Designed & Published by Capcom
It’s very weird switching on my Nintendo DS and seeing “This game contains scenes of explicit violence and gore”, but then Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (see what they did there?) is a weird game. The first weird thing is the choice of system. Who’d have guessed we’d be seeing Resident Evil show up on the DS at all, let alone before any PSP version has even been announced? I guess rumours of the series turning its back on Nintendo were just that, as Nintendo nets another exclusive game.
Well, kind of exclusive, given that the game is part port and part remake of the original Resident Evil that was released on the Playstation ten years ago. It’s a bit of a ten year celebration apparently, which is their excuse for not basing the game either on the GameCube remake of the title, nor on one of the later games in the series that hasn’t received a second version.
It’s not just the decision to base the game on the original Playstation game that’s a mite confusing, but that so much of the flawed design of the classics should be rolled out again in this post-Resident Evil 4 world. There is a nod to RE4, with the addition of a quick knife shoulder button like that game had, which knife fans should really appreciate (the game can be completed with only the knife for those that didn’t realize it), but most unforgivable of all is fact that, despite the fact that Resident Evil Zero and Resident Evil 4 both did it, we’re back to being stuck if our inventory is full and we try to pick up a health item. In those games, you could still heal yourself, or combine the item with one in your inventory. In this one, no dice.
Since the game is split into three main parts, “Classic”, “Rebirth”, and Multiplayer, we’ll address each in turn.
“Classic” mode is what it sounds like; the original game with only a couple of minor differences. That means you play as members of the S.T.A.R.S. alpha team searching for the downed helicopter of the bravo team, when things go pear shaped and they have to take refuge in a mansion filled with monsters. Your goal is to escape and to figure out what the hell is going on along the way.
You still get to choose from two characters, Chris and Jill. Chris is still “hard” mode, but now they at least say as much on the menus. Chris can only carry six things, doesn’t get the powerful weapon Jill gets really early on, and has to contend with an extra key since Jill can lock pick certain doors. Jill gets eight item spots and because of her lock picking skills, less keys to worry about carrying around.
Jill, Chris and the rest of the characters have all been visually improved. They’ve been given higher resolution textures and higher polygon models. The better resolution textures are especially nice as it really hides the fact that the DS doesn’t do any texture smoothing. It’s not normally that noticeable in DS games on the small screen, but here it’s practically invisible.
The top screen doubles as a map and as health indicator, pulsating the colour of your health, should you be injured. The status and inventory screen is brought up by hitting start, and works just the same as it ever did, though now if you prefer you can also use the touch screen to select and combine items.
Examining items has the 3D rotatable models from later versions of the game too, which is always a nice addition. Oh, and aside from the quick knife L trigger, you can press down and run to do a quick 180, like most games later in the series allowed.
Apart from that, it’s just as you remember it. The same badly written and badly acted dialogue, the same puzzles, the same rooms and scares.
In many ways, it’s a flawless port of a ten year old classic. Fans of the series that already have a DS will probably beam at the thought of having the game in their pocket, as I do. To be able to flip open the DS and show people the hilarious opening video is a charming idea, though shamelessly it’s still the cut version America has been lumped with for the past ten years, something I was hoping would be fixed. Resident Evil 4 was uncut in America but cut in Japan, so why are we still getting the inferior version of the opening video? Perhaps for posterity… but I’m still disappointed. At least it isn’t as cut as the European version of the original was, and hopefully our European friends will get this version with in-game exploding heads finally reinstated.
Videos play with noticeable compression, especially in the smoky opening film, but are few and far between, so it’s not a huge problem. Sound effects and music fair much better. They mightn’t have improved the terrible voice work, but the music and sounds still hold up really well apart from that, especially given that the game is running of a cartridge a little larger than a postage stamp.
The problems lie mostly with how badly the original game has aged, and how unsuitable it is for portable gaming. Having already been improved in every single way by the GameCube remake, which added a lot more content, numerous new boss fights and puzzles, as well as much nicer pre rendered backdrops, it’s very hard to walk into an area that was so impressive in the remake and not lament what could have been. Every missing doorway and area, and especially the basement in the guard house, spring to mind. What was a fantastic set piece in the remake is again reduced to just pulling a lever.
Then there’s everything RE4 fixed to contend with yet again. Item boxes, ink ribbons and type writers… These things really don’t work in a handheld title. You can’t just pick it up and play for five minutes, or put it down at your convenience, which is something handheld titles all ought to have. Fortunately it does have a sleep mode so you can walk away if you have time to come back to it, but it’s really a shame that you can’t save whenever and wherever you want.
For console horror titles, I have no problems with limited save systems, because they add to my enjoyment of the title, but for a portable game, it hurts more than it helps.
The controls… Up makes you walk the way your character is facing. Left turns you to your character’s left, right to their right. Back makes you walk backwards. You hold a button to run, and you hold the right trigger to ready whatever gun you have equipped, and the left trigger to ready your knife. You can only turn with a weapon readied, and pushing up or down aims up or down. You might have only played RE4 and be wondering how that’s different to what you had in that game, but where it really confuses people is when the camera angle changes, and the direction you’re running on screen does a 180.
I don’t mind the controls… and if you’re reading this, you either played RE4 and are wondering what the early games are like or you already have a good idea of whether or not you mind the controls. In a way, without an analogue stick it’s harder to criticize the controls, but for the most part they’re make or break. If you’ve played any game in the series with these controls they should be a non-issue, but they are what they are and for a lot of people, they’re a brick wall between them and any enjoyment they might get out of the title.
