Rising from the Grave: Siren

Fingers crossed for Siren on PS4!

Fingers crossed for Siren on PS4!

No matter what we may say, we like being scared. The thrill of the unknown, never knowing what is going to happen next. That’s why horror games have seen such a rise in popularity recently. The success of a single game have revitalised an entire genre. I talk of Slender of course, a game that set YouTube on fire and has spawn endless imitators. However, even with this increase on popularity, we’re still only really treated to small survival horror experiences. Where’s all the big hitters? Resident Evil is being put back on the drawing board, Silent Hill struggles to resonate with its fans and Project Zero/ Fatal Frame is currently stuck on the 3DS. This had me thinking of a game series that I use to love, yet never really struck gold with horror fans as sales were never spectacular. That series is the Siren series, developed by Project Siren, a small team working within the SCE Japan Studio.

With only 3 entries into the series, and the last one being somewhat of a retelling of the first game, I feel this is a series that died before it was ever given a chance. Siren is about a Japanese village with strong religious beliefs important in the area. The locals like to keep to themselves and have sought to keep their village isolated from the outside world. The story usually focuses on the leader of a local religion, a his attempt to resurrect or re-awaken a god through a ceremony. During the ceremony, residents immerse themselves in the surrounding water that is now red, thus creating an army of subordinates called Shibito. The Shibito then go about building a nest to house the god’s corporeal form once it is summoned, as well as killing and converting any remaining humans left, that usually includes you. With the popularity of horror games on the rise, does that mean Sony have Project Siren hard at work on a new game in the series for the PS4? This is ‘Rising from the Grave: Siren’.

It gets worse...

It gets worse…

Why? When Sony tried to reboot the series with Siren: Blo0d Curse on PS3 in 2008, they did something that was simply ahead of its time. They released the game in episodes, a format that The Walking Dead game from Telltale Games proved to be highly successful and a great way to distribute a game. They also released the game on disk too, for those of use that weren’t exactly in tune with downloading games yet. This is a strategy I’d love to see revisited for a new Siren game, with each episode ending on a cliff-hanger and a teaser for the next episode. When you think about it too, horror games fit the episodic nature extremely well, with deaths, reveals and intensity around each corner. The time is right for the next Siren episodic adventure.

How could it improve? I say it each time, but yes, the graphics could do with being upgraded. I’d actually like a more unique look to the game too, whether it be graphical or mechanical with perhaps retro style menus and items within the game. Something else that would benefit the game greatly too, is less weapons. Siren actually had a decent amount of weapons you could use against the enemy, from swords to shotguns. Maybe dial that back a bit and go a little deeper. With smaller characters not being able to handle the few larger firearms, but be quicker with their melee attacks. There’s a lot potential with being able to see through the eyes of the enemy too, with some of the scarier moments coming from that mechanic. With some tweaking, it could become a highly valuable tool to the player and one of the developers best opportunities to deliver some great scares.

Realistically, could this game happen? Project Siren had only been known for their Siren games. But in 2012, that all changed when they released a PS Vita game that saw both consumer and critical praise. This game was Gravity Rush, it was very different from the Siren games. It was such a big success for them, that it quickly gained a dedicated fan base and there is a high demand for a sequel. Project Siren has also shared their interest in making a sequel to Gravity Rush, so it would seem that a new Siren game is quite far off. However, Sony have stated that they have many first-party exclusives in development of the PS4, and we still have many of them to be revealed. Perhaps one of them is a new Siren game, if it is though, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in development at a different studio with Project Siren doing nothing but overlooking the development as they work on Gravity Rush 2.

... like this much worse!

… like this much worse!

Probability of Rising from the Grave: 58%

-ast

Hotline Miami (2013) Review

Get ready... To die.

Get ready… To die.

