The original Siren was flush with creativity but deeply, depressingly flawed. Its sequel, however, repairs the niggles that ruined its predecessor and, amazingly, steals Silent Hill's crown as the darkest, creepiest survival horror on PS2. In the first game, the rural Japanese village of Hanuda was infected by an evil taint that resurrected the dead, turning them into slobbering, flesh-obsessed monsters. In Siren 2, Datatsushi, the alien responsible for the virus, is back and spreading his foulness across the secluded holiday island of Yamijima. Holiday resort gets infected by evil and monsters? Dark and light world? Sirens going off? Very Hill, but it's an altogether different game.
As before, you take control of a large group of characters rather than one single 'hero'. These range from a soldier and a journalist to a fortune teller. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, so while the soldiers can handle rifles, the ageing security guard only has his standard issue pistol. There are also physical differences. The aforementioned security guard runs out of breath easily and stumbles when jumping from a height, while Ichiko, a 14 year-old schoolgirl, is nimble on her feet and can outrun situations where larger, slower character would struggle.
The subtle animation makes each person feel strangely real. This is helped by the amazing facial textures that've been captured directly from video, making them look scarily realistic. And the enemies are similarly eerie. There are two kinds - the Shibito and the Yambato. The Shibito are the living dead - zombies, but with faint glimmers of their past humanity. If you watch them from afar, sometimes they'll try to go back to their old routines; farmers start ploughing the land for example. It's a nice touch. You can kill the Shibito, but they come back to 'life' after a few minutes.
The Yambato, on the other hand, are clouds of black smog. The only way to disperse them is to blast them with light. Flashlights, car headlamps - anything will do. But if you get caught, ready yourself for a grisly death. When you slay a Shibito, the Yambato fl oat over and attempt to resurrect them, so fl ash your torch. Siren 2's more combatorientated than the last one but the horror element is as strong. It's a nice halfway between shooter and shrieker. Whatever that means.
The game's big gimmick, the so-called 'sight jacking' ability, also makes a return. Holding I and twiddling the stick allows you to 'tune in' to enemies' brains. You see through their eyes, which helps with the game's numerous stealth sections, not to mention finding secrets out of your view. In one clever set-piece, you play a man with poor vision who sight jacks into his dog to help him navigate. What follows is one of the most tense sneaking sections in any game ever as you creep through a fishing village avoiding Shibito zombies.
Problems? It suffers from slightly awkward controls and some oblique mission objectives that see you running around for hours trying to find a stupidly well-hidden object. But don't let this put you off. Siren 2 is an experience unlike any other and, with its unique J-horror-inspired visuals and storyline, feels like a really well-produced movie at times. But while it is creepier than Silent Hill that's only as far as ambience and atmosphere goes. There are no real scares as such and it isn't as well designed or as stylish as Konami's horror opus.
So give Siren 2 a go. If you're put off by the last game, don't be - everything's been improved. If you're after immediate thrills and Resi 4-style action, though, forget it. This is a game that relies on subtle chills - not things popping out from behind bushes and going "rarrrgh!".
One of the creepiest games on PS2. The only things holding Siren 2 back from greatness are clunky controls and some iffy mission objectives.