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Siren: Blood Curse
Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: SCE Studios Japan
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror

Graphics & Sound:
First off, if you do decide to pick up Siren: Blood Curse (and if you're a survival horror fan you should), know that the song that plays whenever you select it on the PS3 media bar is probably one of the creepier things you'll hear from a game this year, so make sure something else is selected before turning off the game.

Getting to the actual presentation, Blood Curse is the downloadable semi-sequel to the PS2 game. Despite its status as a downloadable game, Sony hasn't skimped on the production values. Neither the textures nor the environments scream "next-gen", though both play into the game's macabre stylization. The awkward models add an additional bit of creep to the already dark (okay, really dark), grainy look. The in-game soundtrack is just as unsettling as the media screen music and fits in the overall aesthetic. Sound effects are just as creepy, and though they won't have you jumping at your shadows, they still add to the sense of paranoia created by a bunch of enemies that just won't die.


Gameplay:
Siren: Blood Curse is split between seven different characters, each offering a different perspective of the first game's events. The initial story follows a group of journalists looking for Hanuda village, the site of numerous human sacrifices and other occult activity prior to being swallowed by a mudslide. Logic would say that the village was covered by a mudslide for a reason, but our crew ventures on only to run afoul of the human-like Shibito. Eventually, the crew's problem is shared by several others also in the vicinity of the village.

The underlying narrative is good, though it can throw you for a loop. Rather than following a simple, linear plotline, the story jumps between different characters and their particular situations. The entire game is spread across twelve chapters, which you can purchase as three separate chapters containing four episodes ($14.99), or as one volume ($39.99). When comparing the two options, it is probably better to just splurge and go for the entire package since breaking the game into episodes works against it.

Pacing is a major concern throughout the first few episodes. The first two are incredibly short and are the equivalent of playing the first few tutorial levels of any other game. Siren begins to tip its hand in the final two episodes, though both are watered-down introductions to the two styles of play used throughout the game. As a result, the first chapter doesn't offer a full picture and makes it look like there isn't much to the game. Despite a slow start to the second chapter, the entire experience really ramps up and quickly becomes this generation's first great survival horror game. Goals and gameplay situations become more complex and, when combined with the tense mood, create a game that is really quite uncomfortable - but in that good way that keeps you on edge. Some episodes cross over into others, though each offers a slightly different twist.


Difficulty:
Your main enemies are Shibito, though unlike normal zombies, you can't kill them. Even if you manage to land a head-shot or beat one to the ground, it will spring back to life after a few minutes. Worse still, they're persistent and will chase you down as long as you're within sight. However, all is not lost. If you can manage to sneak up on a Shibito, you can use a surprise move that will knock them out even longer. When combined with the game's puzzles, this creates a serious amount of tension as well as creating sort of a puzzle within a puzzle. Even though you want to focus everything on solving a puzzle and getting to the next goal, you always have to keep an eye on the Shibito lying on the ground.

Siren: Blood Curse's difficulty really ramps up during the game's many escort missions. These are easily the most tedious portions of the game and are never fun. Just imagine playing through Resident Evil 4 with Ashley's lobotomized, lazy-ass cousin. Even if enemies are using your buddy as a human piņata, they won't do anything to defend themselves, adding babysitting to your gameplay "To Do" list.


Game Mechanics:
Each of the seven characters can use a basic set of moves and a number of weapons, consisting mostly of everyday items like pipes, boards and the random axe. Not every character can use every weapon, adding another dimension to combat.

Siren: Blood Curse's signature ability is called Sight Jacking. By holding down (L2), characters enter a trance that allows them to see through the eyes of nearby enemies. Sight Jacking is used in a variety of ways throughout the game. The more common use is to locate goals and help you side-step enemies, though it is best used when trying to solve a number of intriguing puzzles. It is worth noting that Sight Jacking may cause a few headaches and some mild vertigo. Sight Jacking is viewed through a split-screen and while your side is still, the Shibito's side can be a little shaky.

Downloading and installing Siren: Blood Curse is a pain. You are forced to download and install each of the episodes separately, which is a time-consuming endeavour. Still, Siren: Blood Curse is worth the hassle and a must buy for any survival horror fan.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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