The first portable Syphon Filter is of a rare breed for the PSP--a shooter that offers not only intense stealth and action sequences, but also controls that work.
- Awesome presentation, with a generous amount of voice acting and cutscenes
- Varied and intense campaign
- Smooth, well-designed control scheme
- Lots of cool gadgets and guns
- Eight-player online multiplayer.
- Campaign is fairly short
- Guns sound like weak toys.
The original Syphon Filter for the PlayStation made quite a splash with its blend of third-person stealth and shooting action. Unfortunately, subsequent games in the series failed to live up to the promise of the original game, with the most recent version on the PlayStation 2 being especially disappointing. That's why it came as a pleasant surprise that the newest version of the game, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror for the PSP, turned out as well as it did.
In Dark Mirror, you'll reprise the role of superspy Gabe Logan as you investigate the mysterious attacks on chemical plants by a terrorist organization. The adventure starts off at a base in the chilly tundra of Alaska, but as the convoluted plot unravels, you'll discover the usual fare you'd expect from a techno-thriller. There's secret-weapons development based off genetic-engineering experiments, double-crossing, and even a visit with an old flame of Gabe's. The story isn't all that great, but the way in which the game presents it is simply amazing for the PSP.
Throughout the game's seven-mission campaign, there's a near-constant stream of speech as Gabe coordinates his operations with his partner, Lian Xing, and handler, Teresa, back at the base. There are also a ton of in-engine cutscenes, complete with lip-synched characters, which help move the plot along and point you toward your next objective. The writing in Dark Mirror does get hackneyed at times, but it's in a cheesy, Arnold Schwarzenegger-movie way that's liable to amuse you rather than irritate you--"I'll see you in hell, Gabe!" "Not if I see you first!" No matter how you feel about the story, you can't help but feel impressed with the way it's presented in the game--the production values in Dark Mirror are greater than that of most PS2 or Xbox action games. In other words, this is the kind of thorough treatment you'd expect from something like Grand Theft Auto.
Dark Mirror isn't all about the movie-like presentation, though. As a superspy, Gabe's got quite a variety of moves, weapons, and gadgets at his disposal, and you'll use all of his tricks as you make your way through the game's campaign. Since the game combines stealth and action, you've got a useful radar display that you can use to help you get the jump on enemies. There's also an array of different vision modes, including low-light night vision, thermal imaging for finding bad guys, and another special, "EDSU" mode that you can use to help you find switches and other interactive objects in the environment. It's also great for showing you dangers, such as laser trip mines.
The sneaking and shooting is enhanced by Gabe's ability to stick his back up against the wall and peek discreetly around corners and over low walls. From here, Syphon Filter takes a page from such games as kill.switch by giving you the ability to aim around the corner while under cover and immediately pop out to shoot. Aiming is done with the four face buttons, while moving is done with the analog stick. This gives you the ability to quickly squeeze off a shot or a burst and immediately pop back under cover. Nothing's quite as satisfying as swinging around a corner and nailing an enemy in the head for an instant, silent kill.
While the moving and aiming scheme sounds pretty standard, the control is not as awkward in Syphon Filter as it is in most other shooter games on the PSP. Scoped weapons can be zoomed in by holding the left shoulder button. If your weapon doesn't have a scope, you can lock on to any enemy in view by holding down the left shoulder button. The available lock-on gives you a nice compromise between precision and speed as you play the game. The controls aren't perfect, though, as you'll still feel flustered at times when the aggressive artificial intelligence charges you and you flail about trying to attack them at point-blank range. There are also times when we struggled to get Gabe to stick to a wall. But this is still easily the best control scheme for a shooter we've ever experienced on the PSP, besting even SOCOM in that aspect.