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Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror

It's going to be a while before PSP owners see an honest-to-God Metal Gear Solid for their handheld, but a trickle of stealth-action games is already starting to emerge. Arriving March 14 is yet another Syphon Filter, and while the franchise has lost a lot of its luster over the years, this one doesn't look half bad.

A third-person shooter at heart, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror once again stars Gabe Logan, a raspy government superspy who can somehow stay hidden while lugging around a small armory. This time around, Gabe and crew are called in to tackle the Red Section, a terrorist group that's gotten hold of a mysterious superweapon known only as Project: Dark Mirror. Naturally, this involves a lot of sneaking, shooting and snapping of bad-guy necks.

In the demo version we played, Gabe and partner Lian Xing break into a snowy Alaskan oil refinery that's been overrun by terrorists. Players are half-assedly encouraged to stay hidden (it makes stealth kills a lot easier), but it's almost impossible to do so for long. Not that it matters much; Syphon Filter has always been more about creative use of guns and gadgets than stealth, and Dark Mirror is no exception. With that in mind, the game controls like a first-person shooter, using the PSP's analog stick for movement and its face buttons to look around. This takes some getting used to, but an auto-aiming feature saves it from being awkward in a fight.

When the guards inevitably spot him, Gabe can plug them with his silenced pistol, and can use whatever weapons they drop. But the real prize of his arsenal is the MB-150, a sniper rifle that shoots specialized darts as well as bullets. What makes these darts interesting is that they each carry a special charge that can be activated any time after they've been shot; explosive and poison-gas darts can be set as traps for oncoming enemies, for example, while tazer darts deliver a lethal shock to oblivious guards.

But while the guards don't notice being stuck with darts and have a tendency to stand in open doorways during firefights, the ones we fought were usually smart enough to shoot from cover and run away when injured. They usually came right back, sure, but at least they put up a decent fight.

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