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They don’t like outsiders in Hanuda. Buried in the mountains of rural Japan, the once-peaceful village has become home to a religious cult attempting to resurrect an ancient demon, and in the process its residents have become Shibito; shrieking, murderous zombies who bleed from the eyes and skewer trespassers with pitchforks. And guess what? You’re there, you’re lost and it’s raining blood. While previous Siren games came on traditional discs, Blood Curse is split into 12 episodes, which can be downloaded in packs of three from the PlayStation Store. It’s a genius idea because at the end of each unbearably tense episode you genuinely can’t wait to find out what happens to the characters so the temptation to splash out on the next three is great. For those in the UK, it can also be purchased in full on a disc.
There are seven characters in total who have all found themselves lost in Hanuda, and they range from an eight year-old girl to a middle-aged university professor. As with previous games, stealth is your priority; sneaking past the Shibito is infinitely preferable to engaging them in combat. This is helped by the characters’ ‘sight jacking’ ability, which enables you to look through your enemies’ eyes and track their movements to slip past unnoticed. It also prompts some truly chilling moments when you see yourself on-screen and the realization hits that a Shibito is closing in for the kill. Sight jack and the screen splits in two, revealing your pursuer’s point of view to the right, and your own to the left. In the previous games you initially had to use the analogue stick to ‘tune’ into nearby Shibitos’ brains like cursed TV channels, but the system has been simplified here, letting you browse through every enemy viewpoint in the area with the shoulder buttons. And while this streamlining sacrifices a sliver of the earlier games’ atmosphere, it benefits Siren’s overall flow.
Aside from tightened controls and enemy AI that’s terrifyingly less predictable than before, Blood Curse plays almost identically to the first two games. It’s defiantly slow-paced and you’ll spend most of your time hiding and edging past enemies when their backs are turned. But on the rare occasion you find a gun, events gain a panic-stricken momentum. Shibito run madly at you and the way they drop sharply to the ground when you pop them is deliciously macabre. Forget Condemned 2, Siren is actually PS3’s most horrifying game, beating it for pure chills. The eerie photo-realistic faces of the first two games have been replaced with traditionally modeled ones, but they still look incredible; especially the Shibito, with their deathly pallor and bleeding eyes. The environments, too, are superb. Hanuda and its vicinity are deeply grim places to dwell – all rural normality skewed to exude menace.
Our main criticism of Blood Curse is how short the episodes are. You can storm through each one in just under an hour, and some take less time still. That said, there is some incentive for replay in the form of the game’s archives. When you finish a chapter you receive documents, videos and other items that can be viewed through the main menu, giving background on the characters and their motives for being in Hanuda. Their interactions and relationships are nicely sophisticated. Blood Curse is Siren minus the earlier games’ twitchy controls, dodgy combat and cruel AI. If you want an absorbing horror story with some truly creepy set-pieces, it’s well worth sampling the first three episodes. You may find an extended stay in Hanuda irresistible.
Jul 25, 2008