Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain
It has a history on the first Playstation console, comes with net play, some dialogue scenes are spoken in French and it is a third person shooter. For what I was concerned it could not go wrong. I did not need more than a few hours however to realise that this game took a wrong turn.
Moving around can be a nightmare, let’s suppose you have to walk up a small stair. Because of some camera issues and the lousy controller set-up it can sometimes happen that you step beside the entrance of that staircase. If you in addition get stuck between a wall and those stairs while your health decreases with a fifth every three seconds I can guarantee even a Bedouin wants to start a war.
So, you died. You will now restart from a certain save-point which is of course most logical but the problem is you never know where you’ll respawn. The levels are quite vast which makes sure you must really search to find the objective’s location once again. That alone is quite acceptable but finding your way is not just problematic. I mean it could be the same as watching Cube, not that you would start to hyperventilate but the 3D maps from the areas are so unbelievably messy and big that finding your way is a challenge on its own. The difference in floors is hard to distinguish, doors or stairs are not clearly marked and you have to turn and flip the scaled model over for a dozen of times before you begin to get an idea how to go. During all that searching time is ticking away while there are so many things you would like to plan and memorise but you can’t because you would either get shot or waste too much valuable time.
Restarting from a save-point has another irritating issue: all the numerous enemies you killed got their lives back too (they really went beyond re-animator here). That means that if you respawn you will have to start shooting all those folks again. That requires lots of ammunition which is hard to find so it is likely you will die again trying to pick up ammo while there are still too many enemies alive. Also when shells or bullets for a particular gun run out you won’t automatically take another one. That might be realistic but because of the messy system to select items or guns you might first play disco with your flash light, drop a grenade at your feet and then scroll by the gun you actually wanted. Dead once again!
It is now the fifteenth try and you are getting tired after completing two objectives but you can not simply quit because those save-points are only temporary. Shutting down your console when a mission is half forces you to play the entire mission all over again. Do keep in mind that those missions can’t be rushed through in ten minutes after completing three little objectives. Each level has plenty objectives and they are quite extensive too. The missions last over an hour to complete so if you have to leave for the dentist you can kiss your hard earned progress goodbye.
The story doesn’t help either. You work for a counter terrorist organisation that has to stop the spread of viruses, along with the criminal organisations who release them, all over the world. The English cut-scenes are hard to follow and so are the French. The English dialogues are too quiet compared to the background noises and they are not subtitled. The French ones are translated but the text appears a little too late. That, combined with the messy De Palma style showing different angles or actions taking place at the same time on your screen, makes everything too hard to comprehend.
I did not like the sound either but I do have to admit that the effects themselves are quite good. After a few hours however you will get really fed up with that same radio message from your superior that tells you to move faster or how slow you really are. When you die they will rub it in every single time: “Cobra is down, I repeat Cobra is down”. For those of you who do not believe me when I say it drives once crazy I can always mail you a photograph of my controller after I glued it back together again. Afterwards my controller and I could share good times again!
Besides the cut-scenes, the graphics are quite impressive actually. Shattering glass, smoke that comes out of your barrel after firing, steam rising from drain holes and above all the character’s motions do give everything a nice twist.
This game is like smoked salmon from Aldi or Lidl brands: almost as expensive as the one you buy from Colruyt or Carrefour but only eatable until you’ve tasted the better one. There is no lack of third person shooters or stealth games on the PS2 so I do not see one reason for you to be satisfied with anything less than the best. This game has nice ideas and some of them are elaborated fairly well but those few good points quickly disappear in the cloud of frustration and discontent over all other bad things. This is the first game in my entire life that felt like a task to play. In fact finishing this game is sheer drudgery!
Besides some connections to movies there are also two titles of songs I discretely incorporated in this review. The first one is not very internationally know but it woke me up a few years ago and made me realise it was time to do something with my life. The group is named after one of the most beautiful and known flowers of all times standing on a heath. The second one was a pop song from a couple of years ago and joined other successes on a disc that has one word in common with David Lynch’s astonish movie “Blue Velvet”. You won’t win anything but a place in my heart if you comment the two titles here.