The Moment of Silence
The Moment of Silence was not off to a good start. In fact, it couldnít even start due to installation problems. Sadly, the US release of this game spans across multiple CDs as opposed to one DVD despite being several gigs large. After tinkering around for a while and finally getting the damn thing to install I wondered if the effort was going to be worth it. It turns out that this is far from being a landmark adventure game, but The Moment of Silence is still one decent sci-fi journey despite being rough around the edges.
The year is 2044, but donít expect to see flying cars or laser beams just yet. This is a more believable future than the ones seen in Blade Runner and similar sci-fi films. In this world, digital information is the only thing available. Handwriting has been eliminated from the school curriculum years ago, and itís even illegal to keep an old-fashioned diary. Some laws are on the horizon that aims to limit freedom of expression in exchange for safety against some anti-technology terrorists.
In New York City, a widowed advertising executive named Peter Wright has just witnessed his neighbor violently apprehended by the police. Suspiciously, the cops claim to have no information about the man. Since Peter has taken time off to grieve the recent loss of his family, he decides to help out his neighborís own family by trying to find out where this person has been taken. As the circumstances behind the neighborís arrest become more and more suspicious, Peter continues to dig deeper in a fascinating conspiracy that rivals the best X-Files episodes.
The plot excels for a couple of reasons. All of the characters in the large cast are interesting, which is necessary since there is such a huge amount of text. Even better is that nearly all of the characters feature above-average voice acting that compliments the well-written script quite well. Itís easy to relate to the characters and situations since the world is so multi-layered. Enormous amounts of information are available through the characters, and while not all of it is central to the plot, nearly everything said adds some depth to the sci-fi world.
Refreshingly, the many puzzles that Peter must solve to find the truth are rooting in the real world with only a few involving tired hitting of random switches and turning dials. Usually you just have to speak with someone until all dialogue options are exhausted, and then find an object for the person. Sometimes they tell you flat out what they need, such as a large fellow asking for a diet meal, but other times itís a bit less obvious than that.
There are some instances where you have to combine items in your inventory and interact with something in the room. Eventually your inventory grows to enormous levels so it can be a disorganized mess at times, but fortunately it gets cleared out to the minimum once in a while. All in all the difficulty level is usually kept fair and entertaining, but once in while you run into a puzzle that requires frustratingly obscure solution. Usually it becomes so obscure because of the bothersome pixel hunting that seems to pop up in far too many adventure games. Luckily this doesnít occur too often, so the passable design of the puzzles remains mostly consistent.
The real problem with the gameplay is the enormous areas that Peter must traverse. It simply takes too long to move from one place to another even when he is running. Since there is a lot of backtracking for most of the game, this becomes especially annoying. Another problem is that the camera angles sometimes make navigation a pain. You click somewhere and hope to move to that location and sometimes Peter goes the wrong way or doesnít move at all.
Eventually youíll start to feel a little bored and/or frustrated. However, around the time you start to lose interest, something will happen that will get you engaged in The Moment of Silence once again. Whether itís a stunning revelation or an exciting cutscene, youíll temporarily forget the shortcomings. This pattern repeats a couple times through the 10 hours (at least) it takes to beat the game. While this isnít exactly compliment for the gameplay, itís certainly high praise for the excellent storyline.
The one thing thatís almost impossible to overlook are the many glitches and bugs. The installation problems were bad enough, but it doesnít end there. There are many small, amusing graphical glitches that involve Peter walking on air or running directly through objects. Towards the end of the game I encountered some more serious bugs. In one part, Peter became stuck and could not move at all. I had to reload the last save, which thankfully was only about half an hour away. I couldnít imagine how pissed I would have been if I only saved in one slot. In the same area, the cursor just disappeared and wouldnít come back. I had to restart the game in order to fix this.
From a purely technical standpoint, the graphics are underwhelming. The character models are outdated, and the static backdrops donít look as sharp as they should. However, The Moment of Silence has one thing that most games donít, and that one thing is style. The rain pouring down on the streets of Brooklyn create a foreboding tone, and the white snow of Alaska make for a beautiful environment. To top it off, thereís some exciting techno music and cutscenes that seems straight out of Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell. Normally such things wouldnít fit in a game like this, but in this case it actually adds some excitement to a genre that sorely lacks it.
With such a memorable plot and some passable, yet unspectacular, gameplay, itís a shame that the bugs are holding it down. The installation problems are inexcusable, and the all of the other glitches shouldnít even exist. I suppose some problems can be expected since The Moment of Silence is cheaper than most games, but I still expected more refinement in a finished product. As it stands, The Moment of Silence is a decent game that would be greatly improved with a patch.
Seven out of ten