The Syphon Filter franchise is a PlayStation staple, but after its debut on the original PlayStation, the series fell into a period of relative obscurity. That all changed with Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror for the PlayStation Portable. With a decent single-player campaign and sweet online multiplayer options, it wasn't just the best Syphon Filter in a long time; it was also one of the best PSP games of 2006. Although the PS2 port easily and accurately captures the single-player campaign, it leaves out the online multiplayer, only to replace it with wimpy challenges. Sony filtered the wrong part out.
But that won't stop Sony from trying to siphon 40 bucks out of your wallet for what is basically a ho-hum action shoot-'em-up. You reprise the role of Gabe Logan, a heavily armed man of action, as you try to foil a plot to destroy the world. There's a sassy she-spy named Addison, and some hints at romance (when Gabe is in Addison's quarters at a base, he comments "Oh, you brought that quilt with you"), but the plot is mostly just a string of colorless bad guys you have to kill on your way to saving the world.
Given that Dark Mirror is the video game equivalent of a Hollywood action movie, the one-liners are worth more discussion than the plot. The game gets off to a promising start when sidekick Lian informs Gabe that the enemy "was ready and waiting for us," to which Gabe replies "They were waiting, but I guarantee they aren't ready." Oh snap! Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there, degenerating into an impotent "Damn you to hell!" near the end of the game, before bottoming out with the inexplicable "Your skull is so dense, nothing can escape, not even intelligence!"
Nevertheless, the gameplay is mostly fun. It mixes entertaining shoot-outs with cooperative sequences in which you and a non-player character attack a bad situation together. In one of these, you guide a frightened UN soldier through a toxic deathtrap with your flashlight, and in another, you order Lian to pin the enemy down while you run from cover to cover. When you're simply running around shooting guys, which is most of the game, a decent cover mechanic will usually let you make extremely short work of the enemies.
From cover, you can safely aim at bad guys without worrying about damage. Combine this with the fact that your first bullet is always dead on no matter what gun you're using, along with the general lethality of headshots, and you'll have no trouble making short work of the legions of foes who throw themselves before your crosshairs. As you get used to the game, you'll become a pro at lining up headshots with pretty much every weapon, and deftly plunk several enemies in a row with single-shot kills. Part of this is due to limited enemy artificial intelligence. (They prefer to stand in the open and shoot.) At any rate, you still feel like a hotshot.
The only real problem is that one button shares two functions: changing weapons and changing firing mode. Late in the game, you'll need to throw grenades and then quickly shift to a high-powered submachine gun to subdue the toughest foes. In the process, it's easy to mistakenly switch the gun to single-shot and waste a very valuable window of opportunity. Aside from this one hitch, the controls are smooth.
The game controlled well on the PSP, and you get more of the same on the PS2 version, but surprisingly enough the game also looks good. After all, a big part of what makes PSP graphics seem pretty is the tiny resolution, but Dark Mirror reflects nicely even on the big screen. It isn't visually spellbinding or anything, but the frame rate is steady, and the visuals are clean and clear. The voice acting, on the other hand, is strictly second-rate, and the music is rather unmemorable.
If this were the PSP version of Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, we'd talk here about the awesome multiplayer content. Considering that there isn't any in the PS2 version, we'll instead talk about the fact that the campaign is a little less than 10 hours, and isn't particularly worth replaying. It also isn't worth the 40 dollars the game costs new. The single-player is fun, but it was more fun when it was attached to the superior PSP game.