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Siren | review | game | Lollipop
(Sony for the PS2)
by Eric Chon
Atmospheric horror is the fad prominently on display in Siren, and there's enough of it to choke a camel. The game reeks of it. A wonderfully shady story involving ancient Japanese rituals and a blood-red river round out the package, giving it a veneer of quality. There's good stuff here, and it's readily apparent most of the time.
Not surprisingly, Siren takes place in an old country-side village populated by zombies. The story unfolds rather cryptically, through the eyes of several cast members (in more ways than one), each given time to tell their own version.
This is accomplished via "sight-jacking," Siren's gimmick. It's a truly unique and cool ability that adds an eyeful of creep-out factor. Essentially, it works like a "vision radio." Doing this allows you to see what your enemy sees, making the "sneak past-them" a bit easier. It's equally terrifying to lock onto a marauding zombie (replete with moaning sounds and shuffling movement) and see yourself trying to scramble by!
Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. Polygon count is low, making everyone look blocky and ruining some of the illusion. However, Sony cleverly mapped real faces onto the characters, providing frighteningly realistic facial expressions which would enhance the dialogue if the voice-acting weren't so goddamn cheesy, jarring you once again from a seamless gaming experience.
Even worse is that each vignette is called a "mission," complete with a blank screen giving you your objectives. What is this, Metal Gear: Zombie? Just as you're immersed in dread and foreboding, the next "mission" pops up, destroying the mood.
In fact, comparing Siren to Metal Gear is fairly accurate: You'll spend most of your time sneaking around avoiding the Guard of the Dead. I have no problem with being weaker than my aggressors, it certainly adds that extra danger to set your teeth on edge. However, when I have to sit and wait for a zombie's walking pattern to repeat itself (and I was sitting there for awhile), I feel I've stepped into an undead version of Manhunt. Waiting for enemy-patterns works for shooters like R-Type or Ikaruga, but with Siren's plodding pace, it becomes an exercise in frustration and tedium.
Siren has, at its heart, a brilliant survival-horror game. All the aspects are there, and some serious love went into it. Too bad it feels like some focus-group got their hands on an early version and gave the usual "decide by committee" death sentence. Such a shame.