Not since I read the synopsis for the series of books that inspired the films Ringu and The Ring, by author Suzuki Koji, have I seen such an interesting and unusual story crammed side by side with concepts that could completely flop when exposed to an American audience. Siren, much like other surrealistic Japanese fiction, is compelling, entertaining, and when it suits itself, very frightening. The difference this time is that this is a game rather than a book or a film, and unlike most other horror titles, manages to pull off the malefic and claustrophobic elements that can really up the creep factor. I'm not going to synopsize the story for you here, but I will say that it is handled well, even though it is bizarre beyond belief, and may not appeal to many gamers. I loved it, but then again, I also liked Armageddon.
Siren's gameplay is notable in two different areas. First, you can use a psychic power known as 'Sightjacking' to steal the vision and senses of another person or enemy in your area. This can provide many advantages when attempting to stealthily evade your opponents, or locate a safe route through dangerous territory. Second, Siren uses a 'Link Navigator' that shows you a map of different stages and characters you've been playing throughout the game, in order to help you understand how much of the overall plot you've uncovered and where next to go to continue advancing through the game. Combine this with a relatively high fright factor, and you've got a good game. Sadly, there are still many elements of boring and tedious try, die, and replay sections, so without Sightjacking to help out, I'd have been quite annoyed with several levels.
Most noteworthy in graphic design is the management of the character faces. They're done with high quality photorealistic textures, something like the characters from Max Payne , but with a skill I've never seen. This adds tremendous life to their actions and behaviors, a benefit which is somewhat lessened by the fact that all of the Japanese dialogue has been with English dialogue performed by English voice actors with English accents. Unfortunately, you aren't even given a chance to switch to Japanese dialogue with subtitles.
Siren is most definitely a worthy addition to a horror junkie's collection, but with only really one strong standout piece of gameplay, and some seriously frustrating elements, I'm considering this a small hidden gem. A stone in the rough that if found should be played. Otherwise, don't be too worried about looking for it.
A gruesome metamorphosis has thrown a seaside community into chaos--you can see it in their hideously realistic faces. Some grin with perverse joy as blood streams from their eyes; strange parasitic growths obscure any expression in others. You'll experience the spooky, disjointed narrative of this action-adventure firsthand through 10 playable characters, but also through the bloodshot eyes of the damned. Each protagonist possesses extrasensory perception that lets him or her see from the perspective of others--which allows you to investigate new areas but may also subject you to a freak's-eye view of unspeakable acts. No word on whether Siren's hellish song will reach North America, but we think it's only a matter of time until Sony see things our way.
The game's most interesting feature turns out to be its biggest problem. The characters you control can "sightjack" zombies, telepathicaily seeing what they see. From that, you're supposed to guess where they are, then avoid them while you figure out how to reach the level's exit. To that I say: fat chance. Locating enemies by sightjacking is like trying to draw a map of Hawaii using only strangers' vacation photos. There's no way to corroborate your guesses, since zombies don't appear on the game's map (neither do your characters, incidentally), and by the time you make visual contact, they've already popped out of the dense fog, eaten your heart, and paid the check.
After being killed 15 times or more on many of Siren's levels, I wasn't afraid of zombies anymore. I was afraid I was wasting my time."]
As with Silent Hill, the elegant, haunting atmosphere in Siren makes it a hell of an interactive horror show. But Siren strips your defenses and puts you constantly on the run--with virtually nothing to steer you on the right path. So you're actually supposed to ignore that combination lock, find a bucket to stand on, and climb a nearby shack? Sure thing. Piecing together the correct tasks while treading water in a sea of red herrings means running recon a couple of times through every stage before you'll find success. It's a promising start, but I'm hopeful a Siren 2 will emerge to work out some of the title's annoying kinks.
Siren is an experiment gone awry--a confusing fog-sacked combination of stealth and survival-horror that'll drive you batty with frustration before it can creep you out. What the hell does a phone card, old nurse's shoes, and a power line have in common? Why, you use all this crap to escape zombified hayseeds, of course. Siren's mission-based levels are full of such random junk that you must mix nonsensically. Don't worry about pesky logic; if trying to solve puzzles the smart way doesn't kill you, the crackshot undead riflemen will.