The controls carry over into every mode offered… so be warned.
Unless you know the original game like the back of your hand, I’d recommend you play “Classic” mode before dipping into “Rebirth” mode, because there’s really no draw to play “Classic” mode after trying “Rebirth”.
“Rebirth” contains all the new stuff, and for those people that aren’t happy to just have Resident Evil in their pocket, this is what you’ll be looking to. A lot of the puzzles have been changed into touch screen-based brain teasers, and while most of these aren’t anything especially novel, or something that couldn’t have been done on a joypad, just having different puzzles to contend with is rather nice, and some are even based around the microphone.
Then there’s the knife slashing action sequence mini games that happen fairly randomly as you’re exploring. After going through a doorway, you’ll find yourself in a first person viewpoint holding only your knife with a number of enemies shambling, flying, crawling or running towards you. You have to knife your way out of it before carrying on.
They make fun diversions for sure, and use the touch screen rather well. The only thing is that they do feel separate and tacked on. I wouldn’t do away with them, but when you can still go into your inventory and see your guns, it does make it pretty obvious that this is just an add on, though admittedly a fun one; it just sticks out a bit. Finishing the game on “Rebirth” unlocks the amusingly named “Master of Knifing”, which shows at least that Capcom have a sense of humour about the awful voice work in the game.
You’re also going to find a lot more enemies and a lot more ammo in this mode. This really does change the feel of the game as it has new scares and because, unlike “Classic” mode which almost always only ever throws one kind of enemy at you at a time, “Rebirth” likes to mix things up. Facing crows, dogs and spiders all at the same time really demands you change your strategy. If you didn’t like those little spiders, you’re going to have problems playing “Rebirth” mode, which often throws a couple of dozen at you at once. Personally that’s one of my favourite changes.
For the most part, you’re going to find everything in the same place as you remember it. The old scares haven’t been messed with as they did splendidly in the GameCube remake, but as you progress you’ll find things getting increasingly different, culminating in a very scary moment in the library which leads to a jaunt back to a location you don’t normally revisit, with a surprising encounter waiting for you there. Definitely a highlight of “Rebirth” mode.
My biggest disappointment with “Rebirth” mode, though, is how little seems to have been changed in the closing moments. When you power up the elevator and descend down to level 4 of the labs, from their on out it’s just a few different enemies in the corridors. No fancy first-person knife battles, no extra touch screen puzzles, identical boss fights. Seems like a missed opportunity to really catch the player by surprise at the very end of the game.
All in all though, while it still has all the flaws of the classic game, it has more to enjoy. The touch screen puzzles may almost all make poor use of the touch screen, but they’re fun and simple to control, and the couple that do make good use of it stick out. The knife battle is a much better use of the touch screen, though I still feel that adding in the ability to use your guns here would have been even more enjoyable. The changes lengthen the adventure which isn’t a bad thing. There’s even a different set of alternate costumes waiting for you in the secret closet once you finish the game… and they’re even more amusing than normal.
I’d definitely reiterate that if you’re going to pick up this title, and aren’t already sick of doing so, that you play “Classic” mode through as at least one of the characters before playing “Rebirth”. Like the remake on GameCube, “Rebirth” works best if you already know what to expect.
Finally there’s a Multiplayer mode. Basically whether you’re playing the co-op mode or the competitive mode, you’re in a world of your own. You can influence what happens in other people’s worlds, and flags indicate where the other players are, but you’re still fighting through the same locations by yourself. Also, everyone has to own a copy of the game due to the large amount of data involved. It’s always a shame when a game doesn’t offer any single-cartridge multiplayer.
The competitive mode is a race to see who can escape first. Certain highlighted enemies cause the enemies on other players games to increase in strength. Co-op is more interesting. Everyone shares the same health, and it’s the same for enemies. So, if I kill an enemy on my DS, that enemy dies on everyone else’s. If players are all in the same room, their attack power increases. If you or anyone else in your team dies, you all die. Only one person can pick up certain key items, and while players can switch items in chests, this doesn’t apply to keys.
It’s a shame that Capcom couldn’t achieve something more like Resident Evil: Outbreak, and have all the players in the same world, fighting the same enemies, but it’s still something that adds value to the game if you know other DS owners with copies. Finishing the various modes of the single player game and completing all three co-op missions unlock various different characters for use in the multiplayer, and I think Resident Evil fans will get a kick out of playing as some of these characters, just as it was a kick to use the different characters on Resident Evil 4’s “Mercenaries” mode.
So really it comes down to a question of whether or not Capcom added enough icing to the ten year old cake to make it edible. The answer is yes… but only just. If you couldn’t sit down and play the original PS-one game after playing the remake on GameCube or Resident Evil 4, then you’ll want to give this a miss. If you haven’t played the original and are willing to spend a bit of time adjusting to the odd controls and static camera angles, you’ll find it ultimately rewarding, so long as you can stomach the lousy voice work and writing.
If you’ve never bored of the old style of Resident Evil game, and still pull out the original every now and then, you’ll definitely want to take this for a spin.
One final thing; knowing that this is the first horror title on the Nintendo DS, I have to make a point of saying this. Resident Evil: DS is not worth buying the system for. The DS has a rather silly number of fun and original titles for a system that’s only just turned one year old, but there are no other M rated games, and nothing that comes close to being “horror”. Hopefully this title will prove that such games can sell well on a Nintendo handheld, and lead to more in the future.
Discuss Resident Evil: Deadly Silence in our forums!