After the success of Syphon Filter (1999) and Syphon Filter 2 (2000), video game developers were quick to cash in on the action franchise. In 2001, Bend Studios and Sony Computer Entertainment of America teamed up to release Syphon Filter 3 for the PlayStation. The series would return star agent Gabe Logan but would be a drop off in quality gameplay and plot. Gone was Eidec Studio and 989 Studios who developed and produced the first two games. How much would the third game fall from the graces of the franchise?
Syphon Filter doesn’t revolve around a complicated plot. The series is based on the premise of a man-made virus that is extremely deadly. If any country or agency got its hands on the virus, it could kill millions at a time. What is confusing in Syphon Filter is the typically double and triple agents within all the agencies along with the politics of the game. The first two games in the series focused on keeping the virus out of the hands of terrorists and rogue agents. In the third, the plot barely advances. Instead, the game explores character origins in a bunch of flashback missions.
One thing I’m constantly learning in reviewing PS1 games that have sequels is that companies are greedy. They don’t care about the quality of the games if they can make money off them. Looking back at Driver 2, Medal of Honor Underground, and other sequels, they just don’t come close to the quality of the originals. With Syphon Filter 2, I believe it held the same quality as the first but when the third game came, it lacked the magic of the first two.
The writers of Syphon Filter 3 were different than the first two. With only a year between releases, they probably didn’t know how to push the plot forward. Instead, they created character origins with Gabe Logan, Lian Xing, and Teresa Lipin. The missions you play are all flashbacks besides the final two.
Syphon Filter 3 begins as the Secretary of State is interviewing Gabe, Lian, and a man named Lawrence about their past affairs and the assassination of a Chinese high-ranking official. Gabe retells the tales of how they all met which is where the missions come into play. You’ll go as far back as the 80s as each agent discusses their past. The big twist is that Teresa who was an integral part of the series (and was killed) faked her death to hunt down more corrupt agents and officials.
She bursts into Congress to reveal herself and testify that Gabe, Lian, and Lawrence are not the terrorists behind the Syphon Filter. Mara Aramov is a Russian terrorist who has been at the center of the first two Syphon Filter games. She returns as the lead instigator and near the end of the game bursts into Congress and shoots up the place. Before she kills the Secretary of State, it’s revealed that he was part of the plot to unleash Syphon Filter.
Gabe then chases Mara into the subway system where he tracks her down and shoots her. The credits roll as Teresa, Lian, and Lawrence are kicking back on a beach smashing tropical drinks. It’s revealed that despite Mara being arrested she has somehow escaped. (Go figure) and post-credits a submarine is lifting a box of Syphon Filter vials at the bottom of the ocean as Mara laughs.
The plot of Syphon Filter 3 suffered from the inability to push the series forward. Gameplay was also toned down from the previous two games. Levels in the first two games felt huge and explorative. In the third game, the missions felt condensed and linear. I think the difficulty is also ratcheted up. Bring your “A” game because, within the first ten seconds of the first mission, a reign of sniper fire is all over you. It took me about ten tries just to get past the first few minutes of the first level. Yikes! There were no warm-ups, this was meant for veteran Syphon Filter players. Good thing I’m one of them.
As always, the king is the air taser weapon. Seriously, if I make a list of the top 10 most deadly weapons in video games I’m putting that as number one. Whenever I played as Gabe, I kept it equipped and skipped all the high-tech machine guns. If you wanted to beat the missions, the air taser was your best friend paired with auto-aiming.
I don’t know if I expected the cutscenes to improve but they almost look a little worse. Voice acting and FMV have never been a strong suit with Syphon Filter but maybe because a new developer oversaw the game, the scenes got worse. They were also very boring as more than half of them was just Gabe testifying in congress.
Missions were difficult and using your map was a must. I don’t know what was wrong but Syphon Filter 3 was an extremely dark game. Not in the sense of tones, but the actual gameplay. I couldn’t see diddle. I played on my 75-inch 4K tv so perhaps that was the issue but man, sometimes I went minutes not knowing what the heck I was doing just running through the dark. It was very frustrating but I can’t tell if it was the game or my TV.
My frustrations came to a boil with an escort mission. I know, we all love those. You are in a Middle-Eastern desert protecting a cargo truck with another soldier. As you progress through the mission there are various enemies and obstacles in the way. You must keep both the truck and your partner alive. Near the end, there’s this valley where you are ambushed by tons of enemies. I was low on ammo and my partner kept dying every two seconds. It was difficult and I restarted from that checkpoint 20 times before giving up for the night. Eventually, I restarted the entire mission so I could be better prepared for that section. After a dozen more tries I beat that segment.
Another mission has you in the mountains with a bunch of gun nuts. One of the mission objectives is to stop the birth of a premature baby! Now that’s hilarious. It was strange to watch Teresa apply a first-aid kit on the vagina of the pregnant woman. What a sight! There were no bosses in Syphon Filter 3 except for Mara who was a joke. She doesn’t shoot at you and just holds a hostage. You need to climb to the subway roof and shoot through the metal to defeat her. The end was certainly a letdown and with the way the game ends, it was all for nothing. Literally, nothing in this game pushed the plot forward. Syphon Filter 3 could have never happened and the next game (I haven’t played it yet) could slide right into the series.
I picked up Syphon Filter 3 in a little game store in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This store is a hidden gem and it’s inside the owner’s house. He has a collection of rare games but they are market price. I found Syphon Filter 3 there for $5 so I purchased it after beating the first two games.
Syphon Filter 3 sadly fits the trend of less than stellar sequels to great PS1 games. The second game avoided that trend, but I knew it was coming. The terrible plot and stale gameplay doomed Syphon Filter along with a new developer and publisher. If this was the first game in the serious it would have scored higher but after two solid games, Syphon Filter 3 is nothing but a disappointment.
Syphon Filter 3 scores a 6.5 out of 10.
What are your thoughts on Syphon Filter 3? Do you remember when it first came out? What do you think of the series overall? Would you like to see it come back? Who is your favorite character and what memories do you have playing it? I love to read them, so let me know! If you’d like to own a used copy of Syphon Filter 3 for the PS1 you can purchase a copy of it on eBay for $12.