Monday 12 June 2006
Let's face it, the last Syphon Filter on PS2 was pretty rubbish. From the off it felt like it was trying to ride on 24's popularity wave, what with picture-in-picture cut-scenes and overly-dramatic plot twists.
But now Dark Mirror is here, and it not only reflects the past greatness of this series but sets a benchmark for all action games on PSP. You'll be amazed at how good Gabe and his buddies feel on Sony's handheld. And how bloody violent it is as well.
While displaying some of the strongest visuals on PSP so far (swirling snow-storms and massively detailed landscapes for example) Dark Mirror's controls cause the minimum of fuss. Although every button has one or more functions it never feels anything less than fluid, which is handy when hurriedly taking out the hundreds of Red Section terrorists hunting you down.
There's no greater feeling than facing off in a gun battle while pressed flat against some bullet-shielding cover, taking aim using X, square, triangle or circle and then capping troop after troop with headshots. You even get to perform some stealth and environmental kills - like kicking someone in front of a train - to keep the momentum up. It all feels satisfyingly physical.
However, there was one strange moment when we snapped a bloke's neck like a wafer and rather than screaming, he asked us to pass him a wrench. Odd choice of last words, eh? Plus Gabe's packing his awesome EDD - or high-voltage tazer - which can toast even the toughest of nuts.
So what's all the maiming actually in aid of, then? Typical stuff, really - rebel cell create chemical weapon, hold world to ransom, dodgy government send in spec-ops to attempt cover up. There's even a love interest and whining little girl crowbarred in too.
Yes, the plot is weak like Grandma, but there are a few nice bits along the way. Like working in tandem with Lian (who you control now and again) to inch your way through enemy-occupied areas.
You're required to help out other people along the way, too, including a factory worker who'll open security doors in return for your assistance. There's also a young UN troop who you guide across pits of radiation in the dark with your torch. It's all carefully orchestrated and helps pad out a forgettable storyline.
As well as creeping through murky shafts with your flashlight, you've a set of Sam Fisher-style goggles to help you out - but while you've got the standard issue night-vision and infra-red modes, you're also equipped with EDSU filters which can pick out electronic devices that aren't initially visible. This is key when stepping through areas packed with landmines - one quick shot from distance will sort them out.
Above: It's simple to target an enemy, but they'll dive and roll to dodge your bullets
It's good to have these accessories and at one time or another you'll need them, but Dark Mirror lets you attack missions and enemy grunts in a way which suits your style. And because of this, it's fun to play.
You won't find too many original ideas here, but the whole package plays out brilliantly. But just as the ever changing action hits its peak - like battling specially armoured soldiers, or the unexpected tank attack - you're hit by a massive increase in difficulty.
More troops with harder armour is fine, but it's no fun being shot to pieces over and over again. Still, it's by far one of the most entertaining action games we've played - and that includes most things on PS2. After GTA, Syphon Filter is definitely the action game to own on PSP.