The Moment of Silence

Review by Old Rooster
December 2004

"I Don't Know, Mrs. Oswald, it All Seems Pretty Strange" —Our Hero, Peter

The Matrix, Minority Report, Blade Runner, I, Robot—films set in the not-too-distant future; films where the individual becomes a cipher; films featuring a faceless government; stories of intrigue, deceit, power, corruption. The Moment of Silence is the best adventure game ever to deal with this milieu and comes highly recommended.

The year is 2044. We have not yet arrived at Asimov's vision of the future, but the seeds are clearly present. Our enigmatic hero, Peter Wright, leads a quiet existence, working as a P.R. specialist for the government. He hears a commotion in the middle of the night in his drab and ordinary apartment building. In the morning, he finds his neighbor, Mrs. Oswald, and her son, Tommy, terribly distraught over an early morning police raid in which her husband was arrested. Initial enquires by Peter lead to denial by the police that anything even occurred!

And thus our mystery begins, with Peter simply trying to help his neighbor. Of course, he has his own set of problems, it turns out, plus he wanders into an unpleasant and complicated web of secrecy and corruption.

"The Conversation Costs Will Be Debited from Your Messenger Account" —Mobile Operator

Let's chat a bit about some of the technical aspects of the game. The Moment of Silence comes on a DVD-ROM and offers minimum as well as full installation—3.5 GB. A 32 MB graphics card is required. Orchestral themes, offered while installation is occurring, beautifully set a mood of mystery and a sense of foreboding. MOS uses the traditional point-and-click adventuring approach for character movement. Indeed, everything is managed with the mouse, except for an "H" key for help with hotspots (exits to another scene, critical items) and "M" for your friendly Mobile Messenger—a cell phone extraordinaire.

Inventory, interface, various settings for graphics are all done well and smoothly. I must say a word, however, about the now-infamous StarForce protection system used on MOS. On several occasions, I was unable to return to the story due to StarForce checking the disc on my already installed game and saying there was a copy protection error. Finally, after several restarts, I could proceed. This is most annoying, and I've never experienced this phenomenon with any other copy protection methodology.

As with most adventure titles, precise and complete screen exploration is crucial. And you will have a lot of screens to explore—more than 500! Sometimes, needed inventory objects will be almost impossible to spot (one such occurs very early on), but due diligence will usually bring you there, plus the knowledge that something is really missing that you might need. The "H" key can be useful in this regard. I did find that the mouse cursor could be fussy at times, particularly with another program running simultaneously—HyperSnap in this case. Shutting that off alleviated the problem for the most part. Everything considered, however, the technical aspects of the game went well, and I don't have any serious complaints.

"Hmm ... I'm Not Quite Sure Where I Should Go" —Peter, in SATCAR

The Moment of Silence strikes a particularly good balance between the linearity needed to move the story along and the opportunity to explore this interesting society more fully—particularly with conversations. For example, if Peter sits in the primary transportation modality, the SATCAR, without having completed certain tasks, potential destinations literally will not show on the map. Thus, the securing of an item or content of a conversation becomes critical for progression. However, there are "side trips," many of these interchanges with fascinating characters, that serve to embellish and enrich the narrative.

Indeed, it has been three years since the team at House of Tales produced a game, and I think they have used the time extremely well. This New York City of the future comes to life with stunning graphics and a sense of aliveness unusual for an adventure title. The 75 prerendered and animated locations are intriguing and, although your technical ability to wander a particular screen is limited, you'll wish to explore as much as you can. From apartments to parks, the design team has gone all out with an obviously loving sense of detail.

The production is enhanced by equally attractive and sometimes lengthy cutscenes, beginning with the opening apartment break-in scenario and continuing to others of even greater detail and length.

But even though the graphics impress, voice acting, ambient sounds and movie-quality orchestral themes raise The Moment of Silence yet a notch higher. I was anticipating a "phone-in" script translation effort, and instead found wonderfully acted renderings, from the lead all the way to the crazed park guru (or was he crazed?). A special word needs to be said about the portrayal of Peter Wright. This is essentially a story about and told by him, and the actor brings a sense of believability, compassion, self-doubt, even pain which is quite remarkable. If awards were to be given for "Best Acting in a Game," this fellow would be a surefire nominee!

Yet fine graphics, sound, even great acting can all create not much more than an attractive shell of a game if the story and dialogue are not worthy. Thankfully, it is this essential aspect of The Moment of Silence that shines the most. The "Best Acting" nomination needs to be accompanied by a nod to "Best Writing" in a game! The futuristic, sci-fi theme, depicting a grey, complicated, depersonalized world, is articulated extremely well. The story would make a terrific read as a novel. But not only is the plot involving, so are the characters (and I do mean characters!) with whom you interact. You'll meet over 30, and they are a diverse lot, from the park guru to the boy who lost his father to a fascinating gangster. You'll want to chat with them all, find out more about what they think of this society. Sure, you can just try to move the story along in a linear way and skip some of the embellishments, but you'll be doing a disservice to your gaming pleasure. The Moment of Silence is a game to be savored and presents a world in which it's good to spend time. Plan on a 20-hour, not 15-hour, gameplay experience. It's worth it!

These days, we succumb to so many game ads about the latest and most powerful graphics and surround sound, yet we hear little about story and writing, the underpinnings that support and create the very best games. Graphics and sound are certainly present in spades, but it is the outstanding premise, story and dialogue that really makeThe Moment of Silence such a satisfying, even remarkable gaming experience.

"Everybody Needs a Teddy for a Friend" —Peter, to the Oswalds' Son

Puzzles in The Moment of Silence are primarily inventory and conversationally based. Inventory items are nicely labeled, readily retrieved and used. Mostly you'll be figuring out your next step with direct hints or inferences drawn from conversations. And you may occasionally have to return to follow up. I found the game often tough and didn't want to spoil it by consulting a walkthrough, but since the world and writing were so excellent, I simply decided to take my time and let things fall into place—which they did!

"Thank You for Using Our Service" —Mobile Messenger Operator

The Moment of Silence is one of the best adventure games of 2004 and likely the best ever to deal with a futuristic, Orwellian theme of corruption and conspiracy. Story, dialogue, character development, settings, artwork, acting, and music are all superb. Gameplay is traditional and effectively accomplished. There are occasional glitches in movement or pixel-finding, but these are minor and typically expected annoyances. They do not take away from an outstanding PC adventure and one that comes most highly recommended!

What I Liked Most About The Moment of Silence

  • A story that could be an entertaining novel;
  • Dark, almost oppressive mood;
  • Beautiful settings, detailed graphics;
  • Fine, professional level voice acting;
  • Believable, interesting characters ...
  • Who render one of the finest scripts of any game this year.

What I Liked Least About the Game

  • StarForce copy protection is a pain;
  • Occasionally fussy mouse cursor action;
  • Some pixel-hunting becomes obscure. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: House of Tales
Publisher: Digital Jesters
Release Date: November 5, 2004

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
800 MHz (P4 1.4 GHz recommended)
256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
32 MB DirectX compatible video card (128 MB recommended)
3.5 GB free hard disk space
2X DVD-ROM drive (this is very important!)

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