Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain Details and Impressions

We got to try out the PS2 Syphon Filter and heard a bit from the developers on the game.

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At Sony's booth on the E3 show floor today, we got to try out the latest build of Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain for the PS2. This newest entry in the series has been a long time in coming, and so far it's shaping up to be a mixture of the solid gameplay elements of previous games and a whole bunch of new features as well.

The Omega Strain plays almost identically to the three PlayStation Syphon Filter games, which of course is a good thing for fans of the series. You can still strafe right and left, lock onto enemies, roll, and switch to a first-person mode for aiming. The auto-aim has been improved to allow you to target enemies' heads specifically, which will result in cleaner, quicker kills. Overall, the game plays great even in its unfinished state, and we're looking forward to seeing a further-refined version.

The story of the game picks up more or less where Syphon Filter 3 left off, with Gabe Logan and his compatriots trying to unravel the mystery of the Syphon Filter virus and find out who's responsible for it. In a big twist, you won't actually get to play as Gabe or any of the other story characters in the main campaign of The Omega Strain. Rather, you'll use a robust character creation mode to customize a support soldier of your choice and play through the game with that character. The development team wants you to participate in the action but still see the main events of the game unfolding somewhat outside of your influence. Four single-player-only bonus missions will be available that do let you play as story characters, though the only one revealed so far is Stone, a new addition to the cast who's a hardened war veteran.

Some members of the game's development team took time to talk to us about The Omega Strain, including its interesting online features. You'll be able to play through all 13 of the game's main missions either by yourself or cooperatively with up to three other people. The missions have the same setting online and off, but you'll encounter new objectives and reach new areas when you play with other people. A matchmaking service will be provided that will help you find other people that are ready to play the same mission you are. The game has a new 3D map system that will be especially useful in multiplayer--you can see your teammates on the map and flag them with waypoints so you can keep up with them more easily. The Omega Strain will be broadband-only, the developers said.

We were assured that the developers were conscious of the criticism the previous Syphon Filter games received for their production quality, and they stressed that the new game will up the ante considerably when it comes to production values. Sony is going the full Screen Actors' Guild route in casting the game's voice actors, and Mark Snow of X-Files fame will be composing the music. Overall, Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain looks and plays like an extremely promising update to the series, and we can't wait to check out more. Stay tuned.

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