In the long run of action/adventure titles, few have even come close to the achievements set by Sony's/989 Studios' Syphon Filter series. The first Syphon Filter quickly became one of the PSOne's most popular action titles ever, while the hype wasn't there, the minute the game launched and the press got in on the action, gamers flocked to pick this title off from their store shelves, Sony has cashing in, not only was Syphon Filter well received by nearly every publication out there, the demand for a sequel began just weeks after the release, and once again exactly a year later 989 Studios delivered a sequel. They delivered a 2 CD journey, with tons of weapons, a two-player mode and even more Syphon Filter action, gamers were in heaven. Now we have the PS2, and even though Syphon Filter 3 is not to be released until the end of the year, Rockstar may have something just for you SF fans to calm you over with their Oni title. Half-way developed by Bungie -who is now smelling Bill Gate's Benjamins- Oni is an action title that plays similar to Syphon Filter, but the premise is a bit more than just guns.
It's obvious that Oni is first generation material, that isn't exactly a letdown but it isn't anything for Bungie to be happy about. Bungie, who developed half of Oni before Microsoft bought them out, did a nice job of creating the overall look of Oni, but there are still some things missing. First let's talk positives, Oni has got nice environmental detail, as vast and large the areas are, there is just no pop-up or fade-in of any kind, that would be a big plus. The character detail is very nice as well, while the characters aren't composed of as many polygons as say a game like Orphen, the detail is still quite good. For the negative aspects, I must say that while the texture detail is solid, the textures themselves are often repeated way too much, so environmental detail lacks any variation, this con cost the visual category many points.
The frame rate on the other hand isn't always so steady, at one point it could be pacing at a nice 30 frames, but when you face a wall, where there are no textures or bodies, the frame rate would bump all the way up to 60. If more than two characters are present on the screen, along with textures the frame rate may a go little below 30 when you rotate the camera, while it is no big deal, it is still something Bungie and Take-Two overlooked. I should also make note that most of the game's cut scenes are in real-time, so that means no FMVs or CGs. Overall, the developers could've done a lot more for Oni, even though anti-aliasing is there, the character detail is solid, and environments are reasonably vast, the repetitive structures and the overall lack in polish, bring down the visual score significantly.
This is where Oni is like no other action game out there. Instead of just guns and deadly weapons, the main character of Oni is able to punch and kick her enemies, as well as perform devastating 'Tekken-esque' throws. But you can't go playing the game using only your physical form, you have to ante-up the action and bring in the artillery to teach those baddies a lesson. Oni features a variety of cool weapons for you to choose from, but in order to get them, you will have to pry them out of an enemy's hands by attacking either physically or with a weapon. After beating an opponent mercilessly you can pick up what he dropped by pressing down R3, which would either be a weapon or Hypo Spray (health). The enemies can be brutal sometimes, they will sometimes outnumber you two to one or even three to one, so keeping safe distance is always a must.
Oni's gameplay is certainly no Syphon Filter but there are a lot great things about Oni, a lot like Syphon Filter, this game also has those tough spots that really make you scratch your head. The game stars Konoko, a TCTF (Tech Crimes Task Force) agent who lives in the year 2032, and the world has significantly changed. The government follows your every move, you have absolutely no freedom, and it almost seems like the storyline is a sci-fi re-creation of the 1920's and 30's during the times of Fascism and Communism. Konoko and her league of TCTF agents are here to put an end to all of this. In a Metal Gear Solid fashion, Konoko also has a CODEC like feature where her mates can contact her and fill her in on new info. Oni will take you through 14 missions, and in total it should really take you about a week and a half to complete if you've got a strategy guide on-hand. The game offers a lot for the average gamer, but the lack of replay value, and any intriguing story line severely hits the game hard. If the story was thought further and wasn't as clichéd as it is, Rockstar may have had a better title on their hands, but despite it all, Oni is a purchase worthy action game, if you have second doubts, you should at least rent Oni.
For an action what would you expect in the sound area, your average techno fast beats and sound effects such as gun shots and explosions. But besides average sound effects, Oni features a lot of voice acting, most of which occurs during cut-scenes. The voice acting for the most part is good, the voices are well fit for their individual character, the timing is precise most of the time, but during speech pauses it sounds more like the speakers microphone was cut-off. Nothng much to really complain over, but nothing to hail and ga-ga over.
Now here is another reason why Oni's gameplay isn't as high as you would think. The control could be incredibly sluggish, especially when you are outnumbered by enemies. Instead of the traditional L1 and R1 buttons to rotate the camera, Oni uses the right analog stick to control the camera, and in all honesty, I dislike the feature. I don't like the fact that I have to have both of my hands busy (controlling character and moving camera), when enemies may surround me. As much as I would prefer the camera to follow and rotate by itself, Bungie must have thought about this and thankfully allows Konoko to kick and punch backward. By tapping the analog stick down and pressing an action button, Konoko will whack an enemy. She is also capable of doing a variety of moves, such as rolling, doing a cart wheel, dashing, throwing enemies, jump kicking and baseball sliding. Oni's control will take time to get used to for those who are still Syphon crazed, but once you get a feel for it, Oni should be a pleasant game to play.
Concluding this review, I must admit in the beginning Oni isn't exactly the best game, but once you get into at least the third stage, you will most likely enjoy yourself. While the graphics aren't astounding or groundbreaking, they still hold their own ground. The gameplay is quite enjoyable if a story-line isn't all you care about, the 14 stages may give you about a little over a weeks worth of challenge if you use a guide, but if you use your head, Oni may put you through 3 weeks of adventure. Oni overall is a good game, hampered by a few flaws here and there, but a good game nonetheless, give it a shot if you are looking for a Syphon Filter-like action title.
2/21/2001 Arnold Katayev