Title  : Syphon Filter
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation
Publisher  : 989 Studios
Game Rating  : 9.0
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Nintendo has Goldeneye and Mission: Impossible, both big sellers this holiday season. What does the PlayStation have? Syphon Filter, from 989 Studios, makes a strike against terrorism and the competition. 

International terrorist Erich Rhoemer has plans to unleash the formidable Syphon Filter virus on the world. The fate of millions rests on the skill of one special agent: Gabe Logan, a covert operative of the U.S. Army. 

Logan proceeds from mission to mission, each in a different area with unique goals, and with directives being added as the mission progresses. Among his tasks will be to tag viral bombs for the bomb squad to defuse (and to provide cover fire while they do so), resolve a hostage situation in Washington Park, defeat a flamethrower-toting goon at the Freedom Memorial, and shadow a suspected mole through a museum. 

Forget the analog sticks; they're much too "iffy" for precise control. The digital pad works fine, and in combination with the other buttons, allow Logan to jump, duck, roll, strafe, climb, drop, target, and snipe. When locked onto an enemy, Logan tries his best to keep his gun pointed in that direction, no matter which direction he runs in, but he won't automatically turn to face the bad guy when standing still. This leads to some frustrating failures in close-range shootouts. 

The enemies are plain — common sprite fodder — and their animations a bit off, but the settings are detailed, accurately portraying their real-life equivalents. Some special effects, like the nightvision scope on the sniper rifle, help establish the spy setting. Occasional full-motion video sequences are neat, but standard fare. 

There is no distinguishing soundtrack to help bring the game alive, as there was for Goldeneye and Mission: Impossible. The music picks up when enemies are encountered, but usually sits in the background, letting the action take the front. 

Despite these hits-and-misses, Syphon Filter is an addictive game. Its mechanics and missions are realistic, and variety in both goals and weaponry exciting. There's nothing like making a mad dash for cover in the streets of D.C. while shooting gunmen off nearby rooftops, or sneaking one's way from room to room undetected. 

Checkpoints are available whenever a goal is met, allowing continuation from that point should death occur. After each mission, progress can be saved to a memory card. 

Syphon Filter is everything Mission: Impossible should have been. It can't be compared to Goldeneye, but is more like Electronic Arts' Auto Destruct game, sans automobiles. The presentation could have been better, but Syphon Filter still ranks up there with the best action spy games.


This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 22-Feb-99