Comparing Siren: Blood Curse's approach to the old interweaving, timeline-hopping confusion of old, it's a simpler, more linear tale to follow, and on one level this cohesion comes as a relief - previous Sirens were host to scores of vignettes scattered around a vast table of events. On the other hand, the regulation linearity means a chunk of what made Siren intriguing has been 're-cut' to fit the digestible episodic format. It's hard to make your mind up about which approach works best.
There is a positive side to this enforced focus, though. Having made the change to an episodic structure, Sony has been able to beef up the actual missions you undertake, which are generally more interesting than most of the perfunctory fetch-quests that dogged the originals. Siren 1 and 2 might have been much longer games, with many more secrets, but most of it was unnecessary padding.
Perhaps more controversially, the game's unique Sight-Jacking system has been sidelined to such a degree that you barely have to use it more than a handful of times. While previous adventures had you feverishly scanning the airwaves (brainwaves?), tuning into the viewpoints of Shibito sentries so that you could sneak past them undetected, there are precious few occasions in Siren: Blood Curse where this is necessary. Most of the time you can simply shuffle past while crouched, or run the gauntlet with a posse of undead swishing their scythes in your wake. Precious few of your enemies now wield rifles, and even getting shot a couple of times doesn't spell The End.
As with a lot of what's changed, there's ups and downs to this approach too. A lot of the cloying tension in the PS2 games was down to ever-imminent death, which is missed. But then again, there's something to be said for not dying every time you put a foot wrong, and the game retains its atmosphere and capacity to scare you. On balance, we forgive the diminished tension, which now has to be built rather than assumed. It's easy to observe that regular checkpointing and less deadly enemies dials down the true hardcore survival element of the game, but it's a far more enjoyable and accessible prospect as a result.
The game does other things to make itself accessible, too. As with Siren 2, the in-game map marks your objectives (and precisely where to get objects), which removes the complete sense of the unknown that came with clueless, painstaking (and often frustrating) exploration. Fortunately the balance is usually right. For example, you might be told that you've got to follow a posse of shambling, muttering Shibito to retrieve an artifact, but actually working out how to get it off them unarmed is another matter. We also say goodbye to those hateful psychic rooftop snipers, replaced with often equally tense but far more playable alternatives. Only on a few notable occasions do the mission objectives become needlessly straightforward, but on balance you really have to think carefully about how to pick your way through the game. There's still an essential amount of trial and error, but the solution is never that far away.
It's worth noting, for those of you still hung up on the hilariously plummy voice acting of the original, that the overall standard has improved immeasurably. Featuring the right blend of Japanese and American actors, Sony has deftly avoided making a gaudy, dumbed-down Western remake. And with lifelike avatars and richly detailed environments providing such a visually arresting proposition, it's the sort of game people can't help but stop and admire.
Another fact that's difficult to avoid when discussing Siren Blood Curse is the incredible value it represents. You're getting a game that could happily compete for a full price - around GBP 40 these days - for half that. Whether this episodic experiment pays off for Sony remains to be seen, but you can't fault it from a consumer perspective.
With these value considerations in mind, you might think that pinning a score to this excellent slice of survival-horror would be extremely tough. Do you praise the value and boost the mark accordingly, or stick resolutely to the merits of the game? As it turns out, it's not a difficult call to make, because Siren: Blood Curse would be highly recommended even if it was a full price offering. A few niggles remain in the control and combat department, but those of us schooled in slightly wonky survival-horror mechanics won't be put off. Not quite unparalleled excellence, then, but more than enough chills to keep horror adventure fans gibbering.
8 / 10