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

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State of Decay – Sandbox Mode and 500,000+ Downloads

It hit the spot.

It hit the spot.

Big congratulations are needed as Undead Labs have achieved over 500,000 downloads for their open-world, zombie survival game, State of Decay. If this is evident to anything, it’s that the zombie sub-genre of games is not overdone, just needing a new direction. That direction being a focus on survival and not mowing them down with enough ammo to sustain an army. With these kinds of sales, it’s no surprise that Undead Labs is hard at work on patches for the game to make it more stable, but more interesting, they’re also working on additional content.

We all know, including Undead Labs themselves that a co-op mode would do more than sweeten the deal. These kind of survival games crave he ability to have a friend accompany you as you walk, run and drive through the zombie infested map. Unfortunately, this is something that will take time and will not be coming to the game anytime soon, the developers themselves have confirmed that.

On the positive side though, they have confirmed something that will be coming to the game within the next couple of months. Sandbox Mode. In this mode the story quests are deactivated and your one and only objective is to survive for as long as you can. Also confirmed is that some additional mechanics will be introduced within this mode, however no light has been shed on what they may be. For me, maybe some additional activities to keep you busy around the map or the inclusion of being able to have your home base at any of the available destinations on the map.

Unfortunately, we’re still in the dark as to whether or not this Sandbox Mode will arrive as paid DLC, free DLC or in a free update. We do know that achievements will be attached to it, but usually that means it’s a form of DLC, and usually paid DLC at that. Drop the extra achievements and let everyone who has bought the game, experience the new mode, that’s what I say. Either way, well done Undead Labs, I look forward to future products from you.

-ast

State of Decay – First Impressions

The Zombie Game we've always wanted

The Zombie Game we’ve always wanted.

Version Played: Xbox 360

Back in 2006 when I was gearing up to buy my Xbox 360, I was buying it for one game. That game was Dead Rising. With zombie games, no matter how many we receive, I’ll play them all regardless of seeking out reviews. Dead Rising remains one of my favourite zombie game franchises, but it wasn’t the zombie game we have all wanted. The survival zombie game we all crave has only really just been introduced with Day Z, yet that is only on PC. State of Decay is the survival zombie we’ve all been waiting for. Available on Xbox 360 and later to be released on PC, State of Decay puts you in the middle of an open world ravaged by zombies, with your main goal, to survive day by day.

State of Decay is the first game from Undead Labs, and by god do they impress. From the first few hours with the game everything is looking very promising. Having an open world to explore and survive in is what we have always wanted in zombie games. The world feels lived in, yet torn apart by the apocalypse. You start the game by returning from a 2 week-long trip with your friend. Upon returning your attacked by zombies and from there you find survivors and slowly learn what has happened in the 2 weeks you’ve been away.

Imagine yourself holding off a horde attack from the house.

The game revolves around survival, gathering food, ammo, medical and building supplies to help grow and protect your community of survivors. Keeping them happy and healthy is the key to success from what I’ve seen so far. Fractures can develop between people and at times you’ll be task to take people out with you to talk to them about the problems they may be causing within the group. Everyone you encounter can become your friend, and the more friends you have the better. This is because when you die, your character is dead for good and you will switch to one of their friends. All that levelling up you’ve done with the character, the bond you’ve developed, all gone and ripped apart if they fall victim to the zombies. You will be switching between friends regards of you dying anyway as your characters will need rest, so when they do, you should switch and take someone else out.

You can also use these friends you gain and survivors you choose to save to help upgrade your home base. Improving the food, helping with training people or even just being a good shot helping guard the base from the watchtower. The people you meet are just as important to your survival as you are. When out in the world searching through abandoned homes for supplies, if you come across more than you can carry, then radio your base and send out someone to pick up the rest of the supplies. Of course this is all risk and reward, you could just drop off the supplies you have and come back, but then it’s much faster sending someone out to help but they run the risk of getting attacked by zombies on the way.

The zombies in the game shamble around at first, but once they have spotted you or heard you, then they run straight at you. Usually in zombie games, I would welcome a large group of zombies to tear through, but in State of Decay, taking on more than one is always a risk. Melee weapons and firearms are your main zombie killing tools. With melee, much less noise is made, but weapons can break and they’re horrible for crowd control. Firearms on the other hand can take out a small group with well placed headshots, but make a lot of noise, which can attract more zombies than you may have bullets for. Each gun in the game can take different types of ammo, so having the right kind of bullets for the gun you’ve just found is an intense feeling. Tip: Raid the gun shop as soon as possible!

In your inventory (upgradable by the size of the bag your carrying), you also have access to consumables, from painkillers to snacks, these will fill your health and stamina bar back up. You also can carry objects to distract zombies and even kill them with the likes of homemade Molotov Cocktails and mines. This being an open world game, there’s plenty of cars to drive around too. Cars can deteriorate over too much running over of the dead, as much fun as it is. Also, this seems like a truly consistent open world too. Houses I’ve fully emptied out don’t respawn more supplies and cars, once damaged, don’t heal or respawn either. Maybe this will change once you’re a far enough distance from the location it may reset when you revisit it later. So far though, that hasn’t happened and I hope it doesn’t, it adds to the survival aspect of the game.

