Siren is a survival horror game set in the small Japanese village of Hanuda. Every thirty years a strange rain of blood falls on the town which turns most of the villagers onto bloodthirsty zombies known as Shibito. You have the misfortune of finding yourself trapped in Hanuda after an earthquake. It also happens to be time for the latest one of these rains and you are forced to struggle just to survive the Shibito, let alone figure out why Hanuda is so cursed. Oh, and by “you” I mean the ten of you because Siren’s story unfolds through the experiences of ten people who find themselves in Hanuda on this fateful night.
|The flashlight illuminates your path but also makes you noticeable to the Shibito.|
The gameplay is divided into nearly 80 chapters in which you must accomplish a set of goals to complete the chapter and unlock the next. As you move from chapter to chapter you’ll take control of one of these ten souls that share a knack for bad timing. The chapters are disjoint in time and overall do a good job of interweaving the experiences of the ten different characters as you learn how each of them have come to Hanuda and unravel its mystery.
Siren does a good job of generating a suitably scary atmosphere. The rain falls on deserted streets and creepy woods, street lights provide inadequate lighting leaving much of the area in shadows, and the low murmuring of the Shibito can be heard in the darkness. Even the daylight can’t offer much solace as Hanuda seems to be perpetually fogged in. Although the locations don’t boast a lot of details, the environment has an almost surreal, dream-like look to it that fits the storyline really well.
If you’re looking for a game that lets you kill hordes of demons, then you’re looking in the wrong place. Siren’s gameplay emphasizes stealth and staying away from the Shibito as much as possible. Even when armed with a gun or other weapon you won’t be able to kill the Shibito, only put them out of commission long enough to make your getaway - the red rain always brings them back to life.
To aid you in evading the Shibito the game makes use of a special feature known as sightjacking. All of the characters that you control in the game have a special psychic ability that allows them to “tune in” to the thoughts of nearby people and Shibito and see and hear the world through their eyes and ears. To sightjack, you hold down L2 and move the left stick to pick up the minds of local beings in a process not unlike adjusting a rabbit ears antenna on a TV set. When you’ve managed to get a strong signal, you can press a face button to lock onto the frequency. This allows you to track multiple people easily without the need to constantly take the time to search around for the right frequency. This is a very good thing because you’ll need to make a lot of use of sightjacking in the game.