The action genre has really been heating up since the launch of the current generation consoles. With blockbuster action titles like Sons of Liberty, Splinter Cell, Tenchu, and Mark of Kri, it's becoming increasingly harder to catch the popular gamers eye. With that in mind, Sony is going back to the well to revive one of its biggest action franchises from the PSX days in Syphon Filter. With three installments already under its belt, Syphon Filter is revered among many as the perfect balance between straight up action and stealth based gameplay, offering lots of variety for even the most discriminating players. In the newest installment, Omega Strain, the world of Syphon Filter is seeing some fairly big changes in its core gameplay, but the idea is to keep the spirit of the series alive.
Since the first installment, the world of Syphon Filter has starred the heroic Gabe Logan, who throughout the life of the series has been battling both corruption and the deadly Syphon Filter virus. In the upcoming game, Gabe Logan and his reformed agency are faced with the greatest threat yet, as the virus has started mutating uncontrollably, and it's a race to stop the outbreak before Syphon Filter becomes an unstoppable 'omega' virus that wipes out the entire planet. Logan, knowing he cannot face this threat all by himself, has instead turned to his newest recruits to aid him in this quest. As one of these few elite recruits, you'll soon find yourself immersed in a deadly game of cat and mouse against agents of evil and viruses of deadly proportion.
In Omega Strain, a woman named Elsa Weissinger comes to Logan with evidence that an evil consortium has been behind the Syphon Filter conspiracy since the very beginning. The one connection that Logan has is Mara Aramov, a woman once in custody of the consortium but now escaped as the deadly virus has found its way into the mainstream population. The virus is mutating rapidly and Chechnyan rebels are selling the different strains to the highest bidder, adding fuel to the proverbial fire. Logan's only hope is to locate Aramov, who has information that can help prevent an attack on Moscow which would instigate world war III, as well as stop the virus before it reaches its most lethal form; the Omega Strain.
The biggest change in the Syphon Filter formula in Omega Strain is the inclusion of online play. While the game will feature a fully playable offline mode, there will also be the option to take on the world in peer-to-peer cooperative play. When online, you can join up with three other players and tackle all 17 of the game's missions as a squad. Even though all of the levels are playable offline, Omega Strain offers players more access to the game world when online, giving incentive to team up with your friends for some squad based action.
In Omega Strain, you can customize the look of your character, by changing his uniform, equipment and weaponry. You can also use headsets to communicate with your teammates online for maximum advantage. You can also use the D-pad to communicate, but the extent of this feature and how it works with the gameplay has not yet been revealed. Overall, there are over 100 unique weapons in Omega Strain, giving players lots of choices in how to kill.
Of course, all the basics are back in this latest installment, as you can run, crouch, jump, roll, and slide along walls. However, this time there is a new targeting feature that allows you to deal with enemies based on their equipment and armor. One of the biggest flaws in previous Syphon Filter games was the cumbersome targeting needed to take out flak jacketed enemies. This time around, the targeting feature will allow you different choices in how to deal with these enemies. How this will be implemented is not clear, but it is promises that the targeting feature will showcase substantial upgrades throughout. The hand to hand combat will also be improved upon, allowing for more maneuverability in close quarters combat. The AI in the game will also be seeing some improvements as well, as enemies will now work together to hunt you down. Each enemy will use AI that lets them react to their comrades actions, giving the combat situations more real life tension and feel.
Syphon Filter has long been Sony's marquee action title, and it's about time it saw the light of day on the Playstation 2. It's obvious that a lot of work is being put in to make sure that this latest sequel is not just a warmed over rehash, though we'll have to wait and see how well these changes are implemented in the game. Thankfully, we shouldn't have to wait long, as Omega Strain is almost certain to make an appearance at this year's E3. We promise to bring you full coverage of this game from the show floor this May, so look for more information on Omega Strain as it becomes available.
4/18/2003 Ryan Hartmann