previews\ Sep 16, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain - PS2 - Preview 2

Gabe Logan was the hero of the Syphon Filter series, and he is back in The Omega Strain, but this time its personal. No, really personal ... as in, you don’t get to play as Gabe Logan - you take on the role of new recruit to the revamped agency Logan works for. It is your job to continue to uncover the conspiracy that has unleashed the deadly Syphon Filter virus.

But you won’t have to do it alone.

Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain is, in some ways, a departure for the series. But Sony Computer Entertainment America has kept the same feel for the game, and kept the intensity level up for the February 2004 PlayStation2 release. Not only that, but the title will feature groundbreaking, cooperative, peer-to-peer online gameplay. Essentially, the single-player game and the multiplayer game will feature the same missions, but rather than go it alone, players can team up online to work through this deadly conspiracy.

The Omega Strain is a continuation of the story. There is a deadly consortium unleashing this programmable weapon of mass destruction, and Logan’s agency is out to stop it. And there is plenty of action along the way.

Take, for example, the first three missions. The Quebec Liberations Front has Toronto under attack, and players will be tasked with stopping that assault. But you don’t have to do it alone. The online game will allow up to 4 players to work in a cooperative mode. What is the advantage of the cooperative mode? Well, there might be a weapon on top of that subway car that you will be able to use. And maybe, just maybe, you can get to it by boosting your fellow player up to the top of the car. And when you are besieged by terrorists, having an extra gun or two along is always a good idea.

Players can create a character and level them up through the course of the game. You begin as a field agent, and - if good enough - you could eventually rise up to replace Logan as head of the agency. But don’t count on that as being an easy task. Syphon Filter is a tough, and challenging game.

The control elements have been kept somewhat simplistic and this game works will with the PS2 controller.

Because the missions are huge, new to the series is a three-dimensional map system. Missions can be timed, so dawdling is not recommended.

The game will utilize the USB headset for communication. In-game sound is solid and consists largely of the report of weapons.

Graphically, this game is excellent. Environmental effects, such as water, are superbly rendered, and using Gabe’s Tazer produces a solid special effect.

Even with two people working through a level, this game can be very challenging. There never seems to be an end to the enemy, although you can certainly run out of bullets. The environment is akin to a maze - there are many avenues through it, but a finite number of resolutions.

There are more than 100 weapons available for use, but you will have to make weapons choices as you work through the levels. And there are unlockable feature within the game, such as background material designed to wrap the players mentally into trying to unlock the secret behind the conspiracy.

Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain is an involving shooter game, that works better on a multiplayer level than as a solo gun. This title is one that will certainly appeal to fans of the shooter genre, and could well draw in newcomers to the series with its solid online aspect.

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