Review: Siren – Blood Curse
A full game cut into bloody chunks.
It’s time once again to turn the lights off and hunker down with a good ole fashioned horror game. Siren Blood Curse is a remake or re-imagining of the original game released on the PS2, except this time instead of having appalling voice dubbing, it’s been recast with American actors and from an American perspective. The story starts with a TV crew stumbling upon a sacrificial ritual, next thing you know it starts to rain blood and then it all goes to pot. The story is told in a similar way to the other games in the series in that you take control of multiple characters and the story unfolds from various perspectives. This has the effect of breaking the gameplay up into bite size chunks and is probably the reason why it was decided to release this game as a TV style episode downloads on the Playstation Network Store over a series of weeks.
Whilst all good in principle there were some issues in the implementation of this download system, the first episode had to not only download the game engine but also had to bring in the first part of the story. In practice this meant that over one gig of the first download was the game engine and at the end you were left with little over fifteen minutes of gameplay. As a result of this it has meant that the whole game has been released at the same time, although it’s still remains broken up into different chapters.
There are still obvious hangovers from this aborted distribution method as at the end of each chapter you get a brief trailer of things to come in the next chapter, and at the start of each new chapter you also get a 24 style recap. These regular interludes are directed to try and ramp up the tension and generally they work very well to generate great tension and urgency, although they do start to grate a bit if you intend to play the game for any length of time in one sitting.
This game suffers from the genre hallmarks of restrictive controls and camera with the left stick being used to move forward, backward and turn you left and right and the right stick being used to control your torch. This leaves you with no direct control over the camera and also means that you are unable to strafe or circle. There is a first person mode but this just feels like a tacked on gesture as the movement controls are as restrictive as they are in third person as you still can’t strafe and the aiming is very sluggish. This controls scheme does however add to the claustrophobic atmosphere of the game and serves to rack up the tension and unease, as a result it’s just possible to forgive them.
As in the other games in the series the ability to Sight Jack the enemies is back again. This time there has been some improvements as to how it works, with the screen splitting vertically down the middle to permanently keep half of the screen used as the view from the enemy. This allows you to time your movements much better, and the tension generated when you see yourself, from the enemies perspective, slipping round the corner is a real creepy joy.
First things first, I’m an utter pussy when it comes to survival horror games. I hadn’t heard much about Siren: Blood Curse until a few weeks before its release on the PSN (a Blu-Ray release is coming in the autumn). After hearing mostly positive things I decided to buy it, and I downloaded the whole thing at once rather than buying the separate episode packs since it work out as being around £8 cheaper.
Rather than going for jump-out scares and monster closets, the game takes a more psychological horror approach. Although having said that there are three moments when it was clean pants time, one of which was utter genius. This is basically a re-imagining of the first Siren that was released for the PS2, and was directed by Keiichiro Toyama who also directed Silent Hill. As a result of this a lot of similarities can be seen with the setting, characters and tense atmosphere.
The episodic structure is perfect for this sort of game, which is best taken in bite-sized chunks. The â€œnext time on Sirenâ€ videos at the end of each episode are a nice touch and give the game the feel of a television series. Throughout all of the episodes you take control of seven characters with the ability to sight-jack, which is the games main feature. It allows you to look through the enemies own eyes which can become slightly unnerving, especially when you are being attacked. The only downfall of the sight-jacking is that the frame rate really suffers when the screen splits and which gets even worse when you are viewing three enemies â€“ which is the maximum you can view at once.
The game takes around ten hours or so to complete and replayability is encouraged due to the collectable archives that shed more light on the mysterious goings on of story. Since this is a remake of the first Siren, I hope that after the positive reviews the second game is also remade in the same way. Siren: Blood Curse comes highly recommended whether you are a survival horror fan or a pussy.
Secondary Score: 8/10
When you sight jack you also get to hear what the enemies are doing, most of them mumble in some eerily recognisable way, from the farmer walking over and over his crops trying to plant as he did in real life to the police man who moans for you to stop and shoots at you. The feeling or unease generated through these insights into the enemies adds to the overall unsettling mood of the game.
The game uses a wide weapon set with the stronger weapons being very few and far between. Not every weapon can be used by each character as some are either too big or heavy for the character to wield, and in the case of the child Bella she is unable to use any weapon. Most of the game plays out like some fucked up scary game of hide and seek with you avoiding combat and dodging encounters, but when you find a weapon they genuinely imbue you with a great sense of power as they allow you to face off against the enemies on level terms. The weapons on offer also vary massively from kitchen knives and beer bottles to rifles and umbrellas with each one having different attributes and strengths.
The story in this game is brilliantly executed and actually makes you think. As I’ve alluded to above the story is told from the different perspectives of all the characters, each section lasting no more than 15 minutes. About half way through the game it all goes pear shaped and the twist genuinely took me by surprise and reignited my curiosity in the game. The story is further bulked out through an Archive system which is a form of database which is slowly built up throughout the game, this archive includes background information on all aspects of the story and main characters. The fact the story is elaborated outside of the main gameplay means you can choose to ether play the game as a basic horror game or you can go deeper and look at the themes running behind, it allows the player to make the choice and doesn’t shoe horn the story down your throat.
In the end this game is a very enjoyable fright fest, relying more on the overall tension and ambiance of the game rather than stand out shock moments. It has a decent story and allows the player to chose how much to get involved with this. The graphics are of a fair standard with the use of shadows being a particular highlight, and overall the game is presented in a easily accessible way. The only real negative point is it’s length with each of the twelve chapters lasting only around thirty minutes, but by having a short play time it ensures the game doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and it’s tricks stay fresh until the end. If you want a cerebral horror story which generates some genuine moments of unease then look no further.