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Syphon FilterSyphon Filter: Dark Mirror

by Johnny Bray

The first installment of the Syphon Filter franchise to hit the PSP is an extremely impressive effort. It could, in fact, be the finest game for the system, if only we were into this sort of thing.

Syphon Filter, Splinter Cell, and all those such games appeal only to a specific kind of gamer. We’ll tell you straight up right now that we are not that kind of gamer. There’s far too much sneaking around and finding alternate routes to get past enemies you can’t kill because it would reveal your location and blah, blah, blah. Frankly, they all feel like the same game.

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror gives you control of Gabe Logan, a Precision Strike operative. Whenever there’s a job the government or military can’t handle, they send in Gabe, who operates on his own authority. He uses a series of weapons and techniques that only “special” operatives have access to, but he’s essentially a one-man army.

You’re pit into his latest adventure, as he tries to uncover the “Dark Mirror” project, which is almost certainly a direct threat to global security (fortunately, the characters in the game have read the script, and so know such things). You must, as is typical, sneak around, kill bad guys, find information, and so on and so forth.

The game has all the elements in place. Graphics are gorgeous, with some of the finest looking visuals of any PSP game to date (although Daxter and GTA Liberty City Stories were pretty darn solid). Everything from character detail, to backgrounds, to foregrounds, to animation is exquisite. They’ve even hired some voice talent that sounds genuine, rather than like video game voiceover actors.

Control is also very, very fine indeed. As you’re progressing through the training levels, it seems as though there’s a lot to take in. But if you’re familiar with basic video game controls (and have been playing them for almost your entire life as I have), you find it’s really not so hard. Everything’s pretty straightforward, from switching weapons, to firing, to zooming. Control of the character himself is also nearly flawless; PSP game developers are clearly starting to understand the analog stick mechanics much better than they initially did.

Even the first of the 30+ missions is not easy. This is a game that will keep you busy for hours and hours and hours, not to mention all the fun you can have with the multiplayer. Up to 8 players can play at a time, and we don’t need to tell you it’s much more satisfying killing your friends than stupid computer characters.

The game allows you to not only use fancy weapons of moderate destruction, but several enhancing tools, as well. For example, there are certain things you can’t do (or find) unless you’re wearing a certain type of goggles, be they nightvision, heat vision, or other zany kinds that could only exist in the video game (or movie) world.

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is a glorious achievement, and should single-handedly raise the bar for what the PSP is capable (and expected) of. Graphics, control, gameplay, replay value – it’s all here. It’s just too bad we don’t really like these games that much.

Recommended highly for fans of the series, but non-fans won’t find much to turn them.

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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