Release Date: 1/31/1999
Available Exclusively On
The Good: A lot of excellent guns, decent story with memorable characters, genius level design, tight controls and camera, varied objectives and locales
The Bad: Flimsy stealth, some levels are confusing, a little short
Third person shooters weren’t very frequent on PS1 and when they did come by they were usually pretty bad. Syphon Filter proved that you can make this genre work on the PS1. The game is still really fun today and was way ahead of its time. A well done camera, great lock-on system, a decent story with memorable characters, a kick-ass arsenal of guns, and genius level design. Who would have thought a third person shooter would be this good in the late 90’s? Eidetic and 989 Studios did.
You play as super spy Gabriel Logan who is a CIA agent trying to stop a dangerous terrorist named Eric Rhoemer. A Syphon Filter virus that targets specific DNA demographics has been created by a man named Phagan and it is up to you to shut down their operations and stop them from spreading the virus. You start out in New York with the streets being shot up by Rhoemer’s thugs. There are objectives in each level to complete, but it is way beyond throw this switch, pull this lever, or shoot this amount of bad guys. You usually have to kill a certain amount of scientists, administer vaccines to victims, disarm bombs, turn off power grids. The objectives vary, but what is fun is figuring out how to get there.
Syphon Filter has some of the most memorable levels I can remember. This is a game you play several times and remember where every enemy is, every crate location, and even how to kill each enemy. The levels vary with stealth sections, climbing, and timed areas. The game features a smart lock-on system because there is no camera control. It is surprisingly smart and follows you wherever you go. Enemies wearing flak jackets can only be taken out with head shots or very powerful weapons. This requires aiming in first person mode and taking them out. This flak jacket element is a staple of the series and will go on to be in every game. It is actually an element all on its own and not just body armor for you or the enemy. You can die very easily and if you don’t stop and aim for head shots you will waste ammo and/or die very quickly.
There are a couple of boss fights thrown in such as a helicopter midway and Rhoemer himself at the end. I found all gameplay elements to be evenly tossed up so you are never bored. The stealth elements need a bit of work and are probably the worst thing about the game, but it is very minor. Crouching and sneaking around works fine, but enemies tend to see you at unknown distances. Maybe a line of sight cone on the radar would help this. You also have to get in head shots otherwise they won’t die right away and alert other guards.
Weapon selection is also a bit flimsy because you have to hold down select and use L2 and R2 (strafe buttons) to select the weapon. I would have preferred a radial menu instead. Some levels can be a bit hard to navigate are too dark to see. Thankfully you get a flashlight you can equip because some levels are nearly pitch black. I found myself lost a few times because even though the level design is fantastic, some levels can look the same with confusing hallways and misplaced crates and boxes.
I actually learned about weapons as a kid from this game. Real world weapons are in here and some that I have never seen in any other game before. The weapons are almost a character all on their own because they feel so good to shoot in the game. The K3G4 will cut through flak jackets easily and is probably the only weapon that will do this. The G18 is a super fast sub-machine pistol, while the silenced 9mm is a staple of the series. The shotgun, combat shotgun, PK-102, BIZ-2, Nightvision Rifle, .45, HK5, and a few more are all excellent weapons. It was also the distinct sounds the developers used that make these guns so memorable. The game has a great sniper scope that was unseen in games back then. There are grenades and gas grenades which are great for taking out a group of enemies stealthily. There are a lot of great weapons in the game and they are very memorable unlike most shooters.
While the game itself is amazing the graphics were pretty good at the time. Looking pretty realistic art wise, the game had some good lighting effects and a lot of detail everywhere. I also have many fond memories of this game as a kid. I actually accidentally rented Silent Hill because I forgot the name of this game. I got all the way to the Pharcom Warehouse levels and had to turn the game in. I rented this game many times over and played it to death as a kid. I purchased it a few times here and there and every time I play this it brings back fond memories. Syphon Filter is one of the greatest games ever made and every gamer should play this masterpiece.