A Gun Guy Goes Gaming — Syphon Filter 2

Syphon Filter 2 holds a special place in my heart. Kids these days don’t know how awesome it used to be to buy a new game, open it up, and read the manual as you headed home to play it. The manual had a weapon catalog with a picture and a short blurb about the weapon. This entranced me as a kid and planted a seed that led me to exactly where I am now, writing this article.

Syphon Filter 2 was a PlayStation 1 game released in the year 2000 and was one of the early action stealth games on the market.

The game was rough and more action than stealth, but a ton of fun. It was my first two-disc game, and I couldn’t wait. The game absolutely kicked my ass, and it took forever for me to finish as a kid. However, to this day, it provides me with fond memories of my PlayStation.

Syphon Filter 2 — The Forgotten Series

I’m not gonna lie, I never played the first game. However, the second picked up apparently right after the first. The main characters, Gabriel Logan and Lian Xing, were part of the ‘Agency’ and now are enemies of the state. The plot involved the two characters trying to stop the release of the Syphon Filter virus and prevent rogue members of the ‘Agency’ from selling the virus to a rogue Chinese general.

Syphon Fileter 2 danger and target meters
This lock-on shooter had danger and target meters that let you know your on-hand offensive and defensive opportunities.

It was an excuse to kill hundreds of bad guys with a variety of guns, a knife, and even a taser. It was mostly an action game, but it had small bits of stealth gameplay that amped up the action. Stealth levels with suppressed weapons and knives were intense but instantly failed when caught. I do remember being incredibly frustrated by these as a kid. Luckily, checkpoints existed, and I made it through.

Syphon Filter 2 often felt like an action movie with lots of little quasi-scripted situations. You swapped between Gabe and Lian and played through a wide variety of levels. Two that I’ll always remember is the mountain level where I rocked and rolled with an HK G11 firing accurate, three-round bursts into bad guys. The other is the train level, where you fought through waves of bad guys on a moving train.

Syphon Filter 2 train level
The train level will always be remembered fondly by me.

The game sold over a million copies, and Syphon Filter 3 did well, but the franchise has been largely abandoned. There were some awesome PSP games, but in terms of major console releases, Sony seems to have forgotten how awesome these games were. I don’t want a remaster, but I’d love to see Syphon Filter make a comeback as a tactical shooter.

The Gunplay

The gameplay feels super dated now compared to most modern shooters. I mean, it is twenty-two years old. It can have a beer if it wants to. Syphon Filter 2 was a lock-on shooter that meant you had to hold a button for your character to aim at an enemy. A meter filled up on the side, showing you how likely you were to hit and damage the bad guy.

This is how you played the run and gun portions of the game. You kept your character moving to avoid getting shot, and you never stopped shooting. You could instantly switch to first-person mode to aim precisely and lean around cover. It was unique for the time and felt very ‘tactical’ to ten-year-old me.

Syphon Filter 2 head shot
Headshots meant armor didn’t work.

You had a danger meter that rose and fell in a fight. The longer you were exposed, the faster the meter filled. Once the meter filled, bad guys would destroy your armor and end you quickly. You needed to use cover or even roll to drive the meter down and stay alive.

The Armor

Speaking of armor, both you and bad guys could have it. Bad guys with armor were super tough, and smart players switched to first-person mode and took precise headshots to make armor a non-issue.

The boss fights were also so cool. One required you to hide, roll, and avoid a bad guy boss because if you killed him, a bomb would explode. You had to wait and survive until your friend defused the bomb before you could take him out.

Syphon Filter 2 flame thrower
Oh, and you get a flamethrower at one point.

Another involved a bad guy boss so heavily armored you couldn’t kill him with guns. You could retrieve a Daewoo USAS 12 and knock him down. Eventually, you figured out you had to knock him into some helicopter blades to decapitate him. Syphon Filter 2 was a blast, both literally and figuratively.

“Teresa, I’m Coming Down the Hard Way!”

If you wanted guns, Syphon Filter 2 gave you guns. Lots of guns were relatively realistic for the time, and some were very different from the usual video game fare. Also, some were new — so new that they never reached full production, like the aforementioned HK G11. The G11, supposedly the rifle of the future, utilized the famed caseless ammo and a weird horizontal magazine.

Another standout was the game’s interpretation of the 1911. It’s every boomer’s wet dream. Stopping power was the name of the game, and the 1911 was one of the more powerful weapons. In fact, it was more powerful than most of the rifles. However, the blurb about the gun is comically wrong.

Syphon Filter 2 1911 blurb
Just read it…

We also got some standards like the MP5SD, the M16A1, and the Glock 17. On top of that, we got a fictional blaster, the HG34, as well as a 37mm tear gas launcher posing as an M79. There were also some exotics like the Sig 550 sniper rifle, the Glock 18, and the Daewoo USAS shotgun.

Different guns delivered different effects and animations. The shotgun’s animation was the best and felt hefty with every shot. The taser could be used to the point the bad guy caught on fire and died violently, and it still amuses me.

Was it realistic?

None of the gunplay was very realistic. With the scoped rifles, you could zoom in and take long-range shots. The suppressors were whisper-quiet, and the pump shotgun seemingly had an infinite magazine tube.

Syphon Filter 2 H11 sniper rifle
HK was too cowardly to give us a real G11.

Yet, it was still so much fun for me as a kid. Games like Syphon Filter 2 helped spawn a rugged, more violent, and more adult genre of tactical shooters, which most of us enjoy to this day. Why Syphon Filter 2 and the Syphon Filter series seem to be forgotten about is beyond me. I loved these games, and it’s time they make a comeback, dang it!

Fun fact apparently, the zombie game Days Gone is loosely connected to the Syphon Filter world. Perhaps a zombie plague is what happens when Gabe and Lian fail their mission.