beyond lifelike tackles and bone-crunching checks, video games aren't supposed to represent or reflect real life.Anyone who's going to blow a few hours in front of the TV playing games is looking for an escape from reality, not a mirror.
Occasionally, just the opposite happens, though. How else to explain Sony's post-9/11 decision to postpone indefinitely the release of the hotly anticipated third instalment of their Syphon Filter series because the game "is too sensitive to introduce at this time of tragedy?"
The game's since been released, but it's easy to see what they were talking about. Like the other two volumes, Syphon Filter 3 follows the exploits of square-jawed, deep-voiced secret agent Gabe Logan as he travels around the world shooting people -- in graphic detail -- in hopes of recovering a vial of the deadly Syphon Filter virus.
In this instalment, Logan travels to, among other places, Afghanistan, gunning down holy warriors before they can unleash the anthrax-like virus on the U.S. of A. Sound familiar?
It's also easy to see why the series has been so successful. Syphon Filter is arguably the model for hugely popular gun-toting adventure games like Extermination and Metal Gear Solid. You face a series of seemingly impossible challenges and have to find your way out, both by shooting everything in sight and occasionally using your head.
Volume two literally took over my life for about a week, the kind of game where fairly intelligent pursuits like going to the gym or reading a book seemed utter wastes of time. When I passed it on to friends, the midnight calls about how to get through various levels began almost instantly.
Volume 3 is more of the same, with Logan travelling everywhere from Afghanistan and Africa to the subways of New York.
Where it fails is in the execution. Considering how detailed the game is and the clout of the Syphon Filter franchise -- there are dozens of Web sites dedicated to the game -- you've got to wonder why this third instalment has been created for the relatively weak PlayStation rather than the PS2.
After all the hype over PS2/XBox/GameCube, the blocky figures on PlayStation 1 look shockingly ghetto. It'll take over your life all the same, but gritty Gabe deserves more.
SYPHON FILTER 3 for Sony PlayStation, $60. Rating: NNN
GRAPHICS: Pong-like compared to the current standard.
ADDICTIVENESS: Goodbye, holidays.
ANTI-SOCIAL FACTOR: Expect trouble at home.
PROXIMITY TO THE REAL THING: A little too high right now.