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SummaryHas good moments... but overall not very satisfying
The GoodIn recent years we have seen some serious contributions to the adventure genre from various European developers. The Longest Journey and Syberia have gained world-wide popularity. Moment of Silence is yet another European (German) adventure game, trying, as most of its contemporaries, to revive the stagnating genre.
The setting of the game is probably its most attractive aspect. New York of 2040 looks neither like your typical dark post-apocalyptic city, nor is it overridden with senseless sci-fi elements. The designers cleverly utilized one of the most evident tendencies of our time, turning it into the dominating power of the future world: the overwhelmingly rapid development of communication techniques. A decade ago only a few freaks knew what internet was, and now any little kid can go ahead and browse the web. So in Moment of Silence, you have an interesting picture of the future: everything is digital, each person has his own "messenger" which replaces all other devices (used for such different activities as calling people, paying money, identifying oneself, etc.), and one of the most wide-spread activities is chatting online with people you know nothing about, except their "avatars": animated faces, voice, and everything else.
A lot of thought has been put into the game's dialogues. While many of them are standard adventure fare ("Do you have the item I need?"... "What should I do to get it?.."), there are some in-depth conversations which are written really well. For example, Oswald's diary is quite a fascinating piece of fiction. It is rather long and contains vital information, but it is the style of the diary which raises it above average.
There are lots of conversations in the game, which is of course a good thing, and most of them are not obligatory. Of course, you'll want to deplete all the dialogue trees to make sure you haven't missed some important clues, but actually only a small part of those conversations is necessary to advance the story.
The gameplay of Moment of Silence is traditional third-person adventure style, but with more emphasis on conversations than on puzzles. It is not as "puzzle-less" as for example Blade Runner, nor is it heavy on clue-combining like Discworld Noir; you could best describe it as a "light" adventure game with a good balance of dialogue and inventory-based gameplay. Most of the puzzles are quite logical and can be solved without too much frustration (although many of them are marred by some serious pixel-hunting). The game also has a good tempo, you are neither stuck in one location for a long time, nor do you have to backtrack during the entire game. The first part is more open-ended, and you'll be traveling a lot from location to location in it, but the second part is very streamlined.
The graphics may be outdated, but some of the areas look pretty nice. More impressive are the pre-rendered cutscenes, which are quite dramatic and bring a lot of action into the game. There aren't many of them during the first part of the game, but later there are places where cutscenes abound.
The BadEven though there is nothing truly bad about the game (except path-finding!), there is also nothing great. Occasional satire and interesting setting are not enough to make this game stand head and shoulders above the bleak adventure community of today, let alone bring the glory back to the genre.
But first let's refer to what is really bad in the game... you guessed it, it's path-finding. As Jeanne stated in her review, path-finding is so terrible that it ruins the entire game, and while path-finding alone was not what ruined the game for me, I found it irritating to the utmost degree. You want Peter to move to the left, but he moves to the right. You want him to leave a location, but he gets stuck in front of an empty place. You want to navigate him somewhere, but all he does is running in circles. This aspect of the game is really unprofessionally done. I can't adequately describe how annoying it is to control the hero in this game.
What's more, like in many adventure games, the world of Moment of Silence looks much bigger than it really is. You see lots of cool places, but you can't go there. You can't move closer to something that looks interesting to you. Often you move in weird lines instead of just walking directly to the goal. And the camera is terrible. For some reason they decided to make Peter so extremely small in some locations, that he becomes almost invisible, a poor little pixel on the background, so you have to click somewhere on the screen just to find out where the damn guy is. And instead of making the backgrounds scroll, they let the camera change angles every few steps. You enter a large room from the right and see a table to the left. You click in the direction of that table, and suddenly the camera changes, and you find out it is now to the right! You click again, and discover the table has moved down! You frantically click everywhere, only to have Peter dance like a drunk idiot and run to the opposite direction.
As I said above, graphics are outdated. I really would expect real-time 3D from a game released in late 2004. Only character models, some objects, and very few places are in real 3D, while the rest are your usual pre-rendered backgrounds. And as almost always in such cases, the character models look as if they were cut out of another game and pasted into the pre-rendered world. Some places are nicely animated, but overall the graphics are really not that hot, and most locations look frozen and soulless. Worse than the technical quality of the graphics is the layout of the places; for some reason lots of things look small, camera angles are awkward almost everywhere, and the proportions are somewhat weird. Many locations are stuffed with important items, which you can discover only by slowly moving your mouse cursor around, stopping on every item. This of course leads to frustrating pixel-hunting.
The puzzles are intuitive for the most part, but there are also some stone-age relics which made me raise my eyebrows in disbelief. Think of how you had to enter that old geezer's shop - a ridiculous puzzle taken out of a Monkey Island game. Only there it fit perfectly the setting and the style, while here it feels like a neanderthal in a society of scientists. I think even the infamous cat puzzle from Gabriel Knight III wasn't as bad. And while this puzzle is fortunately not too typical for the game, there are enough boring inventory item combinations and improbable tasks which undermine the otherwise logical structure of the game's puzzles.
But what I missed most in the game was a good story. As a whole, the story is thin and unsatisfying. First of all, the main idea of the game has been recycled thousand times and has little to no originality. Okay, we have a world which is controlled by some organization/government/emperor/whatever. We have a rebel group which are first considered bad, and then turn out to be not so bad after all. Instead, it is the organization/government/etc. which is bad. If this sounds familiar, that might be because you have played some video games before. Since Orwell's "1984" such stories started appearing like mushrooms after rain.
But even such a standard story could have been told in a much better way. It seems the developers dedicated all their creativity to minor setting details and occasional small-scope satire, forgetting to add some pepper into the story. If you expect a "whoddunit?" thriller, you'll be sorely disappointed by Moment of Silence. The game's plot is absolutely two-dimensional. There is no true confrontation, not even an ideology worth mentioning. This is particularly pity because there are clever conversations and hints to in-depth ideological analysis, but none of it is evident in the development of the plot.
The story also lacks support from interesting characters. The hero, Peter Wright, is your average "protagonist" guy: there is nothing appealing about him, even his determination to help the family of arrested Oswald doesn't evoke enough sympathy. He has no own ideology, can only get witty in minor discussions, his vision of the world is totally unclear, and I must also add he sounds like an idiot during the conversation with the ultimate enemy, unable to find any convincing arguments against him.