IGN Review of Resident Evil Deadly Silence
In 1996, Resident Evil was a Very Big Deal. Its laughably acted introduction and dialogue, as well as its rigid structure and limited third-person perspective could be overlooked in favor of its focus towards creeping the bejeezus out of the gamer. Any designer following the classic Resident Evil formula for a game nowadays would be strung up by the critics, but since Capcom's series was pioneering a genre at the time, the now flawed gameplay is strong enough to retain its classic status ten years later even when Capcom's improved and perfected its series for the GameCube and PlayStation 2 in Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil: Deadly Silence is a total throwback to the original game in the series.
When I say original, I don't mean the reworked edition developed for the GameCube. I mean, original as in, PlayStation. The Nintendo DS game takes the original PSX rendition as a foundation and hammers on a few elements to take advantage of the dual-screen platform's unique functions. But ultimately what you're getting is the original Resident Evil, warts and all. And while I'm certainly a fan of revisiting truly classic games, it's hard to overlook the elements that were conveniently overlooked by the gaming public the first time around. DS owners are still getting a good solid adventure with some surprises around a few familiar corridors, but let's be fair: any other game from any other company would be slammed if they did what the original Resident Evil does in this day and age.
What can be said about Resident Evil that isn't known? We've got two members of the elite military team S.T.A.R.S. lost in a mysterious mansion infested with flesh-hungry zombies, ravenous ravens, and undead hounds looking for a few bones to gnaw on. While searching through the rooms of this massive house, you'll hopefully unravel a mystery involving the Umbrella Corporation, all the while using found weaponry to poke a few holes and pop a few heads of their creations.
As a conversion, the Nintendo DS edition of Resident Evil is an admirable production. Everything that was in the PlayStation game, from the rendered and filmed cutscenes to the horrendous voice acting is jammed into an itty-bitty Nintendo DS cartridge. The game's still in its pseudo 3D engine: real-time 3D characters and objects manipulated on prerendered backgrounds; the character models are bumped up in detail for the Nintendo DS game, but the assets used for the mansion rooms are still pulled from the original PSX edition. Accommodating the action is some rather appropriate audio effects to provide a spooky atmosphere, from the haunting low-bass cello score to the wind swooping through the outdoor environments. Even with the game shrunk down to two small displays, at the very least, in the right surroundings, the experience can still be considered suitably creepy.
This design doesn't out-and-out "scare" anymore, at least in the points that were originally intended to freak out the gamer. Admittedly, the first time those hellhounds blasted through the window was the first time a videogame ever startled the heck out of me. Obviously I was ready for them this time, but even still, it's truly tough to make someone jump out of their seat through a tiny three inch LCD screen. There are certainly new places in the DS "Revival Mode" that jolt the gamer to attention in the form of random touch-screen knifing events, but it's a stretch to say that these are "scary" moments.
A lot of the gameplay limitations of the classic Resident Evil are highlighted even more so on the Nintendo DS. Resident Evil forced gamers into holding off their saves through a "typewriter ribbon" collection element, which was a clever way for the designer to extend what's considered to be a short adventure. It was an annoyance on the PlayStation, but it's even more irritating on a handheld system because of the Nintendo DS system's "on-the-go" style of gaming. There's no quicksaving in Resident Evil, and when you're limited to a set number of ink ribbons it's hard to justify spending one just because your bus ride is over.
There's also the evil Resident Evil camera that tends to jump around when the player's character triggers certain locations in a room. And while it's an opportunity for the game designer to "hide" certain items from casual view as well as conceal enemies to make the player jump at an appropriate moment, it's more than just a little unfair since many times players will find themselves attacked from off-screen. How annoying is it to die from a zombie attack that you just couldn't see or get out of because the camera kept switching around? Very.
However, for the Rebirth Mode, Capcom loosened things up to make the original game design a bit more energetic and fair. There are way more saves this time around, and even better, weapon ammo is no longer a rare commodity. At the very least, the new edition encourages going in with guns blazing, since you'll very likely have more than enough ammo to get you through the end of the game the first time. Score one for the update.
And yes, there's also the added element of "touch screen" thrown in. Though there are the occasional touch-screen puzzles to endure, more prominently is a triggered first-person mode that requires finger or stylus swiping to defend against attacks from zombies, ravens, and hellhounds. The game recognizes up, down, and diagonal swipes for specific attacks, as well as quick taps for jabs. Since the game doesn't give ample warning when jumping into this knifing mode, it's not encouraged to use the stylus unless you've always got it in-hand, but rubbing the screen with a fingertip just doesn't set off the attacks as sensitively as the stock DS pointer. It'll take some practice to figure the best way to do these modes. These events are a fun diversion and sometimes very challenging, but they're definitely more tacked on than integrated, something that becomes obvious when you see you've cleared out the room in this mode, only to find that the usual assortment of zombies are still waiting for you in the room's third-person perspective. At least these knifing challenges sometimes award an extra clip of ammo or health weed.
Other DS specific elements include some microphone use. It's amazing to see so many developers use this recording device for anything, but in this game: blow into the mic to apply mouth-to-mouth with one of your party members, or "blow back" some poison that's blown at you. This is a neat little addition that's considered spice more than substance.
Probably the most significant addition is Deadly Silence's multiplayer mode. Though the game touts a "cooperative mode" through the DS system's wireless functions, the multiplayer option is completely separate from the main adventure. Here, two, three, or four owners of the Resident Evil cartridge can jump into designated portions of the Resident Evil mansion and choose to either compete in a race to get to the assigned exit, or work together as a team to reach the end. It's a nice diversion but it's truly what one would consider a "wonky" design. In competitive mode, each player's working in their own version of the mansion, with the competitors represented as eerie "star" icons floating around portion of the map. In cooperative mode, same deal, but the players work together attacking the same allotment of enemies...even if these enemies are doing completely different things on the other person's system. It's an odd, disjointed design that works for what it is, but it's not the end-all multiplayer Resident Evil experience.
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