Siren Blood Curse exemplifies what a truly nerve-racking survival horror game should be. A hybrid of different elements it builds upon its PlayStation 2 predecessors, drawing inspiration from Japanese horror films such as The Ring and The Grudge, plus recent zombie movies, presenting all of this in an episodic style, reminiscent of shows such as 24 and Lost.
Whether you purchase the full game or one of the four episode packs, each of the 12 episodes begins and ends on a cliffhanger and plunges you into a bite-sized nightmare, infested with the zombie-like Shibito.
This episodic format, downloadable via PlayStation Store, has required a reinvention of presentation, which has strengthened the storytelling potential and in turn sharply increased the fright factor. Escalating terror that is reinforced by haunting, High Definition visuals and a truly chilling sound design made possible by the series move to PlayStation 3.
Unfolding from multiple points of view, the story evolves with you playing the part of various protagonists, often isolated from each other, and at other times working together. This has enabled the developer, SCE's Japan Studio, to mix different gameplay styles into each episode depending upon which character's chapter you're exploring.
Skulking through the confines of the hospital as young girl Bella Monroe relies on stealth and cunning as fighting the Shibito is beyond her, while a more proactive approach can be taken with Seigo Saiga, who can snipe away at the fiends.
Mixing both Japanese and American characters, the game follows a TV crew from America, who has journeyed to research and film an exposé on the urban myth of cursed Hanuda, a village in Japan where the population simply vanished in the 1970s.
As you progress, more and more of the visitors discover they're able to see through the eyes of others - their fellows and the living dead Shibito. This ability to Sight-Jack lets you, almost like an old fashioned TV set, tune into what nearby people can see, allowing you to plan how you will avoid the voracious undead and find your allies. What you see is presented via split screen, which enables you to see the ghouls shambling about their business and, worse, hunting you down.
Eerily self-aware is the best way to describe the Shibito; when encountered they're often performing tasks much like they would have done in life; they can speak and recall how to use tools and weapons. Unlike traditional western zombies, the undead of Hanuda are intelligent and will come at you fast.
Siren Blood Curse is a fantastic example of survival horror and a must for anyone who enjoys a good fright. The episodic approach taken intensifies the storytelling and in turn sheer terror of the game, weaving an unsettling mystery that engages you every step of the way. Atmospherically chilling, both in terms of visual and audio design, Siren Blood Curse sets a new benchmark in horror for PlayStation 3.