PS CLASSIC: February 1999 – A Story of Redemption

Released a week before Eminem’s future Grammy award winning debut album, The Slim Shady Lp an unlikely video game developer defies the odds and creates an iconic series.

The game developer, Eidetic had a strong desire to make a new super-spy, science fiction, storytelling type game. But desire was about all they had at the beginning. Desire and a one page synopsis titled, “Syphon Filter”.

The team of thirteen didn’t have a deep well to draw from, they were inexperienced and even worse, some were still haunted by the scathing reviews of the last console game they had released. The notorious, Bubsy 3D. (Which some critics still hail as the worst game of all time.)

Bubsy, you bastard.

As production kept stumbling the game came close to being cancelled several times due to the staff’s lack of experience and inspiration. But borrowing some of the best features about popular contemporary titles at the time like, Goldeneye and Metal Gear Solid began to rejuvenate the creative process. A project that would also provide the gaming world with its own unique contributions throughout its own life span.

In a 2016 interview with Eidetic (now Bend Studios) creative director, John Garvin, he had this to say about developing the original Syphon Filter:

“The first Syphon Filter went through a few rough patches and came close to being canceled several times as we missed deadlines, revamped mechanics, swapped levels around, changed the story, and generally tried to figure out what the heck we were doing. Our producer at 989, Connie Booth, and her boss Kelly Flock, were great though showing great faith in this new “spy genre” game. Our team ended up working in crunch mode for about a year as we tried to get the game up to everyone’s standards.”

When asked about the general feeling of the company during development and if they thought they were sitting on something special, Garvin explained that his day-to-day feeling was, “terror”. And no they had no idea if SF was going to perform well. They had to change the plot lines and locations several times and were swapping orders of levels just a week before the title was lset to launch.

John Garvin (

In fact, there wouldn’t be a sense of relief until the positive reviews started rolling in and the sales skyrocketed.

Syphon Filter was a critical and commercial hit becoming one of the most popular games of 1999 and launching an entire trilogy just on the PlayStation 1 alone. It’s often cited as one of the best games for the system and one of its most successful brands. So I’d consider that a pretty good redemption from ole’ Bubsy.

Which is why it will make for a great first non-PlayStation 2 game in a new feature simply titled, PS Classics. It was also pseudo-requested by a friend 😂

And speaking of 1999… let’s take a look at what was going on during that time.

For those of us old enough to remember 1999 it was a pretty anxious year – the Y2K threat seemed to dominate news cycles when it wasn’t obsessed with President Clinton’s impeachment trial or covering the atrocities of Colombine.

World news consisted of Europe adopting the Euro, Boris Yeltsin resigning from office and some dude named, Vladimir Putin taking over Russia and the seemingly endless Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan.

1999 had a killer slew of movies. The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, American Beauty, The World is Not Enough, Star Wars Episode 1, Blair Witch. It was a killer year. Three of my favorite movies of all time – all three in my top ten list: Office Space, Go and Magnolia all came out in 1999. I hadn’t realized until this moment how much of an impact 1999 cinema had on me.

As far as music was concerned, you might remember yourself, Eminem was a pretttttty big deal. According to Wikipedia the top selling albums in the states were:

Backstreet Boys – Millennium
Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time
Shania Twain – Come on Over
‘N Sync – *NSYNC
Ricky Martin – Ricky Martin
Christina Aguilera – Christina Aguilera
Santana – Supernatural
TLC – FanMail
Kid Rock – Devil Without a Cause
Eminem – The Slim Shady LP

As for me, personally it was an awkward time. My uncle had recently died, my parents recently separated and we started living with a new family. I was quiet and reserved. I was already writing my Metal Gear Solid fan fictions by now which only earned me more teasing.

I do however have a specific memory of New Year’s Eve 1999 – in the car with my mom driving home from the store and the local rock radio DJ trolling the Y2K-ers and playing, R.E.M.’s, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” and that got a chuckle from us both and she turned the radio up.

So now that I’ve completely derailed my entire post – keep an eye out for our first deep dive into the unlikely world Eidetic gave us as we follow special agents, Gabe Logan and Lian Xing on their assignment to save the world. Thanks for reading!

Give me food, money, beer or kill me:


10 responses to “PS CLASSIC: February 1999 – A Story of Redemption”

  1. I forgot how much I liked those old REM music videos. They are so wonderfully strange.

    1. REM was just so damn cool.

      1. What is funny is that people laughed at Michael Stipe’s T-Shirt stunt, but I think that came after everyone thinking, “Man that was awesome.”

        And I still watch the Losing My Religion video every so often.

      2. Losing My Religion was way ahead of its time. U2 might have started it but I feel like REM took the baton and took all of rock music into more cerebral territory.

  2. […] has these neat posts about the history of retro games that he is playing and writing about. This one about Syphon Filter is no different. I’m often fascinated by the history of […]

  3. As you may know, I do take pleasure in punishing myself in playing Bad Video games… Bubsy 3D is very well deserving of the title worst game ever. Personally Race Drivin on SNES tops it for me as that one makes me physically sick and super annoyed.
    Syphon Filter is a big step up… it’s still a bit tedious to me. in some aspects… but one of the biggest upgrades in studio history.. then again if the Studio decided to just give me the jewel case for Bubsy..instead of the game.. that would have been an upgrade already!

    1. Yes I haven’t reached a place of self loathing yet to find and play Bubsy. BUT after they redeemed themselves with the first two SF titles they ran the series into the ground with the misfires on the PS2/PSP like Omega Strain. But they would come back to make Days Gone. Which I’ve heard good things about. So they reinvent themselves every twenty years or so lol

  4. Aw This is so awesome!! Thanks so much for reviewing this game! I honestly didn’t know the story behind it, and it’s interesting to see it almost didn’t get made at all. This video game holds a lot of nostalgia for me, as it is one of maybe 3 that I owned at the time, and I played it to the end 🙂

    The Y2K scare, the songs/movies mentioned… Everything brings back so many memories! (PS: Garbage doing the song for The World is Not Enough is one of the best Bond songs, IMHO. A close second: Tomorrow Never Dies by Sheryl Crow.)

    I’m sorry to hear about your uncle passing, and the other things that made 1999 awkward/difficult for you. My life got pretty crazy at the start of 2000, but that’s a story for another time!

    Thanks again for doing this review, it’s so cool 😁

    1. You have completely thrown me down a Syphon Filter wormhole! 😂 I forgot how fun the games were and have been playing for days now.

      World is not enough and tomorrow never dies were amazing Bond songs. Two of my top three. My third being, “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra. Beautiful song!

      I would love to hear your story from the early 2000’s. I know from reading your blog things were very complicated for you. But they’ve helped shape you into the awesome person you are today. ☺️

      I will be posting more videos of the gameplay in awhile too so you’ll be able to get a full retro kick. 😂

      1. Hahaha But that’s a good rabbit hole to go down. I haven’t done a personal story post in a while, so maybe I should. Although that one is a doozy 😅

        I’m subscribed to you on YouTube so I should see your vids on my feed 🙂 Sounds cool!

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