After getting a generous promotion, including a cushy office with a window and an en-suite washroom, Gabe Logan was living the high-life. In fact as he lay back, staring out his window at the world below, he wondered aloud "What could possibly spoil this?" Doh. Jinxing words, Mr Logan. Syphon Filter: Omega Strain, sees Gabe Logan and his PSone buddies, return for a 2004 update on PS2. As before, the Agency is in hot pursuit of the evil Mara Armarov who's escaped from jail and is now threatening mankind with the Syphon Filter virus.
Unlike previous outings, Gabe has a higher role within the Agency and thus decides to take a back-seat for this one, which means that before you can be dropped into the fray you'll have to create an agent. By our reckoning there aren't enough action games that allow you to create your own ass-kicking, head-splattering heroes so we welcomed the novelty of being able to create ourselves in a spy game. Sure, there are alimited number of attire options but as the game progresses you're rewarded with more face paints to try, different boots, and even a PVC mini skirt. OK not a PVC mini skirt, but there are more clothing options to acquire.
Once your agent 's been kitted out, it's time to drop into the training zone to build some basic 'Filter skills - or sharpen the old ones from your previous PSone play. In the tutorial area you can access plaques to find out which controls perform which actions. There's even an annoying voice narrative from the agency chief instructing you on what objectives need to be completed. Training levels can normally be skipped but this one is essential given the complexity ahead.
You trek to numerous locations - from the war-torn wastelands of Uganda, to the Moose-humping shores of Toronto - in the quest to eradicate wicked terrorist types. Once you're deployed into the danger zones, the first thing you'll notice is how murky the surroundings are. Don't get us wrong, the graphics are as solid as a 9mm bullet casing, but the whole damn game is set in darkness. Comically, the motions of the characters are as slanted as ever. During some side-splitting moments, we saw our lead guy running like a greased elephant on ice. It feels odd and looks stupid, but at least it'll make you laugh out loud. But fundamentally, the graphics aren't breaking any visual barriers - it looks just like the old 'Filters with a bit of extra spit and gun polish. All in all a bit of a missed opportunity then. Only when side by side with the old games does the upgrade become obvious.
The action is unquestionably fast and unforgiving. You'll be guiding your character down a road with buildings either side of them and with no one in sight. Then, all of a sudden, enemy soldiers will flow, wave after wave, onto the balconies (or any other vantage point) so they can get at you. If this happens and you're not wearing a flak jacket, then you'll shortly be picking up your entrails through a straw. The auto-lock system - accessed with a press of R1 - does help to a certain extent, but more often than not the pure randomness of which enemy it'll target next, leaves you with a lead-filled bumcushion. We were hoping this would have been corrected from the preview version, but it's still hanging around like a fart in a spacesuit. That said, it's a joyous occasion when you lock and load your first shotgun, and then decimate a terrorist from close range. Even using stealth (yes, they've been sure not to try anything original here) to slice an opponent's jugular from their body feels bizarrely alluring.
Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain is a sturdy game with a twisting and immersive plot, but it just lacks the wow-factor to really make it appeal to anyone other than fans of the series. The online team play is a good addition, but it's useless to the mostly unconnected gaming masses. We're left with a game that doesn't do anything particularly wrong, but it could have thrown something new into the mix, rather than just being a cleaned up version of a PSone title.
Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain will be spreading virally through shops on 9 July