Platforms: PlayStation 2
Towards the end of 2004 two games were released, both with the same intention: to reinvigorate the moribund horror genre. The first, Resident Evil 4, took the existing elements and upped the ante with an almost lunatic zeal, revamping the controls, speeding up the pace and creating an awesome, breathless, stress machine of a game that hit you with wave after wave of feral yokels and crazed monks. Radical? Yes, but the second game arguably went further. Where survival horror had often settled on Western settings, Forbidden Siren took the Project Zero approach and explored the more unsettling vistas of Asian horror. Out went the central hero and linear storyline, in came multiple protagonists and a narrative shattered into numerous, inter-related segments.
Out too went tooled-up, tough-guy heroes and combat-driven gameplay, in favour of tense situations that put you at the mercy of a horde of murderous, surprisingly intelligent zombies – called shibuto – most of whom couldn’t be permanently disposed of no matter how hard you tried. In fact, your main weapon in the fight for survival was an ESP facility, dubbed ‘sightjacking’, which enabled you to see through the eyes of your would-be killers. By watching their behaviour and looking for signs of your character – blue and green indicators revealing their current location – you could creep past them while they were looking in the wrong direction, and so get where you needed to go undetected.
However, while Resident Evil 4 was an unalloyed triumph, Forbidden Siren bore rather more mixed results. Yes it was unique. Yes it was atmospheric, free from cliché, frightening and mysterious. But was it actually enjoyable? Maybe not. Its horrendous difficulty level, made worse by a lack of in-game assistance and sensible checkpoints, crippled the game for many players. Moreover, the whole experience was utterly bewildering. What’s going on? What am I meant to do? How can I avoid that guy killing me? It was the game www.gamefaqs.com was made for.
Well, the good news is that the path into Forbidden Siren 2 is an easier one. Early missions take you through the basics of movement, combat and sightjacking, while pre-mission hint screens give you useful tips that apply to the segment. What’s more, the objectives listed on the status screen are now fairly specific on tasks and locations, and the game has implemented checkpoints after each sub-objective, which cuts down dramatically on a) the aimless wandering and b) the tedious or frustrating repetition of huge chunks of mission that marred the first game. Best of all, Forbidden Siren 2 even features an easy mode, which ups your protagonists’ health and means that not every encounter with the walking dead is likely to be fatal.