Siren: Blood Curse
The original Siren (Forbidden Siren in Europe) was released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2003 when it was competing with survival horror’s best: Silent Hill and Resident Evil. Now, in 2008, things are a little bit different for the PlayStation 3 remake, Siren: Blood Curse, as it becomes the first horror game on the system.
To get a hold of it you’ll need to purchase it from the PlayStation store in one of two ways: either a full game download, or by chapter. Much like this year’s Alone In The Dark, Siren: Blood Curse is set up a lot like an American television show; it’s spilt into twelve separate episodes arranged into chapters, so if you want you can download one chapter pack at a time. Although it’s cheaper to buy them all in one.
Once all that is sorted out you’ll be ready to move on to playing the actual game. As mentioned earlier, Siren: Blood Curse is a remake of the old PlayStation 2 game; it’s an American remake as well, but not in the traditional sense. You see, it’s still made by the original developers, SCE Japan Studio, but to make it appeal to a Western Audience they’ve replaced the original Japanese characters with American ones. Most of these characters belong to a film crew shooting a documentary on the legendary Hanuda village, a mysterious Japanese mountain village that has said to of disappeared many years ago. In typical horror fashion things seem out-of-place and the film crew are soon attacked by zombie-like creatures known as the Shibito. At the beginning of each chapter you’ll take control of one of seven characters, and be given an objective to complete. Each chapter has one main objective and usually many sub-objectives that must be completed in order to finish the chapter. It’s a traditional setup, and one that’s easy to get to grips with. Unfortunately the pacing isn’t the same as you’ll be thrown in at the deep end with little in the way of a tutorial. It’s a minor flaw that could put people off at the beginning of the game, but you’ll soon adapt.“If you get the chance to fight back there are plenty of weapons on display, just don’t expect Resident Evil 4 style gunplay.”Once you do you’ll be fighting back against the Shibito depending on which character you’re using. Some are quite good at putting up some resistance, whilst others – like a little girl – have to hide in the shadows. If you get the chance to fight back there are plenty of weapons on display, just don’t expect Resident Evil 4 style gunplay; you rarely get a chance to use a firearm. Mostly you’ll be picking weapons up off the floor, ranging from axes and sledgehammers, to something a little less dangerous like a frying pan. It’s a lot of fun attacking the Shibito, but it does take away from the frights the game has on offer. As a less able character you’ll be required to use stealth. This makes the game a lot more frightening, as being seen can result in instant death. The enemies follow strict paths, so if you learn them you should be able to sneak by easily, although this becomes more troublesome later on when more enemies move around the same area. The thing that separates these zombies from the rest is how they still get on with their lives as though nothing happened. They’ll get on with daily activities, and this can work to your advantage; for instance, during a hospital chapter there are Shibito nurses patrolling the corridors. They’re still getting on with work, and turning on a heart rate monitor will distract one of them, letting you sneak past as they tend to the machine. It’s really cool to see, and distances them from the usual mumbling, stuttering zombies we’re used to seeing.
To help you sneak by is Siren’s defining feature: sight jacking. Using this lets the player character see through the eyes of the enemy, and also display them as a red crosshair on the screen. This can be handy as it lets you know where the enemy is positioned. However, it does feel like it’s compensation for the game’s bad camera. The camera is positioned very closely behind the player character, with limited movement. Its closeness keeps the game feeling claustrophobic, but it does tamper the gameplay as it’s often very hard to tell where enemies are, especially when you can’t see around corners. Sight jacking does help, but using it takes up half the screen making it even harder to see.“Visually it isn’t outstanding, but it does the job; especially for a downloadable title.”The darkness of the game doesn’t help matters, but it does add to the immersion and terrifying atmosphere. Your flashlight only lights up so much, leaving plenty of the unknown in the dark. Visually it isn’t outstanding, but it does the job; especially for a downloadable title. The Shibito look scary, as blood seams down from their eyes and their twisted nature is represented in the way they move; if you’ve ever seen a Japanese horror flick you know what to expect, and later on the enemy designs become even more inventive and sickening.
Although the sound design is a mixed bag, it is perhaps the best aid to the atmosphere. The spine tingling siren of the game’s title can be heard off in the distance, giving the village a feeling of alarm; and the enemies sound sinister whilst the music is eerie and disturbing. Sadly the voice acting doesn’t match the rest, and the characters reactions and movements doesn’t always reflect the words on screen.
Siren: Blood Curse is a great debut for horror games on the PlayStation 3. It packs enough scares to warrant having an extra set of underpants on standby; and the mixture of stealth and action keeps things interesting throughout. It’s a great game to play during a boring summer day, and at only £20 you can’t go wrong. Resident Evil may have moved away from this style, but Siren: Blood Curse shows how good survival horror can still be.