Syphon Filter The Omega Strain
The Syphon Filter virus is breaking out across the world and our hero Gabe Logan can't possibly stop it all by himself. Fortunately, you can help the cause by joining his recently rebuilt agency and traveling the globe to stem the infection and find a cure. Gabe has saved the world three times already--can you fill his shoes? Or, an even-better question: Will you run as ridiculously as he did in the previous games?
The Omega Strain continues the Syphon Filter tradition of stealth gameplay and all-out guns-blazing action, with huge levels, branching missions, and more than 100 weapons and gadgets to use (but you can only carry four at a time). The kicker, though, is the online component; you can join up to three other players and tackle all 17 single-player missions cooperatively, drastically changing your mission approach. And you'll finally have another use for that dusty SOCOM headset, since The Omega Strain supports online chat. For the little girl in you who misses playing with Barbies, Syphon Filter even includes a customization feature, so you can dress your warrior in myriad fatigues, gloves, handbags, and pumps.
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Back during the hey-day of the original PlayStation, Syphon Filter was the king of covert-op action - but as the PlayStation faded away with the arrival of the PS2, so did the Syphon Filter series. Resurrection seems to be in the cards, however, as nearly three years later, the next installment arrives on the PS2 with Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain. Can it live up to its past glory? Read on to find out.
Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain has all the makings of an enjoyable covert action game: a twisting plot filled with mystery and intrigue, equally engaging mission objectives, and most importantly for a game of this type, some fun and adrenaline pumping action. However, Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain seems to be built with multiplayer intentions mind, not single player. For example, levels are absolutely huge and filled with tons of objectives. Not only is it hard to actually go out and complete the objectives, but finding your way around the levels to figure out what you have to do is also a huge pain since accessing the map doesn't pause the game, giving enemies ample opportunity to riddle you with bullets. And there are lots of enemies. Tons. Enemies constantly re-spawn in some areas, and often it's just best to run past them when you have to backtrack through the level. It seems a lot of these gameplay decisions were made to cater to the online portion, but a little more consideration into the single player experience would've helped out considerably, especially for all the gamers out there without a connection to the 'et.
Online is where Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain really hits its stride though. All of the problems that mar the single player game seem lessened in comparison during multiplayer sessions: the overly ambitious level objectives are a lot easier to tackle when there's three others by your side, the constant stream of enemies are much easier to mow down with a few buddies, and the map system makes a lot more sense. Overall, it's just a much more enjoyable experience online.
It isn't exactly a graphical masterpiece howeber, but it works. It's obviously going for a realistic, gritty look, but it uses a limited color palette, giving all of the environments a drab and uninspired look. Character models, however, look nice and the character customization options available are extensive, though much of it will have to be unlocked through the course of the game.
Audio-wise, Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain is pretty average. The music isn't half bad, but the implementation of some of the voice acting wasn't done too well. One teammate, a strong and spunky female type, will constantly barrage you with comments that don't fit into the context of the situation, like telling you to hurry up when your objective isn't on the clock.
Sometimes, Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain will hit the mark, providing an immensely entertaining experience. At other times however, it just seems way too ambitious for its own good, providing an equally frustrating experience. If you were a fan of the original Syphon Filter games on the PSX, then chances are you'll dig The Omega Strain in spite of its problem - just make sure your network adapter is set firmly in place before you buy it.
In videogames, terrorism is the new kidnapping. Used to be, when game developers needed to whip up an antagonist in a hurry, they just had a couple of beefy thugs sucker-punch the main character's girlfriend and carry her away. These days, they have some militia-like organization try to blow stuff up. Syphon Filter doesn't dress up the cliche--the game is full of bombs to disarm and villains with silly accents to shoot, and that's just fine. Straightforward run-and-gun action gets the blood pumping. ...Until you have to stop to check the map, which is all the time. That's a problem, because looking at the map doesn't suspend the action. Bad guys will shoot you dead while you figure out whether your objective is on the second floor or the third. (Poor sportsmanship!) As irritating as that is, it's manageable; just be sure you've killed all the enemies in the area before you plan a route to the next goal. But what's with all the busywork? Every level has at least one painfully repetitive tacked-on objective. Set five C4 charges. Collect six data samples. On one mission you're asked to lock the four entrances of a terrorist-held building so that the local police don't wander inside and get killed. Is that a job for a supersecret agent? The game would have been stronger without so much pointless padding. Thankfully, once you've accomplished any part of an objective, it stays done even if you die. In fact, dying is hardly a setback in Omega Strain. Kicking the bucket hurts your score (which unlocks optional levels and better weaponry), but it doesn't slow your progress through the story. It's a pretty clever setup, actually. Casual gamers can blast through this adventure in a weekend, while more serious players will want to hone their skills and improve their score in order to see everything the game has to offer.
Omega Strain displays all the initial symptoms of a smart shoot-em-up but degenerates into a low-fever game of good guy/bad guy. After lying dormant for years, the series should show visible signs of improvement, and in that respect, Strain doesn't disappoint. Around the world in 17 scenic and exciting missions, you'll visit (and violate) the palaces of tin-pot generalissimos, slip through dusty Middle Eastern marketplaces in disguise, and duel snipers in Russian snowfields. A few too many missions ask you to play errand boy--plant explosives here, and here, and, oh yeah, over here too--but you'll have some say over your itinerary and can see the story through even after scrapping several of the less interesting objectives. It's the controls, however, that'll get under your skin. Auto-lock is so useless that enemies will ask for seconds even when it looks like you're force-feeding 'em whole magazines. The rest works, just not very well. For instance, Strain maps aiming and movement to the same analog stick, so you can't shoot accurately without stopping to bring up your scope. Splitting up your duties with three other germ warriors in co-op quadruples the strategy and takes the sting out of backtracking, but sickly controls still contaminate the online experience.
This game feels so piecemeal, and I mean that in the most unflattering way possible. I imagine part of the development process went something like this: "Hey, how come some of the levels are full of extra paths and real estate that don't necessarily make sense?" "We had extra memory." "What about controls? We do have this archaic control scheme leftover from pre-dual-analog-stick days...." "Done and done." Oh crap, we ran out of buttons on the controller. How will the players change weapons? Ooh! Light-bulb moment! How about the weapon-select on...the Select button! But that would be very awkward for players. Plus, if they run out of ammo and have to switch weapons in the middle of a fire-fight, they'll have to let go of the analog stick and become immobile--a total sitting duck. Hey, then God shouldn't have named that button 'Select.' Do it...do it abuse because I care. The Omega Strain had so much potential, with a great rewards system that gives you lots of stuff to unlock and four-player cooperative online play (which, by the way, gives us yet another button that creates a sitting-duck situation: Up on the D-pad to voice chat, so forget about talking to your human teammates while the action's hot). But sloppy game design and cumbersome controls filter out almost all of the fun.
Previous Filter action hero Gabe Logan is now in charge of the Agency. You play as a new recruit, whom you create and customize. Best feature? Tackle the game's 13 missions alone or with up to three other players online (broadband only).
HOW WAS IT?
It's not a positive sign when the shooting in a game based around gunplay gets repetitive. And the inability to hit nearby enemies while waiting to reload makes the game feel dated already. Prognosis: It's good that February is so far off.