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The Moment of Silence

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Developer: House of Tales
Media: CD/4
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

The Moment of Silence uses a series of highly detailed, pre-rendered backgrounds, excellent life-like character models, and a huge, involved storyline to make it stand out as one of the year’s top adventure titles.

This game takes place in the not-to-distant future, in a world that is approaching Orwell’s classic 1984 – but hasn’t quite gotten to that point (yet). You and your character travel to more than 75 beautifully rendered locations from the high-rises of Downtown Manhattan to the slums and forgotten alleyways of the Lower East Side. Each area depicts a stunning version of what the world might look like in just 40 years.

The locations aren’t the only aspect of this game that make it easy on the eyes. During your journey, you will meet up with 35 characters – each with his or her own history and back-story. Each character also sports amazing detail, unique clothes, and different postures that make them easy to identify (even at a distance).

As for the music and sound effects of The Moment of Silence, each location has its own sound/music combination pulling you into the environment even more. While in your office, you can hear everything from background conversations to ringing phones, while if you travel to a computer-pawn shop where conspiracy theorists broadcast their free-radio, you will be bombarded with loud heavy-metal.

The voice work is a little on the disappointing side, though. Actually, let me rephrase that. The voices themselves come off clean and crisp, but when put into the conversations of the game, each phrase seems blocky and cut off. This is a problem with the dialog in most adventure games since a lot of them use the “which-way” method. You know, where you decide from several different statements and see how the other character replies, then choose some more statements. Typically you say something, get a response, and then ask another question on a completely different matter. The Moment of Silence tries to fix this problem by adding lead-ins to your statements like “anyway” or “let me ask you this.” But even these come off short and blocky, making the problem just a little worse.


Gameplay:

Imagine yourself in Peter Wright’s shoes for a minute. You are a big-time executive at an advertisement firm that is getting ready to release a major campaign for a government backed project. You’ve just moved into a new apartment and were getting ready to turn in for the night when you notice a SWAT group charging down your hall and dragging out one of your neighbors. This is the start of Wright’s adventure, as it is portrayed in The Moment of Silence. Wright then heads to meet up with the family from next door and find out what exactly happened. Imagine his surprise when it seems like no one (outside of the floor) seems to know anything about the operation. There are no police records of the arrest.

You find out early on (from talking with the abducted’s family) that the man was a journalist. In a time when the world is under one government and that government is finding newer and better ways to spy on its people, could this missing writer have uncovered something that he shouldn’t have?

The Moment of Silence touts itself as “an investigative thriller,” and it fits that label rather well. You end up traveling all across New York of 2044, talking with everyone from high-powered executives to common thugs to conspiracy theorists and crazy city-park preachers while you search for your missing neighbor. Most of your time is spent in conversations with various people either tracing your prey’s latest whereabouts or finding out exactly what he was working on.

The technology of the time helps to alleviate a lot of the problems found in most adventure games. In most games of this genre, if you want to talk to someone again, you have to trek all the way back to where you last saw them. But early in the game, you find and operate what is called a Messenger. This is basically a cell-video phone that you can use to contact anyone who has one. You use it to call the police, as well as stay in contact with the missing journalist’s wife and child. The more you progress in the game, the more numbers you acquire (either from the person directly or by calling the messenger system’s information computer).

Another bit of technology that helps to get things moving in the game is the SAT Car. This robotic yellow checker cab takes you to any location you either need to go or have been to already. It makes it easy to travel from one side of the city to the other, keeping the game moving at a steady pace.


Difficulty:

Like most point-and-click adventures, The Moment of Silence is challenging the first time around. But when you restart the game, you usually breeze through most of the puzzles before you. And though that makes most adventure games really short the second time around, that isn’t the case with this game. The sheer length of The Moment of Silence makes it a sizable game even after you have figured out all of the solutions and have decided to spend your time going over it again (for whatever reason).

The challenges in general range from simple conversation hunting (trying to figure out which branches of the conversations you need to take to get the desired results) to the more difficult logic puzzles, though most of the time in the game is spent talking with people and learning about how the world acts around you. When I first started the game, I found the biggest problem was getting used to The Moment of Silence’s setting. Once I got used to using tools that were commonplace in the future version of New York (like Wright’s Messenger), I found it easy to get around and get the information I was looking for.


Game Mechanics:

I have to say that one of the most outstanding features of The Moment of Silence is how well the characters’ models and voices sync up. In most adventure games, the mouths just sort of move while words come out or you are too far removed from the characters to tell. In this game, though, such is not the case. Either the developer, House of Tales, found a wonderful plugin/algorithm to dynamically match the characters’ facial expressions with the words or they put a lot of time into manually synching the voices to the models. Because so much of this game is spent talking to other characters (more than most adventure games, that’s for sure), this is a major plus for The Moment of Silence. Too bad about the blocky conversations, though.

Since you spend most of your time trying to advance the story and you aren’t typically thrown into action-packed battles, most adventure games are either made or broken by their story. The Moment of Silence has one of the biggest and most intriguing stories to hit the genre in a while. This, coupled with its outstanding graphics, makes it a must-buy for adventure gamers.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, 800 MHz Pentium 3 or Equivalent, 256 MB RAM, 24X CD-ROM Drive, 3.4 GB Hard Disk Space for Full Installation, 64 MB DirectX 8.1 Compatible Sound Card and Speakers, Keyboard and Mouse, DirectX 8.1 or Higher
 

Test System:



Windows XP Professional Ed., AMD Athlon XP 2400+ 2GHz, 2 GB RAM, DVD-RW, Radeon 9800 Pro, DirectX 9.0c.

Sony PlayStation Portable Wipeout Pure Sony PlayStation Portable Lumines

 
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