Name: Siren: Blood Curse
Genre: Survival Horror
Platform: Playstation Network
It’s been a while since a true survival horror title was on the shelves. Sure, Resident Evil has had a long life, but what was once a game about surviving in a zombie ridden city has become a game about hunting down and shooting zombie-like creatures. I honestly can’t remember the last time there’s been a game about beating the odds, and living through some seriously terrifying times. Fortunately, Sony just released Siren: Blood Curse as an episodic downloadable game on the Playstation Network. Looks like I wasn’t the only one missing this type of game.
Siren: Blood Curse is a reimagining of the Playstation 2 game, Siren. While not a sequel, or remake, consider it more along the lines of The Legend of Zelda series, where each game is a unique interpretation on the same basic tale. The story starts with an American TV crew looking into the sudden reappearance of the Hanuda village, which disappeared 30 years prior. When they arrive, they find themselves trapped in a town surrounded by an ocean of blood, and over-run with strange creatures called shibito. For all intents and purposes, shibito are the living undead. When I say living undead, I don’t mean zombies. The shibito carry on tasks they were performing in their previous lives, they talk (mostly when taunting you about fate), and they worship a bizarre deity. Some are also grossly transformed into flying undead, or strange spider/human hybrids. There are several deformed versions you’ll run across during a playthrough, and each one will have you hoping to never run into it again. The game implements a clever mechanic called ‘Sight Jacking” where you can see through the eyes of surrounding shibito. It’s a necessary tool, but one you’ll wish you didn’t have to use when the thoughts of a shibito are echoing through your speakers. You’ll encounter all sorts of creepiness as one of the seven playable characters all trying to escape the madness that has descended upon Hanuda.
The game itself is about 12-15 hours long, and is broken down into 12 episodes, which are then split into several chapters. The whole thing plays very much like a television series. There’s a “Previously on…” intro video, as well as a “Next time on…” outro. The presentation also allows you to skip episodes (if you have the next one downloaded), but not individual chapters like Alone in the Dark. Having the story run episodically also allows the writers to create an “Oh shit!” moment every episode. Believe me, there are plenty of times where you’ll be completely flabbergasted at what just transpired. In one particular chapter, you’ll be playing as a character trying to sneak through a shibito infested field to reunite with some of the other survivors. It isn’t until the end you find out the character you’ve been playing as has been infected, and is actually a shibito trying to hunt down survivors. Needless to say it was quite a trip when that realization came to pass. Aside from the main story, you will find items added to your archive should you uncover them. Whether it’s a doctor’s journal, or someone’s cell-phone, looking over these items helps expand upon a story that will already have you anticipating what happens next. It’s a rare treat to have a game story be as engaging as Siren’s, and it’s even rarer for that happen with downloadable content.
When it comes to controlling your character, there are a few flaws to be found. The game is primarily about sneaking around, and avoiding confrontations with shibito, you’re going to run into them sometimes. While the weapon system is interesting, the actual combat leaves much to be desired. Unless your target is dead in front of you, swinging a melee weapon is a crapshoot. Running away will end up working out better for you most of the time. Despite the fact the game has stealth kills, which rarely work, you’ll almost never want to confront enemies unless you have a longer melee weapon like a rake or long metal pipe. There are guns, but they are few and far between. There are over 50 different weapons you’ll be able to wield, ranging from beer bottles to scythes to pistols, but nothing worked better for me than the good ol’ crowbar. The less I say about the sniper-scope equipped shotgun, the better. Exploring the darkness can also lead to some strange control issues when trying to work your flashlight. You control characters with the left analog stick, and look around with the right analog. Sometimes the light shines infinitely into the night, while other times you’ll struggle to see what’s right in front of your face.
Graphically, I have yet to see a downloadable game that can match the presentation of Siren: Blood Curse. With the complete game costing $39.99, you really do get what you pay for. The characters are all well constructed, and facial expressions are pretty close to spot on. It’s no Metal Gear Solid 4, but keeping in mind this game is only 9GB, you’ll be pleased the developers got so much out of that space. The downside is since the game is played in mostly darkness, they paid a little less attention to surfaces and textures. You’ll only really notice when you get close up, or shine your flashlight directly on them, but it doesn’t detract from the playing experience at all. The score is eerie and adds heaps of atmosphere to the game. While the voice acting won’t win any awards, the actors do a credible job, and most importantly don’t annoy you. Most of the sound effects, like shibito screeches and bottle’s smashing, are spot on. For whatever reason, all of the guns sound like crap. Shotgun and pistol shots are indiscernible, and come off sounding like bad recordings of firecrackers instead of real gunshots. Again, you won’t find it detracting from the overall gameplay, but it’s noticeable nonetheless.
I could not have asked for a more suitable game to give me my horror fix until the next Fatal Frame or Resident Evil arrives. While its 9GB size was no problem for my 60GB PS3, people with 20 and 40GBs are going to face a tough decision on whether or not this is a must title for them. The recent announcement the game will be coming to Blu-Ray down the road is good news for those who can wait. For those like me who couldn’t wait, Siren: Blood Curse is easily one of the best horror games on any next-gen console thus far. Never mind the fact it’s easily one of the best downloadable games on any console period. If you’ve got some time to kill before the next big game you’re looking forward to, give Siren a chance. You’ll be on the edge of your seat the whole time.