Seemingly out of nowhere Sony announced they were publishing Siren, a survival-horror title that promised to be unique. The games world quickly gobbled up all available info, wondering exactly what this game with the oddball name was all about. After just a few short weeks, Sony let us know…and boy, was it freaky. Seems players were to take on the role of one of ten characters trapped in a town overrun by zombies, all the while using “sightjacking” to examine the world from the zombies’ point of view. And if that wasn’t weird enough, the developers decided that these wouldn’t be your typical House of the Dead flesh-eaters. Oh Heavens no, these zombies were ingenious undead; they could walk, talk, climb and actually think their way around situations. It all sounded too good to be true, and so we were excited to see the review copy of Siren land at our doorstep. After working our way through the weird, wonky and just plain horrifying levels of the game, we can say two things. First, it definitely brings innovations to the survival-horror genre. Secondly, even though it’s innovative, it gets pretty dull after just a few levels. In the end, Sony’s shown that their designers are still some of the most original in the business, but sometimes all that “wow” comes at the cost of simple enjoyment.
Don’t get me wrong; Siren is an incredibly scary game. What other game drops you into a Japanese village soaked by a blood-colored rain and infested with people who’ve now become zombies called Shibito? What other game gives you zombies that pack the full brainpower of an adult human? And what other game lets you actually see the world through the eyes of both your friends and enemies? None. There are simply no games that offer the incredibly creepy environment, storyline and gameplay features that all come together to create an immersive and horrifyingly atmospheric world. The problem is, the game just gets dull after a few hours, and that’s unfortunate, because there’s a ton of creepy coolness in Siren.
While most survival-horror games have you hacking and blasting at zombies as you make your way through level after horrifying level, Siren takes a sort of Splinter Cell stealth approach to the whole affair. First and foremost, you can’t kill the zombies! How’s that for an oddball survival-horror twist? Still not unique enough for you? Well, since you can’t kill them, you have to spend most of your time memorizing zombie patrol routes and figuring out how to sneak past them. Instead of getting a pack load of gadgets as in Splinter Cell, you’re just equipped with maps, friends and the ability to sightjack. By switching to sightjack mode, you use the left analog stick to scan the area and tune in to the vision of other characters and zombies in the level. Once you’ve tuned in, you need to watch the world through their eyes to learn their patrol routes and make sure you’re hidden from them. Sightjacking is a very unique feature; unfortunately, the gameplay almost solely relies upon it. And frankly, you get really tired of it after a few levels. There’s only so much time you can spend in the mind of a monster, watching it walk a route, then switching back to your character and trying to sneak by the bad guys. It’s dreadfully repetitive after just a short bit of time, even when you are switched between one of the ten characters in the game. Most of the characters feel pretty much the same, as all they are good at is running and Sightjacking. In the end, it feels like the only reason there are extra characters in here is to flesh out the storyline.
If you want creepy atmospherics, this is the game for you. In no way did Sony skimp on the production values. The graphics and sound suck you into a truly horrific world and don’t let go. There will be many occasions where you might have to put the controller down and catch your breath. From the very first Shibito encounter, you’re going to be freaked out by the environments, sounds and the voice acting for the zombies. Sightjacking is a visual treat, as it works like tuning a TV, static and all.
Fans of the typical survival-horror game might be hard pressed to play through more than just a few levels of Siren, as it’s all about stealth over slaughter. It’s more like “Sam Fisher gets dropped into Hell” than it is a Resident Evil. Stealth and puzzle gamers will probably enjoy the sneaky nature of the game more than action gamers will.
Siren is a good game with plenty of innovation, but the general “sightjack, sneak, repeat” gameplay gets stale after a short bit of time, and the lack of action makes the game hard to stay interested in. It’s surely a game that will have a dedicated and fanatical fan base thanks to its innovations, but the majority of gamers will probably rent it and move on. One thing is for certain; the more unique elements of the game will certainly be lifted for future titles by other developers and publishers.
- Gameplay: 8
- Graphics: 7.5
- Sound: 8
- Replay: 6
- Overall: 7.5
- Creepy and atmospheric, but not all that exciting.
— Craig Falstaff