Siren: Blood Curse Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

System:
PlayStation 3
Release date:
July 24, 2008
Publisher:
SCEA
Developer:
SCEE
Players:
1
Genre:
Survival Horror
ESRB:
M

Siren: Blood Curse

An easy call to resist.

Review by James Cunningham (Email)
September 20th 2008

Ugh. I've been playing Siren: Blood Curse and my brain has rebelled, telling me "no more!" It's nothing to do with the many horrible things that have happened to the cast over the course of the game. Just if I have to wander through one more dark hallway where the formerly-human creatures called the shibido roam, camera hovering too close to the character's back and grain filter making the view even worse, I'm going to go blind. It doesn't help that the shibido are completely non-threatening and most of the puzzles are simple "find the key/switch" affairs. Top this off with a disjointed story that makes no sense and a cast of unsympathetic characters, and there's really no reason to care about Siren. Pretending for a moment that there is though, here's a more thorough rundown of how things went so horribly wrong.

A Japanese town mysteriously disappeared several years ago, and now an American film crew has shown up to do a documentary about it. They have the bad luck to arrive on the night when the village reappears, its inhabitants transformed into the murderous shibido, and things quickly spiral out of control. The crew gets scattered, a few locals who didn't get shibidoed show up, and everyone has their own storyline that unfolds through the chapters of Siren's twelve episodes. There are seven playable characters total, although only the young girl (brought along because her father couldn't find a sitter and figured the trip was harmless) plays differently from anyone else. It's a narrative structure that sounds good on paper, but the characters just aren't that likable, and the story ranges from stupid to nonsensical.

Take the part where two of the guys meet up after fighting past the shibido in the tunnels. During a cut-scene, they not only don't have the weapons they finished the level with but are arguing loudly, calling down a shibido attack. Later on it's shown that one guy has been transformed into a shibido when he pops up in another section of town, but when the other wakes up on the side of a road, perfectly fine despite being nowhere near the scene of the attack. In that one section we've got lack of continuity (missing weapons), stupid characters (making loud noises in enemy territory), annoying actions (petty bickering), broken in-game logic (it would have been a tricky but not unwinnable fight), and bad storytelling (one guy zombified, the other waking unharmed somewhere else entirely).

Gameplay is king though, so forgiving a failed story would be easy if Siren was any fun. It's not. The shibido are initially creepy, and come back to life a short time after being killed, but their relentless stalking is basically harmless. They go down pretty easily with just a few hits so once the creep factor wears off they're more a nuisance than anything to be feared. Siren tries to keep the threat level up by starting most chapters with the character being weaponless, and it may take a few rounds of trial-and-error to reach a weapon, but once that's done the biggest threat will either come from the occasional sniper or protecting a weaponless companion.

While the shibido aren't that horrifying, the same can't be said for the camera. Siren subscribes to the Silent Hill school of visual design, with most of its action being illuminated by flashlight and a grain filter. While the flashlight effects are perfectly serviceable, the graininess is far too chunky, making it tough to see what's on screen even in threat-free situations. I've been in the dark with a flashlight before and know what it looks like, and this isn't it. The filter isn't moody or atmospheric, and only serves to obscure vision even more than the darkness. When you add in a camera that's just too close to the character, Siren becomes an eyestrain-inducing mess.

The best thing I can say about Siren: Blood Curse is that it tried. The narrative structure is clever, bouncing from one viewpoint to the next as the days go by. There are a few unsettling scenes scattered throughout, some good level design, and the combat engine is solid. If Siren only had a decent story, threatening enemies that instilled any sense of fear, and a better camera without the gimmicky filter then it might be worth playing. As it is though, the bad vastly outweighs the good, and Siren: Blood Curse is unpleasant in all the wrong ways.

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