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Syphon Filter – PSone Review

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syphon_filter_boxPlatform: Playstation
Released: 1999 (worldwide)
Developer: Eidetic
Publisher: 989 Studios
Digital Release? Yes, this is available as a PSOne classic on PSN for $5.99
Price: $2.89 (disc only), $4.95 (complete), and $9.99 (new/sealed) per Price Charting

In the late nineties stealth was becoming a big deal in the game industry, a lot of this was thanks to games like Metal Gear Solid on PSone and Thief on PC. Along comes 989 studios with a little game called Syphon Filter. I knew very little about this game before it was released. In the UK this game received very little coverage in the magazines even though it ended up reviewing quite well. My first experience of the game was actually playing the demo which came free with Official Playstation Magazine. The demo was just of the first level but I found it enjoyable enough to sought the game out on release and I kinda enjoyed the game. It seemed like I was the only one of my circle of friends that knew about this game but that didn’t stop the game receiving two additional sequels on the PSone as well as additional games on the PS2 and PSP. For now lets revisit the original and see how it fairs now.

syphon_filter_runIn Syphon Filter You play as Americas hero Gabriel Logan who appropriately shortens his name to Gabe, I guess to sound more manly. Gabe works for “The Agency”, a company who keeps things simple when it comes to naming its organisation. When Gabe is not standing around meeting rooms he is out taking down the bad guys. In this game there is a terrorist called Rhoemer who is up to no good in his army uniform wanting to take over the world with a deadly weapon called Syphon Filter which is a bio weapon that has the ability to kill several people in a short space of time. So its up to Gabe to save the day shooting many people in the process. The plot comes across as a 90s Arnie film, just with less one liners and the game really wants you to take the plot seriously. There are twists and turns in the plot but nothing comes as a big surprise. Before you start each level you will get to watch a cutscene and while the level loads you will be given a entire page of text to read explaining the plot and your objectives. Its always nice to see games that make the loading screen something that isn’t the words ‘loading.’

Syphon filter is a third person action game. The gameplay varies throughout the levels. The majority of the game is a pretty fun shooter with objectives which you have to complete, failing any of the missions will force you back to the nearest checkpoint. Objectives are quite varied and you can complete them in any order you choose. This was quite fun especially when replaying the game, the levels still come across as quite linear but its still nice to choose how to carry out each objective. You have many weapons at your disposal to shoot terrorists in the face including the good old silenced pistol to assault rifles and sniper rifles. All serve there purpose and allow you to mix up your shooting play style.

Some of the games levels turn into massive stealth sections which are very dull and boring. The reason being is if you are spotted once you have to restart the level. Not only that you usually had to take out a couple of enemies(but shooting them in the face) without being spotted while following some bad guy. It slows everything down and doesn’t feel as exciting as the general shooting syphon_filter_adgameplay. There are levels in the game where stealth is advised but being spotted doesn’t end the game. The problem here I found was the game flat out bombarded you with constant enemy respawns practically encouraging you to manually restart the level because the level was now just too hard.

The games shooting mechanics were quite interesting for the time. In this game you could manually aim in first person, though you could not move Gabe while doing this. If you aimed your crosshair over a enemies head a subtitle would appear saying ‘head shot,’ indicating your shot would take the target out in one hit. This became the most reliant method of taking down enemies especially later in the game because it would kill all enemies including some bosses in one hit even if they wore a flak jacket. Enemies that wear these require several hits to take down. There was also a auto aim feature which had a crosshair automatically target the nearest enemy, this was useful as you could move around while targeting. The problem was the shots would only hit the enemies chest and only felt useful early on in the game.

The game has a pretty unique hud. In the top left for the screen you have a health bar and a danger bar. The health bar shows your remaining health and amour, you armour can be replenished by picking up flak jackets if you start to loose health this could not be recovered. It felt very tense if you only had a little bit of health left as you desperately searched for a flak jacket.. The danger bar is interesting, when a enemy targeted you the bar would fill up. If it reached the maximum level and started flashing it meant every shot from the enemy would hit you, though it was possible shots could occasionally hit you while the bar was increasing. Moving into cover, or rolling around, or just moving away from the enemy reduced the bar and hence the probability the enemy would hit you. This was particularly useful as if helped you decide how at risk you were from enemy fire so you could judge whether to go in all guns blazing or take a more tactical approach.

syphon_filter_shotI remember playing this game back in the late nineties and thinking wow this game was pretty over the top. Originally slapped with a 18+ rating by the ELSPA (now replaced by the PEGI rating in Europe), this game had some pretty graphic content [editor’s note: this game was ironically only a “T” in the US – Fred]. For starters whenever you shot somebody it would leave a incredibly large blood patch on their character model. You would also see a nice shower of pixelated blood coming from the character. The most gruesome weapon by far and the one weapon you will remember most from this game is the taser. This is possibly the most over powered taser in video game history. Essentially you shoot a terrorist with it while holding the fire button down. After a short period the enemy will begin to scream and smoke will come out of them indicating its time to let them fall to the floor in a heap. But if your feeling evil, and you will, your most likely going to keep that fire button held. The smoke soon turns to fire and the enemy is literally being barbequed by your taser while still screaming, until you finally get bored and let go. Did I mention you start with this weapon in the game and it has unlimited shots, so yeah you’ll probably be having fun with this.

Syphon Filter will certainly keep you busy for a while. If your able to get passed the difficult stealth levels this game certainly warrants more than a single playthrough just because it’s fun to play. Even better once you have finished the game once you can select any of the previous levels you played, so you can skip the ones you hated.

Graphics are pretty blocky. The game being on PSone hasn’t aged well. Environments are pretty dull and boring, but that was the case even when this game was released. You’ll travel through city streets, city parks, army bases, caves and a cathedral and it all just looks dull. Probably the most interesting looking level is the Museum which looks pretty cool, unfortunately this is the boring stealth level which I didn’t care for. The most memorable level was later in the game where two armies are literally fighting each other and you have to somehow progress through a level while a small war is going on.

The soundtrack to this game was pretty solid with some genuinely memorable level music. The intro music when you get to the title screen is a nice warm welcome to the game. The voice acting however is quite bipolar. The bad guys sound a lot more into the game than the good characters. Gabe just sounds so bored all the time with his monotone voice. Even when dramatic scenes occur in the game where you would expect a display of human emotion Gabe stills comes out with the same dull tone voice putting very little into his performance. You really can’t help but chuckle at this.


Syphon Filter is quite a long game. The game will probably keep you busy for around twelve hours the first time through. The game does increase in difficulty quite dramatically about a third of the way through which may lead to leave this game to the side. There is not much replay value though you can input good old fashioned cheats in the menu if you want to play around or just find the game too difficult on its standard difficulty.

Overall, Syphon Filter was a brave first step into a new series. The game hasn’t aged very well in looks. The gameplay mechanics feel a little but there are more fun levels than frustrating ones. I remember when this game was released if was compared a lot to Metal Gear Solid, personally I see no resemblance here. The game looks pretty boring and the voice acting especially from Gabe is pretty terrible but the gameplay does a good job to make you forget these lingering issues and some levels will leave a lasting impression. Syphon Filter may look like a pretty standard shooter but it you will be surprised by what this little gem has to offer

Final Score: 4 out of 5  (review policy and guidelines)

Written by jamalais

January 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in Playstation, Reviews

Tagged with ,

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