If you thought that a third Syphon Filter game in three years is a sign of creative fatigue, then you have thought right. For all intents and purposes, Syphon Filter 3 is almost identical to the second game but with poorer pacing and story beats.
That explains why this third outing of Gabriel Logan and friends had the lowest scores on the PS1, but is too much of a good thing necessarily bad? I actually don't think so, which is why despite the game being clearly inferior to the second outing, I still enjoyed my time with it at its best.
#36(S2): Syphon Filter 3:-
Genre: 3rd Person Shooter/Stealth
Developer: Bend Studio
First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10-point system. I fully recommend games that get above a 7, and those that get below are mostly a waste of time. The recommendation for a game scoring a 7 largely depends on your personal taste.
"She gave her life for mine, how can I live with that? The same way I will, by surviving, by not giving up, by fighting for what you believe in"
Right off the bat, you are treated to the aftermath of the death of a beloved character in a cutscene. Here, you will notice how the story immediately starts with high stakes, and you will also notice the updated technology used in the CGI cutscenes, which now show significantly better-developed facial animations than its predecessors.
Unfortunately, the game's plot and pacing take a nosedive from there, and that's mainly due to its poor choice of hinging its story on a flash-back-heavy narrative design. For more than half the game, various characters in Logan's crew testify to the US Congress (in the form of the VP) about their past relationship with the now rogue Agency.
Technically, the US is a rogue country, except not to the US
Through each hearing, you go back in time and play a mission with that character, which does little to advance their characterization and even less in advancing the central plot. It may have been interesting to play the missions where Xian Ling and Logan first met, but all the others were completely unnecessary.
This narrative choice hampers the series's otherwise satisfying plotline and massively reduces the stakes. You know the character testifying about their history is going to survive, so why play the flashback?
At least the voice acting is a bit improved from the second game with Logan and remains solid for the rest as expected.
"Not Gabe and I, we worked for the greater good"
In many ways, I could just copy and paste the gameplay portions of my Syphon Filter 2 review, and much would apply here. This is the second time where the franchise's Action-Stealth gameplay actually works since the second game already fixed the issues of the first.
It is as satisfying as it has always been to control Logan, both when you are in a firefight or when you are sneaking around. Thankfully, levels are catering to both styles of play. Also, the game plays the same regardless of the character you choose, so it doesn't have any impact on the game which character is testifying to Congress at the moment.
We are really in no danger whatsoever in this mission
One thing that is annoying here, just as it was annoying in the other games, is the sudden spikes of difficulty. In some missions, you are tasked to save hostages, and you have to headshot two or more enemies in mere seconds. In others, enemies suddenly gain a huge boost in power and accuracy, managing to deplete your armor with one barrage of bullets.
Thankfully, the checkpoints are close enough that it rarely becomes frustrating, and you could always use the trustworthy strafe to look around corners and covers.
"Discover who is behind the shadowy organization controlling the Agency"
With almost the same gameplay and mechanics as its predecessor, the only way Syphon Filter 3 could have differentiated itself and justified its existence was to be equally as creative in crafting new missions. Mostly, the game succeeds in that mission.
Some missions introduce interesting weaponry and/or gadgets, such as Xian Ling's mission in Afghanistan where she finds a weapon that can fire through walls. Others are simply well-crafted levels that take full advantage of the game's mechanics. Variety is key here. From a hotel in Tokyo to a survivalist camp in Colorado, there are different locations, different objectives, and different styles for many missions.
Never thought escorting the pregnant wife of a cult leader was in the cards
Naturally, this means that some missions are weaker than others. Personally, I don't care much about some of the escort missions, with one particular mission escorting a truck having some nasty difficulty spikes within it. Also, some missions are very short, seemingly being inserted to use the same area in a different way to pad the run time.
Generally, though, the stage design in the better levels is really good. Thanks to the handy map and objective list, you won't get lost, and the stages are built in a way you can logically navigate with ease. Missions are almost divided equally between stealth and combat focus, which showcases the best the series has to offer.
"Trust, Miss Xing, would seem to be in short supply in your agency"
For the third game in a row, not many advancements were made to the game's graphics or animation. Admittedly, there were fewer instances of the camera clipping through the environment, but the environment is also slightly more bland in a majority of the stages.
So, don't expect anything better than the admittedly high-tier PS1 polygonal graphics and animation in-game, with the only upgrade here being for the CGI cut-scenes. These cut-scenes are ironically reduced as a result, with the focus on the improved facial animations taking away from the masterful direction of action scenes in the previous games.
Just get distracted by those hyper-realistic faces
Thankfully, the audio production continued its positive trend slightly by producing another suitable soundtrack to the game. While no track immediately stands out, I can remember clearly how effectively it conveyed the various areas you traversed in the game. From the tribal sounds on the jungle missions to the spy-thriller tunes in the city.
Lastly, the voice acting is as solid this time as it has always been. Even Logan's VA slightly improved, no longer emphasizing each line as if he had some mysterious constipation.
Familiarity breeds contempt. It doesn't go as far as that in this case, but Syphon Filter 3 is an almost similar package to the second game in the series but one that is wrapped in a worse-told story.
So, while it is true that the game's mechanics and the majority of its missions meet the same high standard, you can't help but expect a sequel to be better. Failing to achieve that, I think this game is a minor disappointment, and in a way, it was common for games in the same franchise to fall on their face with the fast development cycles of the PS1 days. This one manages to fall with some dignity intact.
1- You can shoot locks to break them (and electric panels as well).
2- Learn to take advantage of your map to figure things out.
3- Beware of enemy grenades.
4- Some levels require some vertical climbing, so look up often.
5- Stealth missions REQUIRE stealth.
6- Learn how to reliably get headshots with free aim.
7- Grenades are useful against multiple targets.
8- Use the roll to approach quietly while sneaking.
9- Beware of shooting friendly targets.
10-Take advantage of cover when fighting multiple targets.
11-Sometimes running through enemy fire is your best option.
No Syphon Filter game would be complete without some night goggles levels
For those reading one of my PS1 review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed both major Generation 4 consoles, and am now reviewing Generation 5 consoles. I already finished reviewing the Sega Saturn, so I am now reviewing the PS1. In these reviews, I take a top 100 games list and review the games that interest me in that list.
This time, my review series is based on this list from Retro Sanctuary and other sources, since the PS1 can handle a list bigger than a top 100.
Also, note the following:
-If you have any suggestions for a game that is not on the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest them.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Is this suddenly a good Tomb Raider game?
Well, that takes care of my playthrough of the Syphon Filter franchise on the PS1. I really think this franchise is one of the premium upper-middle-tier Action-Shooter games on that console. It was clearly inspired by the success of Metal Gear and I think made a decent attempt at copying some of that formula while forging its own strong identity.
Next on the list is another Square cult classic. Threads of Fate sits comfortably at number 35 on the list. I actually played this game a long time ago, but I don't remember much of it (other than the fact that I enjoyed it) so it will be interesting going back
For Previous PS1 Game Reviews: