Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain

Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain

Written by Ara Ajizian on 7/5/2004 for PS2  

The Omega Strain begins with a lot of promise to be a kick-ass first person shooter. The original Syphon Filter was one of the best of the genre on the original Playstation, but none of the sequels could really match up to the original.

The Omega Strain is the first title in the series for the PS2, so one would hope for more than just another lackluster title in the series. While SCEA has used the PS2 platform to enhance many aspects of the game, including adding online play, the game spends too much time trying to sell the story than just delivering an exciting experience. Add a 3D map system that is practically useless, despite the fact that it’s absolutely essential to getting through the game, and The Omega Strain ends up missing the mark.

I’m trying to pinpoint the exact moment where video game developers decided to become Hollywood directors. I suppose there’s always been a story element in video games, whether it was integrated into the actual game or just printed in the instruction manual. It seems that lately though, the in-game movies and storylines on many games have become so overblown, that it interrupts the flow of the game, and uses such tactics to hide behind the fact that the game, well, the parts that you play of it, isn’t very good. While this isn’t entirely the case with The Omega Strain, the story and movie sections are not only uninteresting, they slow down the action.

In The Omega Strain, you play as a new recruit in the International Presidential Consulting Agency, or “the Agency” as it’s commonly referred to in the game. The Agency has recently been reorganized, and has a new commander in Gabe Logan, the hero from the previous Syphon Filter titles. Gabe has his trust in you that you can get to the bottom of the recent resurfacing of the Syphon Filter virus.

Now for me, that’s enough story. I don’t need twenty names to remember, and who gave what files to whom. If I want a game where I have to do all that, I’ll get an RPG. When I play a first person shooter, I want to do just that, shoot. In The Omega Strain, there are far too many dossiers to read, files to look through, and movies to watch. And I understand that some people might enjoy these cinematic facets to video games, but I just find it to be fluff that takes away from game time. Thankfully, you don’t need to spend time reading all this stuff to play the game. But that raises the question, “Then why is it there in the first place?”The game play of The Omega Strain has its ups and downs as well. The graphics look good, and the shading and coloring give the game an apocalyptic feel. The environments are vast and multi-leveled. Normally I find this appealing, but with large levels comes the need for a good map. Unfortunately, The Omega Strain’s map is practically useless. You aren’t able to zoom in far enough on individual areas, just the map as a whole, which you can rotate around a single axis. Trying to decipher where passageways and tunnels go is impossible with this setup. Add a time limit to the mission, and you’ll quickly see why this is so frustrating. There’s no way to pause the game while you view the map, another detail that was overlooked in development.

The weapon selection could be better on the game too. While there is a great selection of guns in The Omega Strain, having to switch guns in the middle of the action isn’t smooth. You can tap select until you reach the weapon you want, or hold it down and use the shoulder buttons to move to the one you want. I found it too time consuming when I was under attack.

There’s an auto-aim feature, but if you want to go for head shots, you’ll have to aim manually. Head shots are a good way to take enemies out without wasting a ton of ammo, though you’ll have to practice your aim to get good enough at it when you’re under pressure.

The Omega Strain’s online capability adds more depth to the missions, allowing you to play with a team cooperatively. What’s cool is that you can play the exact missions from the offline game, rather than specially designed levels for online play. It’s fun for awhile, but it helps to be familiar with the missions before going online. Otherwise you’ll just end up slowing the team down.

Another of The Omega Strain’ strengths is that the missions, map issues aside, are vast and intricate. There’s a ton of ground to cover, and enemies galore to keep you shooting. You begin each mission with a set of objectives, but more are added in during play, increasing the depth of each level. If it was easier to navigate the map, this would have made the game highly enjoyable. But, if you can get past the map issues, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in each of the game’s 17 levels.

Sony had the opportunity to reconnect with one of it’s more popular series and its fanbase with The Omega Strain. While none of the previous sequels managed to quite match the popularity or quality of the original, The Omega Strain had enormous potential because it would be the first Syphon Filter title for the PS2. Instead, it is just slightly above average, and quickly lost among the dozens of other first-person shooters on the market. Less focus on the cinematics and complex storyline and more on the controls and map screen interaction would have made The Omega Strain a much better game. Fans of the series will most likely add this to their library, but for anyone that lost interest since Syphon Filter 2, this game’s not likely to bring you back.
The game has enormous potential to reclaim the glory of the Syphon Filter series but it tends to get bogged down in a “who cares?” storyline, clunky controls, and a useless mapping system. It’s a good game, but it doesn’t match the fun factor of the original. It definitely looks better though.

Rating: 7 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


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