Despite the apparent waning in popularity of the PS1, Sony has decided to make a few new, first-tier titles available for the console. For example, the recent release of the third installment in the popular Syphon Filter series has been a major surprise. Syphon Filter has consistently offered a solid mix of espionage and action and its appearance on the system is welcome. The third installment finds secret agent Gabe Logan once again at the center of the action and players will find this to be challenging and entertaining finale to the series fittingly appearing on the console where it all started.
While not radically different from previous games, Syphon Filter 3 features some very solid and challenging gameplay with the usual sniper and stealth modes complimented by challenging rescue missions which will keep players on their toes. While there donít seem to be that many new weapons, you still have a lot of firepower at your disposal. Youíll find a familiar arsenal of weapons, including sniper rifles, grenades and more exotic devices such as infra-red sweepers, X-Ray goggles and Tazer guns at your disposal. The key to success here is to decide when to use each weapon and how. Certain tasks, such as snaeaking around undetected in stealth mode requires the use of a sniper rifle or tazer gun to stun an enemy, while there are also pitched battles when youíre facing a number of assassins at once and need the increased firepower of a machine or hand-gun. While all of this is outlined in the included bonus weapons guide manual, which goes into great detail on the various devices, most players should be able to figure this out without much help. The use of these weapons in a strategic manner is the one of the titleís main appeals and lends a lot of variety to the gameplay. The constant thought required before using a weapon keeps the long missions from becoming dull and monotonous, though the missions themselves work well, offering a lot of different tasks to perform in each.
Syphon Filterís main appeal has always been its reliance on stealth and intelligence making players think instead of shoot. While there are some interesting challenges, this installment doesnít diverge from previous titles in this department. Your tasks vary quite a bit and each one requires a slightly different skill set to complete. While the plot and pacing are as engrossing as ever, SF3ís mission structure this time out is decidedly more defensive in posture. Most of the time, you find yourself guarding innocents, instead of taking on the enemies directly. This gives your motivations a good contextual base and keeps the interest level high. Whatís different in this installment is that Gabe himself seems to have taken a secondary role, since some of the supporting cast like Lian Xing and Mujari enter the spotlight this time. Their missions are a little bit different but switching characters keeps things interesting. The missions themselves remain as challenging as ever, though there are some very long and honestly, excruciatingly difficult ones that need to be replayed several times before theyíre completed. Some of the tasks need to be done perfectly and there are some missions where a single mistake will set you all the way back. This repetition can get really tiresome after awhile and detracts from what is otherwise a challenging yet rewarding experience. Despite the difficulty, persistence will pay off since Syphon Filter 3 offers a good balance of skill and challenge. While itís intimidating, experience and persistence goes a long way in making each mission a task that feels doable. There are still some elements which might put off newbies, such as the complicated weapons system, but for veterans, this is a solid installment that offers an entertaining experience.
While the main game is good, there are two extra modes to add extra value to the proceedings. First, thereís the death-match mode where you can shoot it out in the some of the more impressive environments. Taking place on a split-screen, this allows for plenty of fun with a friend, but it is constrained somewhat by the PS1ís limited graphics ability, which makes it hard to see sometimes. Still, this is a nice extra and helps to flesh out the game and makes things even more interactive. The other major extra features are the new mini-games, which are challenging and allow you to practice some of your techniques for the main game. Whatís cool about this is that players can choose which missions they want to do and the characters they want to use in them. There are 5 different mini-games included and some of the agents can be played in different costumes. Each of the mini-games has its own specific focus, such as the thief mode where the object is getting the character a briefcase then sneaking it back to their start point without getting detected by guards. There are also missions where you can practice shooting and sniper attacks. These are also good if you want to play a quick game without getting involved in the longer missions and storylines of the main game.
SF3 offers plenty of plot and an engrossing storyline thatís told in several elaborate cinematic cut-scenes which are quite effective in immersing the player into the action-packed storyline. The voice acting is excellent with good characterization of all the gameís main players and this is packaged in a game with a good looking interface for menus and on-screen indicators. While the graphics in the main game seem really grainy, they still do a serviceable job. All in all, the production values are impressive for a PS1 title. This makes SF3 a solid package and a pleasant surprise for software starved PS1 owners looking for something with a lot of depth and substantial challenge. This is about as good, overall as the previous games though there should have been some more new elements in the actual gameplay which seems a little bit too much like previous titles. Itís still good, but a few new weapons or techniques would have made it better.
Syphon Filter 3 isnít perfect with poor controls and surprisingly sub-par graphics being the main culprits in bringing down the overall quality of the experience. The biggest problem comes in using the auto-targeting. This isnít that accurate and leads to many wasted shots thanks to the awkwardness of the command interface. Whatís also a major problem that could have been corrected is the weapons system. Switching between weapons is still awkward, requiring multiple-button presses to accomplish which is again, quite awkward and difficult. This causes too much wasted time, frustration and annoyance. Itís disappointing that this problem hasnít been improved since the first game. Visually, the graphics engine really shows the PS1ís age, and is a disappointing contrast to the excellently produced cinematic sequenced. This is truly disappointing with its grainy appearance and muddled, jumpy environments. While you canít expect miracles, there could have been some polishing that would have made this much better. The flaws in this case arenít fatal and shouldnít be enough to dissuade fans of the series from picking it up. After all, enjoyable gaming is what matters most and SF3 delivers quite a lot for your money. The finale to the Syphon Filter trilogy on the PS1 isnít a revolutionary experience but it doesnít need to be. Sure, itís less than perfect but the solid gameplay and engrossing plot should keep you involved and challenged for many hours.