident Evil creates. Skipping all of that hurts the game's atmosphere, but makes for a less time-consuming adventure. It is up to the player whether or not to use this feature, but many probably will.
While the graphics really haven't changed in the porting process, the way you view the game has. The DS' touch-screen is where the action occurs, while the top screen displays the current map of the mansion, laboratory, and outlying buildings. In the normal story mode, the touch-screen's potential is barely used; you can play the entire game without tapping the screen once. The top map screen is helpful and lets you examine the entire mansion at your leisure without having to open the inventory screen, but it would have been nice had it been used in other ways as well. Having an entire screen dedicated to the map seems like a waste, especially when the inventory could have been placed up there as an alternative. However, the background color and rhythmic pulsation of the screen does aid in determining how healthy your character is, and since injured animations never showed up until Resident Evil 2, this is helpful. It makes you wonder why they didn't add updated animations to Jill and Chris, though.
In addition to the original Resident Evil adventure, Capcom has created a new mode that can be accessed from the game's onset, entitled Rebirth. This mode uses the same storyline and areas from the original game but throws in more monsters, faster zombies, new scares, and even allows the use of the touch-screen for fighting and puzzle solving. Rebirth brings longevity to this somewhat short game by allowing the player to run through the mansion once more to experience new thrills and scares. Despite knowing the original game like the back of my hand, there were more than a couple of occasions when I was pleasantly jumped by new instances of monsters and scripted sequences when I least expected it.
The touch-screen, after being neglected in the normal mode, is actually implemented pretty well in Rebirth. For instance, very early in the game, you enter a room and are suddenly thrust into a first-person perspective. In this view, you cannot move your character, but you can use the stylus or your finger to slash across the touch-screen to wield your knife. The knife is the only weapon you may use in these sequences, but it isn't too difficult to fend off your attackers with some quick attacks via your stylus. When the enemies are defeated, you regain control of your character as usual.
There is never any real warning as to which room will switch you over to first-person mode, so be prepared. One time I had cleared out an entire room of zombies in the normal isometric perspective, only to be thrust into first-person mode in the same room when backtracking through the area mere minutes later. This can be problematic for people who would rather not dirty the touch-screen with their greasy fingers, so you have to pause the game and grab for your stylus, and because the first-person knifing instances are never too frequent, you may be consistently ill-prepared. Having to pause the game to reach for your stylus weapon removes you from the game world and breaks immersion. In these cases, the new touch-screen battles felt cheesy and tacked on in order for Capcom to appear as if they were using the DS' capabilities innovatively.
Aside from the knife battles, the touch-screen also plays a role in puzzle solving. In Rebirth mode, some rooms are entirely rearranged or old traps removed in order for a new touch-screen puzzle to be used. These puzzles are always fun and interesting and are a welcome addition to Deadly Silence. They do tend to be a little too easy, however, and I found myself wanting more of them. The DS' built-in microphone is also used in a few cases during the Rebirth adventure.
Deadly Silence includes a multiplayer option for people who have friends with copies of the same game. This differs from other multiplayer games such as Mario Kart, which lets a handful of DS owners play from just one game cartridge. There are two multiplayer modes to choose from: versus and co-op. Each has up to four players trying to escape certain portions of the mansion before time runs out. The drawback in these multiplayer areas is that you never can truly see your opponents or comrades running throughout the house with you. Instead, they are represented on screen by colored star symbols. Each player will be essentially experiencing his own game, enemies, and obstacles while still competing with you.
While these modes are fun and welcome diversions to the core game, the limited interaction with your comrades or opponents is very noticeable. Had co-op mode allowed multiple characters to be fully represented on the same screen, fighting a room full of monsters, the experience would have been much more enjoyable. Versus mode is still pretty exciting, as you can severely hinder your opponent's progress through the mansion by killing specially colored enemies; defeated yellow monsters make your opponent's enemies stronger, while purple monsters will halt your opponents from being able to run. This creates a competition of not only speed, but also strategy.
As is the norm with any Resident Evil game, there are secrets galore to be unlocked: hidden characters, costumes, weapons … all of the staples of Resident Evil game completion. As a bonus, you can use these new characters to compete in multiplayer games, making tracking down every secret in the game a completist's dream.
Resident Evil: Deadly Silence is basically the same game we played back in 1996, this time in portable form, with a few new ribbons tied around its finely preserved carcass. The Rebirth mode is a welcome addition, and it offers a harder quest, more enemies and new puzzles, but touch-screen support is minimal, and the knifing battles feel more like hastily created mini-games rather than well-integrated portions of the quest. The new multiplayer modes can be quite appealing, but they only serve as slight diversions from the story modes. The original Resident Evil is still a great game, and though it is a great port, Deadly Silence doesn't really bring much new to the table to warrant a purchase, if you already own one of the many console versions. Even die-hard fans might want to think about renting before plopping down the cash for a game they probably already own.
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