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Siren Reviewed by Adam Wallace on . Rating: 30%
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  • Review Score:

  • D+
One of the key elements for any good horror game is a feeling of helplessness. The best horror games have that regardless of the amount of action within them. Resident Evil trapped players in a secluded mansion. Silent Hill kept the players' view limited. Outlast gave players no means to fight the psychos. However, in those examples, players were provided with the tools and the direction needed to proceed. Unfortunately, that's not the case with Siren.

Siren definitely got the plot and atmosphere parts right. The plot involves an isolated town in Japan that is under the influence of rituals by a cult. When one such ritual is interrupted, ten survivors are hunted down by shibito, creatures who are not quite human and not quite zombies. The story is told out of chronological order, hopping timelines and switching perspectives to see what's happening to all ten of the survivors. The writing and voice acting are quite good, and the use of face scans for the characters in the cinematics adds a surreal quality that's mesmerizing.

Siren (PlayStation 2)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The visual and auditory package is excellent by PS2 standards. The town of Hanuda has a lot of detail; it feels like an isolated community. The character movements can be a bit spastic, but that actually adds to the creepy vibe. Darkness and fog are used well, understandable since the lead director is the same guy behind Silent Hill. The music is minimal, but what is there is suitably creepy.

I really wish that Siren was a movie so I could give it an "A". Unfortunately, it's a game, and the game part is what drags the whole thing down. The problem is not that it's a stealth game; I've played a lot of Metal Gear, Tenchu, and Splinter Cell in my time. The problem is that it's the worst kind of stealth game, the kind where the player can't choose just any method to complete the chapter but must instead use trial-and-lots-of-error to find the solution the developer intends. The shibito cannot be destroyed at all, but the supply of weapons in the game makes players think they can. The player is given a flashlight, but using it is guaranteed to get you killed. The characters are given the ability to "sightjack" to see things through the enemies' eyes, but the use of it is clumsy unless you're in a completely safe area. It took me over an hour of failed attempts before I even got through the first story chapter, and I was ready to feed the disk to my office shredder afterward.

Siren is one of the most aggravating experiences I ever had with a game. I wanted to press on because the story and atmosphere were phenomenal, but the game kept stopping me with its broken design. Even more tragic is that the PS3 remake Siren: Blood Curse fixed the gameplay but screwed up the story and atmosphere. Pick your poison.
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