Review by Arkrex

"Say "Cheese"!"

They say that silence is golden. But Resident Evil: Deadly Silence is as silent as a panicking mouse that's drowning in a bowl full of grated cheese. Remember those classic/cheesy B-grade movie lines such as "Jill, here is a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you", and "You were almost a Jill Sandwich!" - well, they all make a rambunctious return in this touch screen and mic-enhanced remix of the game that put survival horror on the map.

Resident Evil appealed to many killer instincts when it debuted in 1996. Back then, shooting virtual humans was morally wrong, but the living dead were fair game. Couple that together with the aforementioned cheesy dialogue and a couple of block-pushing puzzles and you've got yourself a guaranteed hit. Capcom, at the time, were also fond of pushing innovative ideas. Helmed by Shinji Mikami, game designer extraordinaire/demi-god, Resident Evil delivered an action-packed Hollywood-style blockbuster (albeit with plenty of cheese) to PlayStations all around the world, infused with a good dose of cheap scares (the dogs smashing through the windows was a huge "&*$@(#!" moment) and plenty of tense scenarios made worse by the fact that ammo was a scarce commodity.

Fast-forward ten years later to Deadly Silence's debut - how does it stack up now against the likes of the re-invented Resident Evil 4 and the numerous Silent Hills, Fatal Frames and Alone in the Dark (you didn't think I'd forget this series, did you?) knock-offs? Well, it still sucks. But for some reason, this "suckiness" is what makes Resident Evil an enjoyable romp. Plus, there's a ton of cheese too.

If you have played any Resident Evil game before number 4, you'll know what to expect from the controls - the "tank" controls. Pressing up on the d-pad will always move your protagonist - the pre-jacked Chris Redfield or the virtual representation of the ever-sexy Sienna Guillory - in a forwards direction; down will back them up slowly, left and right will spin them around on the spot in the respective directions. This was done so that the transition between the fixed pre-rendered backgrounds (which were considered to look more impressive and more chock-full of detail than polygonal backdrops at the time - hehe) - used to provide cinematic camera angles - would be smooth. It doesn't look that great when you're running into walls every ten seconds, though.

Thankfully, we don't have to manually aim our weapons too; auto-aiming makes blowing off zombie knee-caps a piece of cake. There's a decent variety of firearms including shotguns and flame throwers and even a bazooka - it sucks to be a zombie! But as I mentioned earlier, ammo is scarce, so you can't just simply go on a firing rampage; you'll need to out-manoeuvre many lurching zombies if you hope to stand a chance against some of the more menacing monstrosities - like the nimble Hunters or the (clichéd) humongous snake.

Death comes swiftly, even if you keep tabs on your ECG life-line at all times; a few chomps to the jugular (newbies will have a hard time escaping the clutches of the dead given the "tank" controls) and as the game nicely puts it, "You Are Dead". Strategic saving is a must, too, for the ink ribbons (your "ammo" for saving) are far and few in between (as are the typewriter save points). Deadly Silence contains the original Resident Evil in all it's cheesy-ass glory (no Director's Cut here, though) plus the remixed DS mode - Rebirth - which is a fair sight easier - with more ammo scattered about the place, more enemies taking up residence in the corridors (makes it less scary when you just know another monster is lurking just around the corner), and the 180 degree spin (introduced in Resident Evil 3) which makes a quick retreat now possible.

New to the Rebirth mode are a couple of gimmicky knifing sections. They pop up between certain room transitions and they have some fun with the touch screen controls afforded by the hardware: tap to stab zombie humans, zombie dogs and bats (I don't think they're zombies) in the face as they approach you in the new first-person perspective, or slash them up in all directions to throw their ragdoll models all over the place. There's even a boss fight played out in this way! It's too bad that the DS-exclusive features are such a small component of the overall game, though - it's still the same clunky Resident Evil underneath all the knifing, CPR and lame touch screen mini-games that you'll have to endure.

But if you want to see where it all started - the real birth of the survival horror genre - Deadly Silence is a golden opportunity. Sure, the graphics are a joke compared to that luscious remake on the GameCube, and the voices are even worse than recent efforts - the block puzzles, key hunts, and various assorted riddles are archaic by today's standards, too - but I guess just like how we enjoy B-grade movies because they are such pathetic productions, I have a soft spot for Deadly Silence because it does so many things wrong, but in humourous fashion.

The game is also pretty short - under three hours for most hardcore gamers - but you can play both sides of the story (Chris and Jill follow different paths and have their individual strengths and weaknesses), both classic and Rebirth variants, and while away some hours to master the bonus Master of Knifing mini-game (cheesy title, as expected); this game lends itself well to speed-runs too - more so than ever before, given that the door loading times can now be skipped!

There are also multiplayer co-op and competitive modes new to this release, although they aren't as good as they sound. You don't actually see your wirelessly connected friends fighting alongside you, but a glowing spotlight on the ground marking their position - this makes the various characters you can play as a redundant feature. You can solve puzzles together in co-op mode, but combat is still quite a solo affair; and competitive mode is all about who can make mince-meat out of the most zombies before the bite-sized levels are over. It's not very exciting - perhaps this is due the lack of cheese in this department?

Some may say that Capcom is the master of milking cash-cows. I wouldn't disagree, but Deadly Silence is well worth the cost of admission - whether you're a veteran of the series of a newcomer, there's some fresh flesh for everyone. "Tank" control issues aside, the gameplay is still rather addictive, despite some poor puzzle elements (many of which can lead to unnecessary backtracking if you don't know what you're doing). The Rebirth mode tacks on some cheesy touch screen and microphone mini-games onto the already cheesy cast of voice actors, and the ease with which you can elude most zombies' paws (seriously, they are NOT scary) makes the whole "survival horror" aspect void most of the time. But if you enjoy calcium-enriched B-grade games and don't mind doing a time-warp, shut up and tune in to the deadly silence.

VERDICT - 7.5/10 Portable Biohazard: deathly sweet even a decade later!


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/17/07

Game Release: Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (US, 02/07/06)


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