Syphon Filter is one of the franchises that Sony built up the popularity of the original Playstation console to become the market leader. It worked in unison with titles such as Gran Turismo to give the Playstation a core selection of exclusive games which made people buy the console. Considering how popular it was it may come as a surprise that it has taken this long to reach the second console from the Sony stable but looking at the game its easy to see why. It has a very in depth online component added to the single player campaign, but even with these two features the game is not without its problems.
The storyline behind the game is that basically a new strain of the Syphon Filter virus has been detected and is being used to kill innocent humans across a variety of locations around the world. You work for an anti-terrorist organization setup to stop these outbreaks from happening and time plays a vital role in the overall game and can change missions from pass to fail in a matter of seconds. Numerous different forces seem to be collaborating together for this latest threat to the world and basically the campaign revolves around stopping them.
Unlike the original games you do not take control of Gabe Logan, instead the game is played out in a first person perspective, something which seems to be gaining popularity these days. Gabe has recommended you for the upcoming missions and all the characters in the game talk directly towards the screen, not another character giving the first person feel more authenticity. Also you have to create your own agent when you begin the game. You can choose either male or female and a variety of different body options including head, torso etc. As you complete missions more assets are made available in this area of the game allowing you to customize the character more.
The gameplay remains the same in most missions throughout. You're dumped into an environment and tasked with stopping the biological outbreak which is about to occur. Some mission objectives have time limits as does the overall mission. Even if you don't reach these time limits the mission will not be failed but you won't complete the mission completely and the bonus missions will not be unlocked to play. The problem with this is the bonus missions seemingly form an integral part of the storyline so missing them means that you miss out some of the background story taking place in the game. Goals range from picking up scientific equipment and gaining water samples and destroying tanks through to some stealth areas where you have to move quickly and slowly to achieve your goals. One thing that is really disappointing is the checkpoint system. Although the game does save checkpoints throughout, switch the system off without completing the mission and you lose all your progress.
There is a few problems with Syphon Filter that really can't be ignored. The game allows you to trigger new goals just by reaching a new area which can completely muddle up the sequence of events and get you horribly lost in a level trying to find your goal. You may find yourself looking for a guide and they are available. However the other problems we found affect the gameplay in an even more detrimental way. Numerous times while playing we observed the AI shooting each other dead while trying to shoot our character, and one time when running towards some AI they just disappeared into thin air. This particular bug didn't show itself again during further gameplay so may have only been a one off.
To take down the enemy yourself the game provides you with some fairly basic weaponry in the form of a pistol. During the game you can take fallen enemies weapons and this is really how you increase the firepower throughout with weapons such as shotguns, semi automatic pistols, machine guns etc. as well as this your character will encounter items such as night vision goggles, and the aforementioned scientific kit to perform other duties that the game asks of you throughout. The AI aren't the smartest guys around and will stand there shooting you until you shoot them. In reality you're nearly always going to complete the mission because when you do succumb to their fire, those who have already been shot dead do not appear again and considering your character has unlimited lives it leads the player to go in gung ho rather then take their time devising a strategy.
Missions are set across a variety of locations in the world. The game starts out in the United States before moving to places such as Belarus and other places. The different locations each have a unique style of architecture and design which corresponds with how the cities and structures are built in the real world. The graphics of the game are above average with some standout features such as bullets splashing in water and guns smoking after just being fired. The character animations are quite smooth and their look is changed depending on what weapons they currently carry. The sound effects are fairly standard with the soundtrack featured definitely coming from the political thriller genre, and fitting the style of the game very well.
Something which really excels in the presentation stakes is the Zeus files. This is basically the agencies dossier about the upcoming mission and is extremely in depth featuring fictional newspaper reports, memos about tasks of upcoming mission and the political impact of the crisis. This level of detail really adds to the storyline of the game and even though it can be skipped it is worth checking out just to get more background information about what exactly is going on.
One of the options in the game that the developers and Sony are really pushing is the online multiplayer. At the current time the game comes with a free network adapter for those people with broadband. The multiplayer which is included is quite a unique creation and isn't all that far away from the popular SOCOM style of game. The multiplayer is not against each other but tasks players with working in a team. Each person in the team is given a separate task to do and once all the tasks are completed, the mission is a success. For those who have it the game does have support for the headset for voice communications but unlike SOCOM there is not a version of the game which comes with it.
Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain is not without its problems but it is a fairly solid game that fans of the franchise will probably enjoy now that it has come to the PS2 console and also online. The online play keeps the game from being a complete 'once-n-shelve' title but if you're only a casual gamer without the online ability or an interest in the franchise from the past there is better tactical action games already available on the market.