Run, run while you can. They are coming after
you – perhaps not especially fast, but doggedly and with evil intent.
Siren is an in-house PlayStation2 title from
Sony Computer Entertainment America that is a single-player ride into a Japanese
village that has suddenly become the home of evil. Not only has the population
of this village been turned into inhuman monsters, but those who have somehow
avoided being changed are being hunted.
In that way, Siren sounds like a survival
horror title, and that is not far from the truth of the matter. The time frame
for the game is three days, but events do not happen sequentially. Nor are you
stuck playing one character throughout the tale. There are 10 characters
involved in this tale, and they have a somewhat remarkable psychic ability at
their calling known as sightjack.
Sightjack basically allows your character to
see through the enemy’s eyes – as though stealing, or jacking, their vision. You
can see them watching you, and can predict their actions. You can also attune
the sightjack settings to hotkeys, in order to enter the mode and switch quickly
from NPC to NPC to see where they are and how they perceive you. This is an
amazing little bit of trickery, and even the set-up is cool. Activating
sightjack is like tuning a television receiver – there is snow one moment, then
the image slowly comes into focus as you use the thumbstick to fine-tune the
There are 10 playable characters in this game,
which mostly evolves around the idea of survival horror. As mentioned, the
missions (78 in all) do not play out sequentially, but when you begin stringing
them all together, you will see the overall story of the game.
The game itself begins simply enough. You are
put into a scenario where your first character sees something “suspicious,” a
ceremony of sorts, then runs from it, only to begin having psychic episodes
while having a zombie policeman chase him. The policeman is, of course, firing a
gun. The young Japanese man is seemingly trapped in an area bordered by locked
walls, a port-a-potty, an office and a locked truck. Hmm, maybe unlocking that
truck may aid in the escape.
Ok, you find the truck keys, then use the
truck to run over the policeman zombie and end the pursuit, or do you? In the
next mission, that zombie gets up and shoots you in the chest, and you fall into
water below the area where you were first challenged. There were walls there
before prohibiting you from going down there, but now you have and you should
have bled to death with that hole in your chest. But that leads to more
supernatural phenomenon, which is what this game builds on.
The animation in this game is really solid,
and the atmosphere would be quite creepy except for one little thing. There is
no real sense of urgency because the interface interrupts the flow. Take, for
example, that opening scenario. You are in an office, with the zombie policeman
shooting at you, clawing through the door when an action becomes available. The
popup freezes the game and gives you some limited options. Do you want to unlock
that door? Do you want to pick up that item?
The game does a wonderful job of setting a
tone, then manages to release some of the tension with the interface. If not for
that, this game could well have been downright creepy.
Siren still manages to pull of some nice
innovations in the horror genre. The sightjack element, the way the 10
characters missions seem out of sequence and then weave together for a dark tale
are all well-designed elements. The only thing that holds this game back from
being a horror classic in the making are the game flow interruptions.
This game will be rated M for mature.
The game is supposed to have a horror element
to it, one that builds and has an eeriness that will have players on the edge of
their seat. Unfortunately the player interface sort of interferes with that. The
game’s mechanics slow down and causes constant breaks in the fluidity of the
game, and detracts from the game’s atmosphere.
The environments are seemingly finite
mapboards, but do carry the atmosphere of the game well. The animations are
smooth as well.
The ambient effects and musical score do a
good job of setting up the story itself. Some things are overly explained or a
bit convoluted in the explanation, but the sound is a strong element here..
The game has no challenge or difficulty levels
and does get progressively tougher as you move through it.
The game has a solid idea but would have been
much better in rendering the terror or tension without the breaks in the action.
The interface is somewhat intrusive, more than anything else.
This is a game that is somewhat eerie and
evolving, but the mood is broken by the interface and even the sightjack
feature, while an intriguing concept, detracts from the mood. Siren has a lot of
good things going for it, but the pacing hampers if from being a terrific title.
Still, if you are looking for a game in which your survival instincts are
threatened, in which the mysteries at the heart of the game are colored in evil
rituals and terror, Siren may well be the right call.