Time to change the filter. Review

Joe Dodson
Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain Info

genre

  • N/A

players

  • 1 - 4

Publisher

  • Sony

Developer

  • Sony

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PS2

rating

Time to change the filter.

Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain is the latest in a line of lackluster

sequels to the classic Syphon

Filter
for the PSX. While the developers apparently tried to raise the Syphon

Filter
standard with an interesting new emphasis on cooperative online

play, poor balance between the single and multiplayer as well as

a host of old maladies will prevent this Strain from spreading like it

should.

To date, Syphon Filter‘s only lasting achievement has been its

dynamic plot. Even though the basic story plays out like a Tom Clancy novel with

tons of predictable double crosses and exhausting plot turns, its presentation

is marvelous in that you can piece everything together through the extensive

Zeus Files, which include several diverse sources such as media clippings and

political papers.

The

story itself is a little unsettling given recent real-world events. Gabe Logan

and friends are now official and work for Uncle Sam as the International Presidential

Consulting Agency, or I.P.C.A. This is essentially a top secret group allowed

to operate with extreme prejudice in order to whack terrorists and hunt for the

deadly Syphon Filter virus. Hmm’killing terrorists and looking

for a WMD
? How far fetched!

Anyway, this time you don’t reprise your traditional role as Gabe Logan, but

instead step into the combat boots of an I.P.C.A. rookie. What this rookie looks

like is up to you thanks to Syphon

Filter
‘s mediocre player creator. Although you aren’t presented with

nearly enough customizable features from the outset, you can eventually unlock

more hairstyles, shirts and weapons.

Your character begins the game with just a hand-gun and a stun baton, the bottom

of the barrel in terms of firepower. As you beat levels and complete objectives,

you’ll gain new weapons, and so the gamer who completes the most objectives

and gains the most experience will earn the right to wield the wickedest weapons.

Not that it really matters much, though, due to Syphon Filter‘s

primordial play mechanics. The game is played from the third-person, but instead

of using the left stick to strafe and the right stick to aim and steer, Omega

Strain
employs the same L2/R2 strafing dynamic it has used since its

heyday on the PSX.

This has got to go. The control scheme is so convoluted and

the right stick so wasted that there is no easy way to change weapons. Instead

of quickly tapping R or L, you have to hold Select first. Argh. Another answer

would have been to either pause gameplay ala Metal

Gear
or drastically slow it down ala James

Bond: Everything or Nothing
.

Unfortunately, Sony seems unwilling to incorporate new ideas, and so their

game is stuck in the 90s.

Most

of the game’s 17

missions can be played both offline and online ” any mission beaten

online is considered beaten in the single-player as well. The idea here is that

if you find a single-player level too difficult, you can hop online, find up

to three other players to co-op with, beat the mission, then go back to your

single-player game and continue to the next mission.

Unfortunately, the play balance is terrible and results in overly difficult single-player

levels. For example, each level has an overall time limit which supposedly

scales depending on how many people are playing. In some cases, a level’s enemy numbers and obstacles will make it reasonable for a team of three or four players, but when attempted solo, the level will be virtually impossible.

Making matters worse are the respawning enemies. This gives the multiplayer game

some life as it keeps teammates working together – one player will keep the

enemies busy, while the other player completes the objective. But if you’re

playing alone, it’s impossible and hellish. I know terrorists are everywhere,

but here it’s a bit ridiculous. In failing to balance Syphon

Filter
correctly,

Sony has eliminated its viability as a single-player game.

Syphon Filter works much better when playing with others. Though the matchmaking scheme isn’t great (there’s no master list for available games, only level by level), things work well once you find a good match. Before the level starts you enter an ante-chamber where you and your teammates can lay down a plan of attack, including who should take on which objectives. This makes clearing levels much faster and easier since most objectives only require one person’s attention. Working in pairs has its benefits as well, as certain areas and objectives can only be accessed by two people working together. This is clearly how the game was meant to be played.

Though you can only unlock a few extra levels, the reward system includes tons of new guns and customization options, which effectively become the game’s ranking system. You’ll play a level online and see a guy running around with crazy blue hair and some wacky gun, which tells you he’s a bad mofo. It’s a good system, but should have appeared in a better game.

Syphon Filter doesn’t look awful thanks to a steady framerate, but neither the environments nor the character models are particularly impressive. There are no interesting lighting effects or textures. Not an award-winner. The sound is pretty cut-rate as well, with a typically bad musical score, mediocre gun sounds, and irritating voice acting.

While it’s surprising that the clunky gameplay mechanics haven’t received a facelift,

it’s even more surprising that Sony has failed to include a decent single-player

experience. It can be fun playing online, but if you do not get help, this virus

will kill you over and over again.

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

Rating3
Decent co-op fun
Cool unlockables
Bad single-player balance
Weak gameplay and control
Subpar delivery