Show me one red-blooded American male who has not, at one point or another in his life, dreamed of being a secret agent. Try as you may, you will not find one. I think that every kid's dream is to have all the coolest new weapons to blast the bad guys and save the world. It looks like our childhood dreams have come true, because in Syphon Filter you get to do all these things and more.
Your name is Gabe Logan and you are a guerrilla warfare expert in the areas of Counterterrorism, Special Reconnaissance, Direct Assault and Stealth. You are trained on a number of different assault weapons with numerous targeting options. It is up to you to use these skills to stop the deadly Syphon Filter virus from being unleashed on U.S. soil. There is no more time for dreaming about being a secret agent, because this is the real deal.
I don't know where to start. Should I begin with the awesome weapons? The challenging missions? The surprisingly decent voice-overs? The complex yet intuitive control system? The interactive environments? No, I think I will start with the super intelligence of the enemies. You will face a number of enemies throughout your missions, but one thing I found was that they can definitely be smart. I don't want to give them too much credit, because there were times that the enemies seemed to have no brains at all, but mixed in were some pretty impressive moves on their part. For example, there were three enemies standing near each other. I ran by and tossed a grenade between them. I heard one shout "incoming" and the guys jumped out of the way. Not bad. Another example is the constant surprises they will heap on you. I could be running across a beam way up high only to hear gunfire coming from the ground. Apparently one of the enemies detected my movement and was taking pot shots at me. This game has some of the best AI that I have seen in a PSX game to date.
Now let's talk about weapons. What secret agent would be complete without access to some seriously kick-ass weapons? Not to worry, because you will have the opportunity to lay waste with some of the coolest weapons around. One of my personal favorites was the sniper rifle. By holding in one of the shoulder buttons and moving the control stick around, you can aim for specific areas on the enemy's body. By holding in the triangle button, you can zoom in for pinpoint accuracy. Line up the scope with the enemy's head and all it takes is one shot to send him tumbling off the roof. This weapon is enhanced later on in the game, when you find the night vision sniper rifle which detects heat from people in the area and gives off a look similar to the look in the move Predator. If finesse is not your thing, there are also plenty of weapons of mass destruction. The M-79 Grenade Launcher is great for killing multiple enemies with one shot. Nothing clears a room faster.
Let's move on to the challenging missions. First off, the game is mission/objective based. You start out with a number of objectives that are required to complete the overall mission. It is not uncommon to have objectives added during the middle of your mission. These objectives vary from disarming bombs to killing ringleaders. There is no doubt you will find each of the missions progressively more difficult as the game progresses almost to the point of frustration. It turns out that the majority of my frustration was the result of missing something in a dark corner or not noticing a ledge to jump up to, but this does not diminish the challenge at all.
One of the things that is consistently bad in games is the voice acting. You can tell that the translations aren't accurate. This really makes a game lose credibility in my eyes. I think they did a great job making Syphon Filter as real as possible, and the voice acting played a big part in this. There is no B-movie quality acting here. You really feel as if you are in the middle of a big-budget spy flick.
On to the controls. The game has a training video that will explain all the controls to you, and I suggest you watch it. Actually, I suggest you watch it twice. This game has a ton of actions and uses every single button on the controller (some buttons are actually used for multiple actions). I usually prefer simple controls and was a bit hesitant about the complexity of the controls. It turns out that, the more you play, the more intuitive the controls become. By the time you finish your first mission, they should almost be second nature to you. I will admit that there were some things I never really got good at, like running away from somebody and switching weapons at the same time. It was just too difficult to watch where I was going and watch the weapons cycle past. Other than this, they are spot-on.
Something else that really adds to the realism of the game is the interactive environment. If you shoot at glass, it breaks. If you see a box, you can climb on top of it. A perfect example of the cool little touches they added to the game happens very early on. You will come to a gate with a padlock on it. You can't get past, so you will seem to be stuck. Instead, you can switch to the manual aim mode and aim your pistol at the padlock. One shot and you will blow the lock off the gate. This may sound like a subtlety, but it is the little things like this which add up and make the overall experience work so well.
I honestly don't have any real complaints about the game. There were a few instances where the old 3D control problem reared its ugly head, but other than that I really can't complain much. Oh yeah, one other thing that bothered me a bit was that some of the missions tended to drag on a little too long and the objectives were fairly vague. This is just nitpicking, though.
The graphics were not the best, but they were not the worst either. I could tell this game has been in development for a while. The backgrounds looked a bit on the blocky side at times as well. The graphics did not really hurt the game in any way, which is good, but I wish they were a bit more crisp and clean.
If you are looking for a great spy action adventure game, look no further. This game is long, challenging and most of all a fun experience. I think 989 Studios did a great job in creating a realistic environment. It is almost like you are playing your own interactive movie. While the controls may seem a bit overwhelming at first, stick it out because it will pay off in the long run. This game is highly recommended, so check it out.
Review Posted On 31 March 1999.
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