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Syphon Filter: A Series Retrospective and Blog Collaboration


As many of you know, Lord Spencer is reviewing a list of classic games from the original PlayStation. As a bit of fun, he and I decided to collaborate on the Syphon Filter portion of his review series.

So this blog is to kick off that collaboration, starting with a retrospective of the series as a whole. From there, Lord Spencer will post his reviews of the original Syphon Filter trilogy. And I will post my own Syphon Filter blogs to coincide with those. Without further ado, let's take a look at this classic PlayStation action series.

Syphon Filter Dark Mirrior PSP

A Slice of 1990s Action

The first Syphon Filter game debuted in February of 1999 in North America. In July of that same year it was launched in PAL regions. The series would receive six total entries during its lifetime, the first three being released on the original PlayStation.

In 2004, we received a PlayStation 2 entry called Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain. Two more games were later released on the PlayStation Portable: Dark Mirror and Logan’s Shadow. Both PSP titles were ported to the PlayStation 2, although some of the mature-rated content was redacted for the PS2 ports.

A Character-Driven Chronicle

The characters are every bit as iconic as the games themselves. Gabe Logan is obviously the stereotypical action guy. For a game like Syphon Filter, this is the exact character you want. Gabe is trained to respond to a crisis situation by any means necessary. He’s an adaptable agent, able to blend into the crowds and remain unnoticed. At a moment's notice, he could respond to a viral outbreak in a major urban area. He’s trained to use any weapon, so it’s no wonder this series has such a wide variety of weapons to choose from.

Lian is the person who drives the mission objectives forward. She provides Gabe with invaluable support throughout his missions. She is a regular source of intel, and a calm and reassuring voice in Gabe’s ear, allowing him to execute his objectives. She does all of this (probably) from the back of some unseen surveillance van. Although Gabe is the guy who does the wet work, in reality Gabe and Lian’s characters are invariably linked. It’s their partnership that drives the story forward.

Syphon Filter Cover Art

That Lian’s voice is such an integral part of the series is also one of the reasons why the story is still worth revisiting to this day. Although the story itself is not necessarily unique, the way it’s told certainly is. As many developers did with the original PlayStation, Eidetic and 989 Studios had to work around the console’s limitations in order to achieve their goals.

In the case of the original Syphon Filter trilogy, much of the story is told through Lian’s voice. She not only provides intel to Gabe, but she supplies story beats that help move the game forward.

Along with this, you receive a mission briefing at the beginning of each mission. The briefings aren’t just instructions on what to do. They’re letting the conspiracy slowly unfold as you play through the game.

A Slowly Unfolding Narrative

Of course, the cutscenes are another way the game delivers its story. What still stands as a unique part of the Syphon Filter series is how the cutscenes bridge the different games. For instance, the final cutscene from the first game picks up immediately in the intro cutscene of the second game. This really makes the game world feel alive, and it shows how the team behind the game would strive to make a single threading narrative between all entries.

The gameplay is often described as a third-person stealth shooter. Admittedly, this series is much more shooter than stealth. However, the games do break the action up with certain stealth-based missions. In the first game, for instance, once Gabe works through the Washington D.C. portion, we find him dressed in a tuxedo, quietly invading a reception at a museum. Later in the same game, Gabe is dressed once again in his infiltration suit, invading a military complex.

However, the complex has an alarm system. You can complete this mission one of two ways: total stealth, where the alarm is never triggered. Or, you can noisily crash the enemy’s party. If you choose the second route, you have to listen to a very frustrating alarm until the end of the mission.

Syphon Filter 3 Cover Art

For a series that no longer receives regular releases, Syphon Filter stands an iconic entry in the PlayStation library. It’s also injected with a lot of the 90s action flavor that is less common today. Like many other 3D games from the original PlayStation, it contains the wobbly, blocky polygons that give it that early 3D charm.

The character’s hands and faces are more paper-mache than realistic 3D. This was one of the expected growing pains from that era of 3D games. But where this series falls short in graphics it makes up for in how it presents its detailed, conspiracy-driven story. Best of all is watching the main characters, Gabe and Lian, navigate the web of government lies that follow them from the beginning to the end of the Syphon Filter games.

- Much love and happy gaming

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About Sharukurusuone of us since 3:44 PM on 02.26.2016

Hey there, and welcome to my small corner of the web.

This blog is mainly inspired by a few of my oldest friends, a group of guys who I still play games with online.

Here is a list of my favorite games, in no particular order:

*Mega Man Legends
*Mega Man Legends 2
*Ace Combat 4
*SSX Tricky
*SSX 3
*Way of the Samurai
*Splinter Cell
*Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D
*Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer
*Syphon Filter
*Syphon Filter 2
*Syphon Filter 3
*Midnight Club
*Age of Empires II
*Roller Coaster Tycoon
*Return Fire
*Metal Gear Solid 1-5
*Final Fantasy VII
*Final Fantasy IX
*Final Fantasy X
*Gran Turismo 2
*Bushido Blade
*Freedom Fighters
*Rainbow Six: Siege
*Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
*Dead Space
*Dying Light
*NieR: Automata
*Sniper Elite 4
*Il-2 Sturmovik: 1946