The world is threatened by a group of terrorists possessing the most fearsome virus ever seen, and only one great agent is able to defeat them. If you are thinking of James Bond you are wrong: our hero is Agent Logan . Today we talk about Syphon Filter and this is My Generation the column in which to remember the great videogames that made history.
Released in the far 1999, Syphon Filter was an absolute surprise of the playground of the first PlayStation. The perfect videogame representation of a spy movie, which dropped the player in the ranks of a phantom agency called to defend the world. A setting like this today would be considered a simple cliché, abused more than necessary, but at the time of release we witnessed the first contacts between cinema and gaming, and similar themes were seen with curiosity from the public and the press.
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My name is Logan, Gabriel Logan
One of the strengths of the title it was therefore its direct and cinematographic plot, which allowed us to dress the role of the hero Gabriel Logan with the mission to eradicate the dangerous virus Syphon Filter which gave the name at the videogame. The pathogen was literally programmable, that is, it could be sent against specific targets: a fearsome weapon, to be eliminated at any cost.
To do so, Logan had at his disposal an extremely deep weaponry, which went from the classic pistol with silencer to Sniper rifles equipped with infrared viewfinder. The player could also find new equipment on the field, but the real heart of the experience was represented by the dynamism of the missions . Once a level started, in fact, the goal changed continuously, thanks to the indications of the partner of Gabriel, Lian Xing. This, together with the gameplay, was one of the most appreciated aspects of criticism at the exit of the game. Yet, according to the words of the director Jonh Gravin the development of Syphon Filter was long and troubled: the idea was to give life to an action adventure, but the team remained very for a long time without a supporting frame, with a sheet of paper where there was nothing but a name and a few details. No description of the characters, no idea on the plot narrative, just a good series of mechanics that fortunately enough to convince the publisher Eidetic to support the project, following the trail of another title that had upset the insiders a little time before.
The inspiration for Syphone Filter came in fact from GoldenEye 007 developed by Rare on Nintendo 64. The shooter dedicated to the exploits of James Bond presented itself as a precursor of the FPS genre on console, which at the time it was almost exclusively the prerogative of personal computers, and was developed using the avant-garde analog stick implemented in the pad by the Nintendo machine. Syphon Filter in the idea of the development team, had to possess those mechanics while being satisfied with a classic controller. But the influence of GoldenEye also touched other focal points of the game for PSOne. The aspiration of 989 Studios, as at the time it was called the software house, was to create a real spy story, similar to those seen on the big screen. Making this dream come true, however, proved to be a challenge to which programmers were not ready.
Before Syphon Filter in fact, the young studio had developed only one title: Bubsy 3D who was massacred by critics and public. In short, the company had little experience, not solid production policies, and a clear performance anxiety. So it was that Gabriel Logan's debut was remade several times, even risking the permanent cancellation on several occasions. Gravin himself, until a few weeks before the official publication, changed the order of some missions. Feeling today his stories on that development so troubled, what happened next takes almost the tones of a miracle.
Syphon Filter conquered all, thanks to a wide variety of game solutions: bombs to defuse , time missions, infiltrations and even the use of a scanner to detect viral traces. In particular, the press appreciated the gameplay: the player could change the camera from the third to the first person, to accurately target the weak points of the enemies. A solution of this type was seen in another game inspired by espionage, or Mission Impossible still on Nintendo 64, but the care behind this mechanic in Syphon Filter made it memorable. Logan was then able to kneel, roll, and perform a series of actions that made the action stages adrenaline and very eventful. The control system was responsive, so that the action always found a good compromise between tactics and dynamism.
In addition, we saw the first evolutions in artificial intelligence, with the enemies who took refuge behind the covers or who tried to flush out the protagonist with grenades. The combination of all these aspects, between intense narration and satisfying gameplay, resulted in a mix that today we would call " immersive ". Even a commercial of those years took up this idea: in the film, a well-dressed man is shown, probably the respectable employee of some big company. All the situations before him, however, remind him of the sequences of Logan's adventure, as if he were still living on his skin.
Thanks to Syphon Filter PlayStation found a new great exclusive to present to the public, and another fundamental partner for the development of internal studies. 989 Studios, in fact, worked on the brand of Syphon Filter for a long time, and then changed its name in 2005 to Bend Studio . The Gabriel Logan series immediately saw a new sequel, whose work began just a couple of weeks after the release of the first episode. Jonh Gravin immediately set to work, proposing a more refined plot on the plate, which resumed his plot a few hours from the epilogue of his predecessor. This time Logan and his partner would be hunted down by the government, while the threat of the virus loomed over the United States of America. The saga then finished his spy story, but over time there were some missteps. A third chapter certainly more contested was the beginning of the hesitations, which also continued during the season PlayStation 2 with a new trilogy much less appreciated.
The game of 989 Studios, among other things, he had to face ruthless competition. In 1999, in fact, the world had already witnessed the debut of Metal Gear Solid and the inspiration of Hideo Kojima. Despite other sources of inspiration, that exit window so close to the title of Konami irreparably marked Gabriel Logan and his agency. Syphon Filter arrived a few months later, and inevitably suffered the consequences of a heavy confrontation.
The press, fortunately, defined it as a project that was different from the stealth experiences of the period, Metal Gear Solid and Tenchu on all . The mechanics inspired by Goldeneye and Mission Impossible were palpable, the action vibration much more noticeable, and there were also juxtapositions to games like Tomb Raider . Syphon Filter exploited the stealth only in some sessions, and the shooting stages took the upper hand several times, representing the beating heart of the offer.
989 Studios managed to break through the heart of the fan, coming to sell one million copies during the first year of publication; an exceptional result for a title born from a draft of good ideas developed perhaps with a pinch of unconsciousness. Syphon Filter does not generate a great legacy, but it is the demonstration that a derivative concept can claim its own identity. In this sense, he was one of the promoters of an industry more attentive to the one that surrounded it, able to dialogue with other media and to ride the fashions and themes of the moment. Deservedly it was also included in the PlayStation Classic titles, as one of the products that helped characterize the console's gaming offer. Subsequently, Gabriel Logan like any good spy, made his tracks lose.