Siren US Version Hands-On Impressions

We spend a few minutes getting freaked out by Sony's unique and engaging horror game (now in English).

Sony has a new and presumably near-final build of Siren, its upcoming strange and original horror adventure game, on display at the Game Developers Conference. We spent a little time getting into the introductory part of the game today and were duly impressed (and a little creeped out) by the way the game is set up. Siren ought to be one of the more entertaining horror games in recent history when it releases on the PlayStation 2 in late April.

Little, if anything, has changed about Siren since our last few looks at the game; most notably, it's now in English. At the least, we were able to pick up a lot more of the storyline, such as it is, and generally get into the quirky, engaging gameplay more smoothly since we could understand the instructions and onscreen cues being given to us.

Siren fits pretty squarely into the survival horror genre, except for two substantial divergences. For one, the game uses a nonlinear, Pulp Fiction-like narrative structure, in which the overall plot arc is related to the player out of sequence and from the perspective of multiple characters. If this sounds like it'll make the story hard to keep up with, it sort of does--at least throughout the first minutes of the game. You'll play through scenarios that are only a few minutes long before jumping to another time and, perhaps, another character, so your consumption of the storyline will be disjointed at first. A handy feature called a "scenario link navigator" is included, however. It looks a little like a day planner and lets you keep track of which character is doing what and when (whew). Interestingly, you'll even be able to replay certain events later on so you can attempt secondary objectives.

The other off-the-wall aspect of Siren is a new gameplay mechanic called the sightjack system. By sightjacking other characters, both friend and foe, you'll be able to look through their eyes and get an idea of where they are and what they're doing. This comes in extremely handy when you're unarmed and trying to evade the sinister denizens of the small Japanese village in which the game is set. Further, it's pretty creepy to be wandering around in the dark and then to look through your stalker's eyes and see...yourself. Yikes. You'll have to use the sightjack ability to solve some difficult problems and progress through trouble spots, so it's not just a novelty--it's quite useful as well.

Siren still looks as creepy as it did in Japanese, with uncannily realistic character models and sparse, darkened backgrounds that let you see just enough of what's going on to scare you a little. Though the story is set entirely in a quaint Japanese town, the voice acting is all inexplicably British, which adds an amusing cross-cultural quality to the game. What we heard of the English voice-over was quite satisfactory and seemed to fit in with the overall presentation of the game nicely. It seems as though the localization team has done its job well.

Siren is currently slated for an April 20 release, and from what we've seen, Sony should have no problem hitting that date. We look forward to further exploring the sinister world, interesting situations, and innovative mechanics that seem to be on offer, and we'll bring you more on the game as its release date approaches. For now, check out new screenshots and new movies on our media page, as well as our previous coverage.

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