Siren Impressions

We try out the US version of Sony's upcoming horror game.

Siren was originally released in Japan late last year, and this April it will be making its way to the US. Sony's survival horror game takes place in a small fictitious village in Japan, called Hanuda, in which a mysterious ceremony takes place every 30 years. Unfortunately, this time out an earthquake disrupts the mystery ceremony and leaves the town surrounded by a sea of red liquid. If this isn't enough to bring down property values, the locals have become living dead creatures, called shibito, that are keen on killing you. We had the chance to take a stroll through the troubled village--in the US version of the game--to see how the game is shaping up.

You'll play as a total of 10 characters over the course of Siren, all of whom are in the town for their own reasons. The game spans a number of short chapters that are set over the course of a three-day period. In each of the chapters, you'll control one of the survivors, and you'll complete various objectives, such as guiding the survivors to a destination point on the map. A menu called the link navigator will let you keep track of which of the game's 78 chapters you've completed, and it will show you how they relate to one another. In some casers, you'll see that action taken in one chapter will affect your experience in another.

Siren’s control and game system is similar to Resident Evil, although not every character you control has access to a weapon, which forces you to use your head. The lack of weapons for every character in the game also affects the game's overall pacing, which is much more deliberate and similar to Silent Hill. The lack of weapons also requires more thinking when passing through many parts of the map. One skill you'll be able to use to stay safe is a psychic power called "sightjacking," which lets you tune in to other people's vision, including your partner's or a single shibito's. By pressing the L2 button and going in to tuning mode, you can search for someone's vision (through a screen of static and white noise) by using the left analog stick. The process is similar to tuning in to a radio station or finding good reception on an old TV screen by playing around with its antennas. Once a clear screen is found from the debris of noise, you can preset it to one of the four main controller buttons, and you can come back to viewing it whenever it is needed. This ends up being pretty useful as you play, especially when a zombie is chasing you around, since you can see in real time if it has stopped its pursuit. Furthermore, you can track a zombie by using this ability.

While the atmosphere and silence in Siren give it a scary feel, it plays more like an espionage game than a thriller. You'll have to try to walk around without being discovered by the shibito--unless you're packing a weapon--since encountering them when bare-handed leads to a game over. At times, you'll have to also think of ways to lure the zombies around to advance farther into the game, which makes for some cool puzzles.

Given the depth and scope of the game, it was hard to get a solid feel for how the US game has captured the more esoteric story elements from the Japanese game. However, the atmosphere is intact, and the game's graphics still manage to pack some punch. Siren is slated to ship this April for the PlayStation 2, so look for more on the game in the coming months.

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