At the end of the day, Siren will appeal to fans of Asian horror cinema, but sadly not as much to everyday gamers. Asian horror is a pretty slow paced genre – think of The Ring, a great film but damn, it moves slow.
And Siren pretty much plays out like that. It looks creepy and has its scary moments, but you’re forced to wade through the muck to find them. The story revolves around a town that suffered an earthquake, which started the (emergency?) siren blaring. Soon after, the waters all began to run red with blood. Add in pagan rituals, and the overall premise is to uncover the deep mystery surrounding the town. You’re given a few characters to help accomplish this.
The device that sets Siren apart from other horror games is the ability to “sightjack”, that is, see through your enemies’ eyes, which, in this case, are mostly zombies. By assigning the four play buttons to any four zombies, you can cycle through each one and see what’s going on in different areas of the level. Through their eyes, you appear as a glint of colored light, which gives you an idea how close you are to them. You can also sightjack your friends, who you either lead or follow though the levels, using both controls and scripted commands such as “hide.”
Interesting ability aside, the game mostly utilizes this for stealth purposes, and it grows old as you progress. There’s not a lot of whack-a-zombie action, leaving you to evade enemies and find any items you need to get pass the level. Sometimes you have to repeat the same level with different characters, which only makes it worse. And seeing through enemy eyes makes you yearn for control of the enemy body, something sadly missing from the game.
Where Siren makes up for its moments of uninspired gameplay though, is in its creepy feel. Environments are dreary and gray, fog covers the land, the rivers are red with blood. The woods and buildings look realistic, reminiscent of the night scenes in the Gathering Of Developers game, The Blair Witch Project. Add to this a scratchy film grain effect and things get damn freaky. Siren even uses the “flashlight in the dark” thing well, even if it reeks of Silent Hill. What’s creepiest, however, is the face mapping technique they employed. Real faces add life to the characters that I’ve not seen in other games before, which molests the creepy meter a few notches higher.
Overall, a decent game to play on a stormy night, even if it tends to go in circles.