Version Played: PS3

I’ve said before that I wasn’t around for the 80’s, but it must have been good as we now have yet another game influence by the time period. Not just that, but Hotline Miami is also heavily influenced by 2011, cult classic, Drive. A movie so entertaining and violent, it’s hard not to enjoy it. But do all these influences make Hotline Miami a good game? No, they make Hotline Miami a fantastic game, one you should have downloading right now. Released on PC at the end of 2012, only now do we see a port of the game on PS3/ PS Vita, with cross-buy no less!

The story of Hotline Miami is a big surprise for me, being extremely twisted and fun to play through. You’ll play as an unnamed character that fans have come to name ‘Jacket’, due to the distinctive jacket he wears. You’ll start off at Jacket’s apartment, and will listen to your phone messages that give you instructions to go somewhere and kill some people. These messages are always discreet, asking you to pick up your dry cleaning at a certain address, when really they’re asking you to go and kill someone there. They are a great read, and can lead to some laughs along the way.

Once at your destination, your then tasked with picking a mask to wear to hide your identity. These masks, all of different animals, give you a perk of sorts, some let you survive a few extra shots, others let you start with a weapon. There’s even a mask that is exclusive to the PS3/ PS Vita versions of the game, a mask that turns the game black and white but leaves in the bright red of the blood, giving a very ‘Sin City’ feel to the game. From here, you have to enter the area and kill everyone inside, one that’s done, you’ll go to somewhere like a V/H/S rental shop or a pizza place and get something for free off your friend there. Then the process repeats itself, with the story moving along with it.

Straight to the point, I respect that.

Straight to the point, I respect that.

All that killing would actually become quite tiresome if it wasn’t for the amazing soundtrack too. Being upbeat, electric and 100% 80’s style, it can get you bobbing your head and tapping you feet in no time. The music makes the game pretty hypnotic too, killing to the beats of the music as it loops in the background. Whilst I’d still say that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon had the better soundtrack of the year so far, I still recommend you pick up the soundtrack as soon as you can.

Then there’s the top-down, 8-bit inspired graphics. From the face close-ups, to the violence taking place on-screen as you murder your way through the level, they are a joy to look at. My worry with this style of graphics is losing some to the detail and not being able to make something out that is relevant. Thankfully, the visuals here are extremely polished and bring back memories of playing the first couple GTA games on the PS1. For that, I couldn’t thank them enough, and the graphics help sell that 80’s feel more so than todays HD textures and detail.

Colour everywhere!

Colour everywhere!

As for gameplay, it’s essentially a twin-stick shooter. I’ve played many of these in the past on various consoles, and most of them have controlled wonderfully. However due to the precise nature needed and the high difficulty in Hotline Miami, I had my doubts. Those doubts were put to rest pretty quickly, it may take a few chapters to really nail the feel for the game as it’s so fast paced, but once you have, the game became a joy to control and with the inclusion of a lock-on button for more precise aiming, you’ll be slaughtering your way through the levels in no time. Despite that though, I feel a keyboard and mouse would still be the most ideal way to control the game.

At just £6.49, it’s impossible to state just how much game you’re getting for your money. I’ve been playing it for so long, completing the game several times and collecting all the secrets, masks and weapons, let’s just say spending £20 still would have felt just as fair. There may not be any extra modes apart from the story chapters, but there are a few extra chapters that are just for fun and a scoring system gives extra incentive to replay and get those A+. The scoring system goes off the combos you’ve managed to pick up during the level as well as time bonuses and how direct you were. This scoring system is what helps unlock some masks and extra weapons that will be available in the chapters.

SPLAT!

SPLAT!

I could talk for hours on the topic of Hotline Miami, a game costing just £6.49 giving me just as much enjoyment as a £40 game. The indie scene is a major player in the games industry moving forward, and if they keep developing games as crazy and unique as this, then I can’t wait to see what pops up in the near future. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the sequel to this amazing game, and whether or not it will come directly to the PS3/ PS Vita alongside the PC release is yet to be announced. Due for release at the end of 2013, I cannot wait to get my hands on it. So treat yourself, whether on PC, PS3 or PS Vita, pick up Hotline Miami, support the indie and put that mask on, it’s going to be a long night.

96 Animal Masks out of 100

-ast