Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain Update

We check out a few more levels from the latest entry in Sony's upcoming action game.

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Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain has been shown on and off since its debut at this year's E3. The game is the latest installment in Sony's popular Syphon Filter franchise, which began on the original PlayStation. We had the chance to try out a work-in-progress version of the game that revealed to us another portion of the upcoming release. While the version of the game we saw was still a little rough-hewn--and was limited to offline play and only provided us with access to the training and Carthage missions--it's looking quite promising.

The game's story follows the adventures of the syphon filter virus as it wrecks havoc on world peace and humankind in general. Well, actually, the game follows your attempts to maintain world order by keeping the population safe. The game has a more expansive feel than previous Syphon Filter games, due to its setup. The threat of the virus and its impact on the world has required Agent Gabe Logan, poster boy for the series, to call in for backup in a big way. Apparently, he's created a new agency to help him keep the peace. As a result, Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain is a bit of a departure from the previous games in that you'll be assuming the role of a support soldier rather than taking on the role of Gabe.

The setup doesn't affect the gameplay mechanic much, as this is still an action game. However, before you start, you'll have to create a virtual identity that will represent you in the offline and online games. The character creation system has a robust selection of offerings. You'll find four main categories to modify, including head, body, tattoos, and awards. Each category features a number of options you can tweak. You're able to tweak the style and color of your character's hair, you can have him wear a hat or not, you can add sunglasses or camo makeup, and you can even put facial hair on him when customizing the head. The body options consist of basic clothing choices, like shirt, vest, pants, and boots, that are interchangeable. The tattoo option lets you add decorative ink to your character model--once you've unlocked this option. Finally, the awards option lets you add different patches to you character's uniform. However, if you feel lazy, you can go ahead and choose from one of 100 randomly generated characters.

Once you've settled on an identity for yourself, you can enter the game and can start working through the single or online modes. You're able to familiarize yourself with the controls in a tutorial level that also lets you hone your skills via secondary challenges. For example, the advanced shooting range lets you practice targeting and even dares you to nail all the targets on the field in 45 seconds.

If you're comfortable with how the game handles, you can just hop into a mission. The only mission we were able to try in our build was one set in a quarantine zone in Carthage, Michigan. The night mission was challenging, and we were required to keep collateral damage to a minimum. This mission did a fine job of showing off the detailed game environments. The graphics are still a bit rough, as there was some texture weirdness and minor visual glitches that popped up every so often, but they moved at a very smooth clip. There are some nice visual touches on display, like burning cars and debris from glass, that came together pretty well and added to the level's atmosphere. The control setup feels good and is responsive. It may take a little getting used to at first, but if you stick with it--or just play through the tutorial level--the controls are solid.

From what we've seen of Syphon Filter's offline experience, the game is coming together pretty well. The visuals are being tightened and the gameplay is feeling solid. We're anxious to see how the online game plays, and we're excited to find out how the whole package ends up. Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain is currently slated to ship in spring of 2004, which is a bit later than it was originally intended to ship. The extra time to polish everything up is likely to be a good thing in the end, though. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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