Driving is made more fun when your car is covered in zombies!

Driving is made more fun when your car is covered in zombies!

Even with being a few hours into the game, I’ve not touched the story very much. Not that it’s bad, in fact, learning more about the early days of the infection is very interesting and I can’t wait to see what’s in store later down the line. But with so much to do, so many people to save, so many houses to explore and raid, there’s always something for you to do. Early insight into the story though has me interested in what’s to come, and that can only be a good thing. The game is also quite good-looking too. Whilst not on par with a lot of major releases, it’s still nice to look at for a cheaper, smaller release.

State of Decay is a fantastic game so far, giving off every impression that it can only get better. The developers, Undead Labs have said this game is very much the foundation of an open world survival zombie MMO. Depending on the success of this game, we may get that game in the future. They do deserve every single sale this game receives, and if you have yourself an Xbox 360, I recommend picking this game up as soon as you get the chance. It does fall into the premium side of the Xbox Live Arcade price point, at 1600 Microsoft Points. But very much like Minecraft before it, it’s definitely deserving of the higher price point.

-ast

Resident Evil: Revelations HD (Demo) – First Impressions

Survival Horror is back!

Survival Horror is back!

Version Played: XBOX 360 Demo

Being a long time fan of the Resident Evil franchise, with it since the very beginning. I’m sure you understand my concern with the franchise at the moment. After the abysmal Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and the underwhelming Resident Evil 6, I found myself worrying that the best times had come and gone. There was however, a shining diamond, the one game that was both well received from critics and fans alike. That game was Resident Evil: Revelations on the 3DS.

Now Capcom is releasing Resident Evil: Revelations on PC, XBOX 360, PS3 and Wii U. With updated HD visuals, extra difficulty modes, a new enemy type and extra characters for the Raid Mode, it’s safe to say Capcom are now in rehab, recovering and trying the please their loyal fans once again.

Resident Evil: Revelations HD takes place between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5, and sees Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, teaming up with their respective partners, Parker Luciani and Jessica Sherawat aboard the seemingly abandoned ‘Queen Zenobia’ cruise ship, as it heads towards the city of Terragrigia. Like all past Resident Evil games though, nasty creatures await.

The demo only offered up around 20 minutes of gameplay, however even in that short time, I was given a taste of a lot of the various mechanics the game has to offer. In the section you play, your mission is to locate Chris and then find the key to the room he’s located in. Your given a small section of the ship to explore, and it’s immediately apparent that the game has a great atmosphere. You are alone (no Co-op here, yay!) and it can get dark, with nothing but your flashlight to help you see. Apart from the little mini-map at the top right of the screen, the HUD is very minimal which helps with the immersion also.

Unlike previous Resident Evil games, the controls here are much more friendly to use. No longer having to play finger twister to reload or throw a grenade, the new control scheme makes the game all the more enjoyable. It controls much like any other third person shooter now, but don’t think that’s what this game is. No, Resident Evil: Revelations HD is more survival horror than action unlike previous games. With little ammo and enemies that don’t go down with a simple headshot, encounters can become very intense. Each bullet missed, is one step closer to dying. If you play smart though and take your time, you’ll be able to manage your ammo and health fairly well with the use of Genesis.

Genesis is a scanning device you have access to that you can bring up at any time. You use this device to scan for hidden objects hidden around the levels. It’s always worth pulling the Genesis out in every room you come across to make sure you don’t miss out on those vital 5 bullets or that lifesaving green herb. It can also be used to scan enemies, alive or dead, each scan counts towards a percentage at the top of the screen. Once 100% is reached, I received a green herb. Whether or not you get better rewards later on is yet to be seen, but it does hold its advantages it seems.

Through the start of the demo your given glimpses to the creatures you’ll be facing, then you’ll be up in their face, fighting them off in the later part of the demo. Now the creatures in this game spawn from the T-Abyss virus which has been made and modified using the original T-Virus. It is a marine type virus, and the creature design does a great job of showing that. You’ll only be facing the Ooze monster in the demo, they’re slow, but take quite a few bullets to take down and can do so serious damage. They show signs of marine life with their dripping wet look and their swordfish-like arm blades. I can’t wait to see what else is going to be on offer throughout the full game.

The graphics are also a great, Capcom has done a fantastic job with updating the visuals. Main character models look great as do the enemies. However the environments, whilst looking good, feel empty at times. It’s here when you can tell this was once a 3DS game, with very little going on, everything feels so static. Other than that, I didn’t run into any problems.

Resident Evil: Revelations HD (due out next week!) is looking to be a return to form for Capcom. Delivering a survival horror Resident Evil game to the home console and PC fans. Let’s just hope they can use this mentality when moving forward in the main storyline. If Resident Evil: Revelations HD can prove anything, it’s that we don’t need zombies, fixed camera angles and cheesy dialogue to have a classic Resident Evil experience.

-ast