If you're a fan of games like Metal
Gear Solid, GoldenEye 007, or Tomb
Raider and you've been waiting for a game to combine elements of all three,
your wait is now over. Syphon Filter, the newest game from 989 Studios,
has combined some of the most interesting bits from each of the aforementioned
games while including some innovations of its own. It's a mix that sounds
good on paper, but how many times has a game that sounded good failed to
live up to its promise? Thankfully, Syphon Filter manages to live up to
the standards of its predecessors.
are cast as Gabriel Logan, one of the United States' best secret agents.
Washington D.C. is being threatened by a bio-warfare weapon known as Syphon
Filter. Your employer, known only as The Agency, has named you as the person
most likely to stop the threat.
The story is told through the use of pre-rendered cinemas, which are well-animated
but a little bland looking. The characters move around with life-like,
rotoscoped fluidity, but lack facial detail. The backgrounds are also rather
sparse looking. These are minor quibbles, however, because the cinemas
set up the action and do so without being too talky or cumbersome.
After the appropriate cinema, the action begins. At the beginning of most
missions, Lian, Gabe's assistant, will contact Gabe about his (and your)
mission objectives. These can range from finding numerous bombs scattered
throughout an area or freeing a hostage. One interesting mission combines
elements of stealth, sniper-accurate shooting and a bit of running and
jumping as you tail an enemy through a museum to a secret meeting.
game includes the stealth aspects from Metal Gear Solid, the sniper aspects
of GoldenEye 007 and the third person perspective
of Tomb Raider. Controlling all of the different actions can be a little
intimidating, but the pay-off is strangely satisfying as you kill an enemy
guard with a head-shot from long range or accomplish your mission without
The graphics are, overall, fairly good. Gabriel moves pretty much you'd
expect him too. Although there are occasional polygon seam problems, with
walls breaking up in weird places and the like, the overall look is satisfying
and doesn't detract from the action. Some levels, which feature rain, snow
and fog effects, are suitably atmospheric. Although nothing breaks new
ground, you're not likely to complain about the way things look.
The voice acting deserves a
word of praise. While many games are happy to have someone doing little
more than reading their lines and calling it "acting," Syphon Filter has some decent performances, especially
Gabriel Logan himself. (Although he sounds dangerously close to the raspy-throated
Snake Plissken, from John Carpenter's Escape From... movies.) The other
sound effects are top-notch as well, providing a sense that the action
is happening somewhere other than on a computer screen. The subway level,
for example, sounds like its happening in a tunnel, rather than simply
having a few tacked-on-at-the-last-second sound effects of trains and the
Each button on the PlayStation
controller has at least one function in the game. The L1 and R1 buttons
bring up the sniper view and automatic
targeting respectively. The L2 and R2 buttons are used to make Gabe move
in what's commonly called a "strafe" maneuver, which allows him
to face forward while still moving left or right. The normal square, circle,
triangle and X buttons all control Gabe's weapons and actions. Even the
Select and Start buttons are used, with Select allowing you to cycle through
Gabe's weapons inventory and Start pausing the game to bring up a map and
While it's great to be able to do so many different things with the controller,
it's sometimes difficult to combine these movements without feeling like
a victim of carpal tunnel syndrome. It is possible to use the strafe movement
while looking through the sniper view to take a shot at a long-range target.
In fact, doing so enables Gabe to look around corners and remain mostly
hidden from enemy view. What's not so easy is actually performing that
feat with the controller. It's possible, but not exactly comfortable.
Gabe moves around each level
at a running pace, so it's sometimes a little frustrating to get him
to go exactly where you'd like on the first try.
Unlike Tomb Raider, there is no "walk" option. The only way to
get Gabe to slow down is to have him sneak around in a crouched position.
While not a huge flaw, it does limit your mobility a bit. Even using the
analog control option does not affect Gabe's movement speed, which is a
Otherwise, though, there's really little to complain about. The missions
are varied and relatively exciting to play. Each one builds on to the last
to complete a fairly interesting conceptual storyline.
nice thing about each level is that there are multiple objectives to
each one. If you are killed before completing
a level, you are not forced to restart at the beginning, but rather at
the last completed objective. This makes the game a lot less frustrating,
as some of the objectives can be pretty tricky to finish. Some may complain
that this makes the game too easy. Not at all. It just means you won't
be pulling your hair out after you've just walked into a barrage of gunfire
from an unseen assailant after completing a hard mission objective.
Filter may not be the most original game out there, but it is an
engaging and challenging action game. Those just coming down from a Metal
Gear Solid high may want to to take a serious look at this game. Syphon
Filter includes just enough of the same type of action to invite comparison.
Fans of GoldenEye 007 and Tomb Raider may also want to check the game out
for the same reasons. And, for anyone who's never tried any of those games
-- although that's hard to imagine -- Syphon Filter is simply an outstanding
action game that delivers a lot of bang for the buck.