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     " I wanted to like Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain but there's just too much about it that rubbed me wrong. "

      Title: Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain by Sony

      Format: PS2 Action/Shooter

      Reviewing Monkey: Our Ape Master

      The Hype: One of the most beloved stealth/action shooters in Playstation history finally gets an upgrade to the PS2. But will this head shot rewarding love fest transition live up to its potential? Read on, my monkeys, and find out.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: I grant you, it can't be easy to keep designing level after level of drab gray buildings and enemy after enemy, but we know for a fact it can be done a whole helluva lot better than this. Not hideous, per se, but definitely a far cry from what we've come to expect lately from the powerful PS2, Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain (SFOS) just doesn't seem to try hard enough. With backgrounds that are painfully monotonous, character models that lack any respectable level of detail, and FX that do nothing to expire, the reasons to play SFOS have nothing to do with it being pretty…though it does get extra points for letting you custom create your character (though, until you unlock enhancements, the options available to you are sparse at best). 2.5 out of 5

      Playability: Unlike previous Syphon Filter games, which tended to put you in a decision making role as to how you were going to carry out a mission, SFOS does a pretty thorough job of not giving you much of a choice. Often having mission parameters or ammo shortages that will define your gameplay for you, get used to the idea that you will be playing it through the way they wanted you to from start to finish. Now, that wouldn't be a bad thing, per se, if they still gave you some flexibility in planning your attack and accomplishing objectives. Instead, SFOS relies on gimmicky level concepts and one-solution only puzzles that will often have you gnawing on your controller in frustration. Constant and seemingly random enemy respawns mean that trying to apply an organized strategy will be useless, one-solution level areas and puzzle sections will stomp on your creativity, and single player unsolvable sections (more on this in a second) will quickly teach you to try for no-more than the bare minimums, since you quite probably will be able to do little more than that on your own.
         Why these problems were worked into a game with as promising a history as Syphon's is every bit as confusing as the total lack of controller customizability. Just like the control scheme, which is unnatural and near freakish in its dexterous requirements (the controls are not only totally unchangeable, but also completely unintuitive, and often require you to push down four separate buttons scattered across the pad at once while effectively ignoring the right analog stick entirely), the game can be a frustrating exercise in learning not to think for your self and just accept things as they are…punishing alternative attempts at solving with quick deaths and painful level restarts until you finally just say, "Screw it." By way of example, there are a number of objectives that are only accomplishable in an on-line multiplayer game. Now, that might be fine, if the game didn't leave you hanging in the wind to figure that out. Rather than having them locked out of the single player game, they persist to haunt you…potentially forever if you lack a broadband connection. 2 out of 5

      Story and Drama: The Syphon virus is back, again, and remains as elusive as ever. Similar to the first three games, The Agency is powerless to stop it…though they seem to only be able to spare one competent man (or woman) to try. Hardly compelling, though serviceable, the story won't anger you but will remind you why no one talks about video game stories at the water cooler. 3 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: Both the high, and low, point of SFOS is the multiplayer. By adding up to 4 player co-op to the single player campaign, an exciting and thoroughly needed element is added to an otherwise lackluster game. The problem is that, while quite a bit of thought was put into the "why should you play online" aspect (the answer being "because you have to if you want to finish it all"), not much was put into making it an effective or pleasurable experience. A lack of cohesiveness or unit tactics makes playing a bit like watching a friend have a seizure: you don't know why they're doing what they're doing, what you can do to stop them, or how to have fun while they're freaking out. Still, I give them big points just for trying and throwing in a ton of unlockable features that you'll unveil in the process. 3.5 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       I wanted to like Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain but there's just too much about it that rubbed me wrong. As chaffing as a love toy made of sandpaper, the numerous play issues and frustrating design will send you looking for one of the myriad of more polished espionage games on the market.

      The Good: Co-op online play gives the game a kick…

      The Bad: That isn't nearly polished enough to make up for the lackluster single player, the dogged controls, or the general melancholy of the rest of the game.

      The Overall Ugly: I didn't hate it, but I'm never gonna look at it again, either.

      What it's Worth: Rental if you're a fan of the series.

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