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  Review: Siren
On 07/02/04 by Stephen "Sgt. Bilbo" Carmichael

Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment Japan
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Release Date: 04/20/2004
ESRB: �M� for Mature
Platform: PlayStation 2

Midnight. A mysterious siren wails in the distance. Suddenly, a mysterious lake of red appears around the secluded village of Hanuda. The once peaceful village is now in turmoil, inhabited by its now zombified citizens, now called Shibito. Your mission: to discover the nature of the siren, and a way to reverse the apparent curse over the village of Hanuda. Sounds like a really great setup for a survival horror classic, doesn�t it? Well, however great the story may be, the game itself plays more like a Shibito: Slow, and occasionally, excessively stupid.

Gameplay
The game begins �yesterday� with the main character, Kyoya Suda, in the woods, when he hears someone in the distance. He goes to investigate and finds a girl and her white dog setting up what appears to be an altar. When she sees Kyoya, she runs away. Cut to the next section, �yesterday� at 11pm. Kyoya then witnesses a strange ceremony, but interrupts it, and thus sets of the chain of events that a listed above. After watching an in-engine cutscene, you gain control, and that�s where the real game begins.

Gameplay and controls really make or break the survival horror genre, and this game takes a few standards and then adds its own unique twists. The game control is pretty straight forward, with the left analog stick to control your character. Where the game gets unique is its use of the right analog stick. Most games use this to control the 3rd person camera, rotating and zooming in, etc. Siren does this a bit different. Since your character has a flashlight for much of the game, you use the right stick to move the light around and illuminate your surroundings. While this aspect is very cool in theory, it has to be done correctly in execution. Siren, unfortunately, does not do this well. By default, the Y axis is backwards, which is instantly counterintuitive. Control-wise, we are wired to push up to look up and down to look down. Since Siren deviates from this, it makes controlling your flashlight and your view, extremely frustrating. In a game like this, seeing your environment is a major thing, and with this problem, it makes the game a little more difficult to control than it should be.

Siren has atmosphere dripping everywhere, and it shows the developers took a lot of pride in their work. The village of Hanuda is striking in its detail and the layout is such that you can�t see that far ahead of you, which can make for some very tense moments. Unlike the Silent Hill series, which uses skewed camera angles and some very disturbing imagery, Siren goes more for the atmosphere of uncertainty and unknown instead of the foreboding dread of Silent Hill. What makes this aspect of Siren very appealing is the use of stealth tactics. Shibito are aware of light and noise, so you have to be exceedingly careful when entering areas, otherwise you might become a shibito�s snack. This is an excellent concept and this reviewer hopes that other survival horror games take this idea and expand on it. The only downside to this mechanic is that you never really know just how loud or visible you are to the shibito, which makes the stealth gameplay a little tedious sometimes, but its not enough to detract from the game.

A totally new idea for survival horror that Siren brings to the table is �Sightjacking�. This ability allows you to take over the sight of the shibito around you and allow you to figure out where they are, since most of the time you can�t see them until it�s too late. While you can�t control the shibito you�re jacking, you do get to see everything from their viewpoint, which helps when you�re trying to navigate your way around an area and not be detected. This is an excellent gameplay device, and one that adds a few scares to an already terrifying game, especially when you jack a shibito you didn�t know was there, and it�s looking right at your character. A very nice ability that should be expanded upon if Sony decides to make a sequel.

Story is the one area that Siren does drop the ball a bit. The game�s story is told through the eyes of ten different people, all at different times, and while a great idea in theory, it does not help when the gamer is trying to understand the story. Since each character is played for only a short time before you switch to the next one, you never really get a firm connection with the person you�re controlling. There is a navigation screen that shows you how all of the characters are intertwined, but there is very little incentive to take the time to read every single link to get a good firm grasp on the story. The story does have some branching moments, and multiple endings, so there is some incentive to play through the game multiple times you really desire to see the different endings.

Graphics
The graphics in Siren are a mixed bag, but they do accomplish their goal of creating a terrifying environment. Inky blackness pervades most of the environments, and the graphical effect of the flashlight is very effective in creating that sense of unknown fear just beyond the light�s edge. Very few games have this effective lighting, and I give major props to Siren for this accomplishment. The levels are well done, but the PlayStation 2�s graphical limitations are beginning to show in the form of washed out textures and jagged edges in certain areas.

Character models leave a bit to be desired. The characters have a fairly low polygon count, and have a very strange look about them. The textures used for the characters are very realistic, but the models are not, so they have an odd look about them. The main character, Kyoya, is one of the stranger looking ones, with no discernable chin on the model. It reminds me of the man from the painting �The Scream.�

One bit of consistency in Siren is that the character models from the game are used in the rendered cutscenes, which does keep the look of the game consistent throughout.

Sound

Siren�s audio resides at both ends of the scale on both good and bad. The sound effects are decent, as is the soundtrack. The soundtrack, what little there is, has a very Japanese feel, which goes well with the setting of the game. Consistency is always a plus when sticking to a theme, and Siren succeeds well at this. Sound effects are pretty standard, with gunfire and blunt objects creating the correct impact noise.

The problems with the audio are in the voice acting. WHY OH WHY can Japanese developers, when translating the games for the West, not allow for the original Japanese voice acting? The English voice acting is horrible, nearly laughable. In some parts, it makes the original Resident Evil sound like a masterpiece. The original Japanese version had excellent voice acting, and allowing US gamers the right to hear this would have been greatly appreciated.

Overall: Fun, but flawed survival horror. Worth a rental at least.

Note to the Developer: Allow US gamers the choice of English or Japanese voice acting.

Final Score: 7.0 / 10.0
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#1 - KellyX - 07/02/04 @ 06:23 PM EST
I thought it sucked myself... ;)

I'll sell my copy to anyone that wants it for $30 =)
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#2 - Bulldog - 07/02/04 @ 06:34 PM EST
Testing w/ anon commenting removed.
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#3 - dougman - 07/03/04 @ 10:15 AM EST
wah?
no screenshots?

also many gamers use the "non inverted Y-axis" as it is "normal" to them. The/snt have a invert Y option for you, the game control itself is not flawed.Last Edited on 07/03/04 @ 10:24 AM EST
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#4 - sweetjimmy - 07/04/04 @ 12:27 PM EST

It was harder than hell to break the habbit of up=down, down=up, but once I did I found I can now play either way but it takes a short time to accustom myself to it.

/ only reason i started using inverted was because I used to enjoy flight sims a helluv a lot and it just came natural to me that if you pull back, your nose comes up.
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#5 - dougman - 07/04/04 @ 02:06 PM EST
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for me
Y-axis
FPS and third person: push up = down, push down = up
/
X-axis:
for FPS: push right = look right, push left = look left
for Third person: push right = look left, push left = look right.

makes sense.
EVERY Game should have an X AND Y invert option.
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#6 - Oracle Dragon - 07/04/04 @ 02:18 PM EST
You invert the X-axis to? FREAK!

:)


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