Monday, August 23, 2010

Okay, we need to have a talk.

Last night, I was browsing through the blog's back catalog, lamenting typos and surprising myself with how many articles actually should've been put in the features page when I came across this. Names have been changed to protect the troubled:

This comment is in reference to Siren: Blood Curse, a title I listed among the ten best PS3 titles to date, and gushed voluminously over in its review - one of the first two reviews I ever wrote.

To this day, Blood Curse remains the best game nobody played on the PlayStation 3. This bothers the hell out of me. Here we have a unique, beautiful, challenging, smart entry in a genre that's been all but abandoned on the current generation, and nobody gives a crap. Occasionally, I wonder if I'm just crazy. Perhaps I'm trying to convince myself that it's brilliant.

The graphics won't knock your socks off, but the visual design and lighting engine is phenomenal.

Consider the state of the survival horror genre right now. What've we got?

No, no, no. I'm not talking about action-horror. I'm not talking about Dead Space or Condemned - I'm talking old-school survival horror. Y'know what we've got on the high-def consoles?
That's it. The knee-jerk response here is that Siren: Blood Curse is merely the least-crappy of three crappy games. But it ain't. It's got a respectable 78 metascore - and before you walk away, check out some of the reviews. Specifically, check out 1up and Eurogamer. Eurogamer is a famously stingy reviewer - they score everything about 10% lower than any other publication, and they gave Blood Curse an 8.

To put this in perspective, Eurogamer also gave titles like The Orange Box, Darksiders, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne 8s.

You haven't played survival horror until you've played Bella's levels.

So it's not just me trying to tell you this game is deserving of your dollar and - more importantly - your time. I'm not crazy. Blood Curse is wonderful.

I'm not going to rehash (what I consider to be) the best review I've ever written, but here's some excerpts:
"[Siren's shibito are] a smart, purposeful variation on the standard video game zombie. Somewhere between the classic, numb shamblers of Dead Rising and the super-charged rage junkies of Left 4 Dead, the shibito are infinitely creepier because they retain so much of what they were before. The creators know well that the closer a monster is to identifiably human, the more monstrous it becomes. They remember their routines, they remember who they were (are?), and worst of all they remember whom they love."
"...Siren actually does become more than the sum of its parts. A keen eye for detail and a thoughtful, measured approach to fear permeate the game. Themes of love and destiny drive the otherwise impenetrable narrative forward to a conclusion I can only describe as mind-bending. ... It's insane, and ultimately one of the smartest games I've played in years."
"It's beautiful, disturbing, thoughtful, stressful, and unfortunately it seems to have crept right past most gamers' notice."
Ugh, that ain't right.

If it's so superawesome, why have you heard so little about it? Why haven't your friends told you about it, why haven't you found the occasional used copy in your local GameStop?

Because it's a PSN game, and its demo sucks. Europe, Asia and Japan - where past Siren games did reasonably well - all got a disc release, but the original Siren (on PS2) bombed so badly in North America, SCEA decided to make Blood Curse one of its first PSN-only titles. It had no advertising, no sales numbers have ever been released, and because it was a nine gigabyte download at a time when PS3 hard drive space was at a premium, few were prepared to risk a forty dollar purchase.

This brings me back to my friend's comment.

Let me bold this. Let me bold this and put it in red text:

The demo sucks.

It shows the lighting engine and the basics of combat, but doesn't even begin to showcase what makes Blood Curse an incredible game. You don't get a sense of the game's amazing music, the wonderful variation of the levels, the experience the different protagonists provide, the stroke-inducing storyline or a real sense of the characters. It's awful. It's useless, except as an example of the game's (technically unimpressive) engine.

Here's the purpose that demo serves. Look at the demo, and ask yourself this question:
Do you want to play a game that sounds this good, even if, graphically, it looks like that demo?
That's it. One more time: that demo sucks.

Before I let you go, dear reader, I have a request. I've linked it three or so times so far, but if you haven't read it yet, read this review. I'd played through the game four or five times when I wrote that, and had more time to reflect on the title than with (almost) any other review I've ever written. That is - aside, perhaps, from Okami's - the best-informed review I've ever done.

If all of this hasn't piqued your interest, consider this equation:

survival horror
stealth gameplay

If all this has piqued your interest, don't go to the PSN and buy Blood Curse.

Wait until October. They'll drop the price to thirty bucks.


  1. You are also fighting an uphill battle against the left over ill will from the truly terrible PS2 game.

    Of course I shouldn't talk. I play nearly everything eventually and I skipped this as well.

  2. Oh, the first one was terrible. I mean, it had some absolutely inspired ideas and the presentation was great (aside from the phenomenally awful localization), but it was incredibly, arbitrarily difficult to the level of obscenity. It just made the game no fun.

    Blood Curse quite consciously addresses every issue of the original, and is a massive improvement in every way - though purists feel the thirty-hour original has a stronger story and of course "challenge."