European cover art
25 March 2011
|Genre(s)||Third-person shooter, stealth|
Syphon Filter is a third-person shooter stealth video game developed by Eidetic and published by 989 Studios for the PlayStation. It was first released on 31 January 1999 in North America, 9 July 1999 in Europe and on 12 August 1999 in Japan. It was released on Android devices worldwide on 25 March 2011. The game was followed by a sequel, Syphon Filter 2, in 2000, and spin-offs later released for the PlayStation Portable. The first game in the Syphon Filter series, the plot centres on special agents Gabriel Logan and Lian Xing who are tasked by the United States government to apprehend an international terrorist from Nepal.
Development on Syphon Filter began with the intention of creating a new "super-spy" genre hybrid that contained elements of stealth-action and puzzle solving. The game was almost cancelled several times during development as Eidetic faced many difficulties due to the lack of inspiration from others and their inexperience in creating video games. Despite the initial drawbacks faced, Syphon Filter was met with positive reviews from critics upon release, mostly directed at its innovation and immersive plot.
The game is presented in a third-person perspective, and the player can freely move in three-dimensional space and rotate the camera in any direction. The top left corner of the screen interface shows the status of Gabriel's armour, a 'danger-meter' which rises as the player enagages enemies through combat, and a target lock. A radar is displayed in the bottom left corner of the screen which shows the location of various objects including friendly units, enemies, weapon pick ups or mission objectives. The current weapon equipped is always displayed in the bottom right corner, with the ammunition count. Depending on the weapon used, the camera will shift to first-person mode to assist in aiming.
The core of the gameplay is focused on stealth-based tactics, which require one to silently take out enemies using silenced weapons or other lethal attacks. However, most of the game is action-orientated, which involves Gabriel navigating through levels whilst loudly shooting at enemies with no consequence to the mission. The game takes place in a wide variety of locations, including narrow interior streets of Washington D.C. to wide open plains of Kazakhstan. In some stealth based missions, the game will involve various puzzles. Some locations feature low light ambience, which force the player to use their torch despite its drawbacks imposed during stealth missions.
Gabriel Logan and Lian Xing are operatives of the Agency, on the trail of Erich Rhoemer, an international terrorist of Nepal. In August 1999, their boss Thomas Markinson sends agent Ellis to infiltrate Rhoemer's narcotics operation in Guácimo, Costa Rica. He is discovered and executed by ex-KGB agent Mara Aramov. Rhoemer then orders Anton Girdeux, a French mercenary, to burn down the plantation to hide the evidence of their research for a biochemical weapon named "Syphon Filter".
As Gabriel and Lian get caught up in an operation to save Washington D.C. from one of Rhoemer's bombing attempts, Gabriel fights Aramov and discovers that the bombs are being held in a park. This leads him to a showdown with Girduex, who is ultimately burned alive by his own flamethrower. the Agency decides to investigate a multi-million dollar company called Pharcom, known to have dealings with Rhoemer. When an agent named Edward Benton is not able to find anything conclusive, Gabriel is sent to tail the company founder, Johnathan Phagan. He soon discovers that Benton is a mole inside the Agency, responsible for exposing Ellis in Costa Rica. Gabriel kills Benton and the Agency captures Aramov. Lian is captured as well during a subsequent mission against Rhoemer.
Gabriel is then sent to infiltrate Rhoemer's stronghold in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, which is housed inside an abandoned cathedral. Injecting viral patients with what he is convinced is an antidote, Gabriel descends deeper into the cathedral to rescue his partner Xing; who explains that there is no 'global' antidote for the virus. They also find Phagan, who is later fatally shot by Aramov. She decides to help the Agency, since she has nowhere else to go. Afterward, Gabriel infiltrates the Pharcom warehouses in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where Pharcom security is battling Rhoemer's mercenaries. Gabriel learns that Markinson, in the midst of secret negotiations with Rhoemer to obtain Syphon Filter for the Agency, has made Gabriel inject the patients with lethal doses of potassium chloride.
Rhoemer reveals he has captured a Soviet-era nuclear ICBM. He shoots Markinson in the head and starts the launch sequence for the missile. Gabriel cannot prevent it from launching, so his only hope is to initiate its self-destruct sequence once it is in the upper atmosphere. Gabriel successfully destroys the missile averting retaliation from NATO. Rhoemer, furious at Gabriel's interference, engages him in a final showdown. Gabriel is able to kill him and escape the missile silo. Gabriel and Xing, both disillusioned with their trust in the Agency, ponder the situation as the camera zooms out over the warehouses. In a post-credits scene, a shadowy figure is holding a sample of Syphon Filter inside the Agency's headquarters with Aramov, who is laughing.
According to creative director John Garvin, Syphon Filter was originally conceived as "just a name" from a producer at 989 Studios. Initially, there was no plot, character or gameplay from the original one page synopsis. Eidetic decided to set Syphon Filter as a new 'stealth-action' hybrid that focused heavily on weapons, gadgets and stealth. The team's lead designer was influenced over Rare's successful GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64, and implemented the game's mechanics to have a similar feel for a new "super spy" genre.
The team experienced immense difficulty in creating the game, as Garvin noted that there were "no, or few, games" from which Eidetic could draw inspiration. Most of the team that developed Syphon Filter had little experience with making third-person action games, as Eidetic's only video game released for a console was Bubsy 3D, which was released three years prior for the PlayStation and was infamous for being critically panned as one of the worst games of all time. Despite the initial difficulties with staff and lack of experience, Eidetic produced a prototype which involved a shooting segment in a underground. Garvin admitted that the team "didn't know anything about making realistic shooters set in a spy world" as the game came close to being cancelled several times throughout development because the team was missing deadlines, revamping mechanics and changing the story. During development, the team of thirteen re-wrote several drafts as the game was being conceived. The original plot of Syphon Filter was intended as a science-fiction orientated approach and involved a group of kidnapped scientists who were being forced to build a time machine by an unspecified antagonistic organisation. The storyline was radicially changed when John Garvin was hired to be art director, later creative director.
The game received positive reviews from critics upon release. It currently has a 87% aggregate score on GameRankings and a score of 90 on Metacritic. The game was mostly praised for its brevity and creativity, with many reviewers considering that the "super-spy" genre was new at the time.
The blend of a stealth-action hybrid gameplay was praised by most critics. Doug Perry of IGN enjoyed the implemented skill-based action that he considered was "hard to come by in a PlayStation game". Perry praised the game's detail and advanced graphics, but criticised the low resolution and noting that the game's frame rate was "not perfect". Despite this, he noted that what Syphon Filter "gives up in frame rate [it] provides in character and environment detail". Game Revolution similarly praised the attention to detail, calling every texture of the game "well planned and rendered" however compared the graphics were not as detailed as Metal Gear Solid. However, Game Revolution noted that during some points the game "suffers from many typical PlayStation polygonal errors", causing some textures to become "warped" when viewed from an angle, although they noted that glitches were uncommon and did not affect gameplay in any way.
The gameplay and artificial intelligence were the most praised aspects of the game. Game Revolution noted the gameplay was "well above average" and had an excellent replay value, in contrast to games such as Star Fox 64 once completed. Perry praised the game's wide variety of weapons and gadgets, having counted at least thirty different weapons and equipment for the player to use, with the added bonus of secret weapons, adding to the gameplay value. Game Revolution added that the AI was "perhaps the best part of the game", commending on how certain enemies react on when one of their comrades are killed nearby. IGN similarly praised its AI, pointing out on how everytime a level is played the AI would change its behaviour, sometimes hiding behind trees or carrying different weapons.
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