Did Syphon Filter Influence MGS?

Real Talk By: Cmack The Don

It’s been about 20 years since the original Metal Gear Solid stealthed its way to international success on Playstation 1, helping to create a whole new genre of stealth/action that influenced both stealth and action games to come. Metal Gear included sneaking elements and tactics, the ability to use cover in gunfights, and through the Codec system included one of the most developed “support staffs” in all of gaming at the time. Now it’s the norm for players to have a helper character or guide that provides them with information over a sort of comm-link or hologram, or some other method. MGS might not have completely developed all of these elements on its own, but it refined and polished them, as well as making these elements popular for future developers to innovate on.

So in fewer words, Metal Gear Solid was very influential in gaming. A year after Metal Gear Solid was released, 989 Studios (now Sony Computer Entertainment) produced Syphon Filter, Sony’s very own 3rd person action/stealth game. In an interview with Playstation.blog, series writer and lead developer John Garvin claims that Syphon Filter was developed without any knowledge of Konami’s Metal Gear, but considering the year gap between the release of both games, the similarity of the concepts, and the fact that Metal Gear quickly became a smash hit in the states, I have some skepticism that Garvin and his team knew absolutely nothing about a game that was their most obvious competition at the time.


What inspired me to write this article was me playing through some of Syphon Filter again with a friend, and noticing some of the similarities between the two games.  Both games feature a gruff, raspy voiced special agent (former in the case of Snake) of the US who is extremely skilled and deadly, both featuring a female Chinese-American support staff assistant (Mei-Ling in MGS and Lian Xing in Syphon Filter) and a mission that involves saving the world from a potentially world-ending terrorism plot.
Whether or not Syphon Filter was a response project by 989, or maybe altered after they saw the success of Metal Gear to help it compete more effectively, Syphon Filter has some differences from Metal Gear as well, mainly in the gameplay and controls.

Both games are 3rd person shooters/stealth games, with MGS siding more on stealth, and Syphon more on action and shooting, and because of this fact, Syphon Filter’s controls are more movement oriented. In Syphon Filter you have:

-A tactical roll you can easily execute even while moving that helps evade enemy fire.
-basic obstacle navigation (jumping over waist height tables, boxes, platforms, etc)
-Hanging from pipes or ledges (also being able to hang one-handed and shoot)
-A crouching stealth walk for sneaking up behind enemies/staying quiet.
-First-Person aiming with the ability to target certain parts of the enemy’s body, with different affects on the enemy from being shot in different areas (headshots=instant death, shot to a limb=that limb isn’t useable, etc)


All of these elements appear in Metal Gear Solid 2: Guns of the Patriots. I think it’s arguable that while Metal Gear Solid could’ve influenced Syphon Filter, there is no way that a competing game made with mostly American developers wasn’t noticed by Kojima and his staff, and in my opinion, I think that they absorbed these various control elements into Metal Gear to make it a much more satisfying experience.

The sometimes stiff, almost clunky movement in Metal Gear Solid is one of the biggest criticisms you can give it as a game. The voice acting and storyline are superb, and most gamers agree on its place in gaming history. However if you really go back and play the original, you have to wonder about things such as no stealth-walk or crouched movement in the first game. Snake runs full steam ahead no matter what, there’s no medium option between crawling or running. The first-person aiming in the second is a huge part of the gameplay, and if you master it, you can much more easily clear out rooms of enemies without relying on auto-aim screwing up, alerting them to your presence and wasting ammo.


Gamers liked the addition of these basic movement abilities so much in MGS2 that Kojima and his staff even included all of these control upgrades in Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes on Gamecube, so it shows that he acknowledged that the original controls were lacking. After all, the game tells us that Solid Snake is the greatest genetically altered super-spy of all time, and yet he can’t climb up on a small table or over a box.

With each and every game afterwards, the Metal Gear series has improved its controls, allowing for more and more options to sneak, stealth, and take out enemies with all of the practiced moves that a super-solider/spy should easily be able to pull off, and in my opinion, I think that Syphon Filter was a part of developing this change.

Now if only Metal Gear could integrate that famous flaming taser…


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