Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow review

  • Surprisingly smart enemies
  • Outstanding production values
  • Nicely varied gameplay
  • Repetitive gunfights
  • Short, easy boss battles
  • Eyestrain from Gabe's colored goggles

After stumbling through a few mediocre sequels and nearly disappearing altogether, the Syphon Filter series came roaring back to life on the PSP with 2006's Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror. Dark Mirror reworked the aging spy series into a kickass, gadget-heavy stealth-shooter, and its sequel - titled Logan's Shadow - keeps the same taut pace while adding a ton of cool bells and whistles to what was already one of the PSP's best action games. The story is darker, the action is more varied and the production values are through the roof - but at its core, it's all about superspy Gabe Logan skulking around in the dark and finding awesome new ways to kill terrorists.

As always, you'll make your way through the game as Gabe, a gravel-voiced black-ops spook who stalks terrorists for a living. Picking up where Dark Mirror left off, Logan's Shadow sends its hero to exotic locales like Azerbaijan, Iraq and the bottom of the Atlantic  Ocean, all to follow the trail of his missing (and possibly traitorous) partner, Lian Xing, who's had his back ever since the first game. She may also be connected to the theft of a world-threatening superweapon, which means Gabe's path will be obstructed by an Islamic terrorist group, ex-Soviet thugs and one doggedly persistent Chinese agent who always seems to be lurking one step ahead.

Luckily for Gabe, he's well-equipped for a scrap. The game keeps your available arsenal relatively simple - you'll be able to carry a pistol, an assault rifle, grenades and a submachine gun. Anything enemies drop is fair game, but it'll replace whatever you're currently holding. You'll also have, at all times, a special sniper rifle that - in addition to shooting small, silenced bullets - comes loaded with three different kinds of darts that carry deadly payloads, which you can detonate remotely after shooting them into your unsuspecting target. The first two can unleash a small explosion or a cloud of nerve gas, both of which will take out any nearby enemies in addition to the one you shot, and the third delivers a powerful electric shock that'll drop even the toughest enemies quickly.

Even without his guns, Gabe's no slouch - if you're sneaky enough, you can creep up behind an enemy and either knock them out or grapple with them, with the latter choice initiating one of the Simon Says button-pressing sequences that are so popular these days. Pull it off successfully, and your former enemy is now your human shield. Alternately, you can just slit his throat with Gabe's knife, or shock him at close range with Gabe's taser until he starts to smoke. (Apparently, the game's T rating makes bursting into flames a no-go, although you can mash your enemies' faces into hot stoves if you're close enough for an environmental kill. Huh.)

Of course, this being a shooter, you don't always have to sneak around in the shadows, methodically and silently killing your enemies one by one. Gabe's tough enough to pull off the run-in-guns-blazing approach, but only for so long; clearing the room of weaker enemies is easy enough, but once they start donning flak jackets, bulletproof helmets and nigh-impenetrable "static armor," you'll have to get a little more creative (or at least a little more cowardly) if you want to survive.

A far better way to tackle gunfights is to sidle up against cover - any wall or crate will do - don Gabe's thermal goggles to get a bead on exactly where the bad guys are, and take them out with carefully aimed, silenced headshots (or just a barrage of assault-rifle fire, if you're in a hurry). You'll be able to aim from behind cover and pop out for a quick shot, but if even that's too much exposure, Gabe can now blind-fire around corners, occasionally even hitting things while doing so.

The controls - which use the face buttons for moving the camera and aiming - are surprisingly comfortable and precise, once you get used to them. If you don't have the patience, however, you can trade the over-the-shoulder, Resident Evil 4-style zoom-in targeting for automatic lock-on, which - while being a lot less precise - at least ensures that your gun always stays pointed at the right guy.

The problem with the stealthy approach is that it almost makes things too easy; keep it up, and each gunfight will follow the same predictable pattern of spot enemy, hide from enemy, aim at enemy, drop enemy with a taser dart, repeat. It gets even easier if you become over-reliant on Gabe's special goggles, which can (among other things) highlight every secret item, trap, weapons cache or interactive object in sight, or - as we mentioned above - give you a bright, thermal view of your enemies that makes them easy targets. Granted, all of this is still fun, but it can wear on you.

Fortunately, Gabe's varied arsenal and short supply of silenced ammo encourages you to mix it up with noisy gunfights against hordes of alerted guards. You'll eventually be able to rip it up with rapid-fire shotguns, ultra-high-tech assault rifles and submachineguns that fire fast enough to shred bulletproof armor in seconds. It also helps that your enemies are actually pretty sharp, especially in later levels; plenty of them still run out into the open and start shooting, just begging you to cap them, but most will duck behind cover if it's available, and some will even try to outflank you when you're hiding from them.

Also, duck-and-cover gunfights aren't the only thing you'll do in each level, and you'll frequently be tasked with stuff like sinking small ships, escorting a tank through a desert and ordering it to shoot things for you, or using the aforementioned Simon Says sequences to solve simple puzzles. You'll also be able to swim, which is fun, although apart from one fantastic undersea stage - in which you'll worm your way into a sunken ship and fight through its semi-flooded interior - you won't be spending too much time in the drink.

The only really lamentable thing about the game is its approach to boss fights, which all seem to be over way too quickly. Sure, a boss might have a certain gimmick that you'll need to overcome, like extra armor or a fuel tank that needs to be blown up before you can hurt him, but once you get a clear shot at the dude's face, he'll be about as quick to die as anybody else. And after the tough-as-nails boss fights of Dark Mirror, that's disappointing.

In addition to its globe-trotting, death-filled, grittier-than-ever storyline, Logan's Shadow offers up some replayability for the dedicated with a Mission mode, which enables you to revisit missions you've already completed to find things you might have missed, and to unlock new side missions. More interestingly, it packs in a kickass, online-enabled multiplayer mode for up to eight players to tear through, with seven big maps and five different game types (deathmatch, team deathmatch, Retrieval, Rogue Agent and Sabotage) to keep things interesting.

While it doesn't make many drastic changes to Dark Mirror's formula, Logan's Shadow didn't really have to. Sure, the gunfights are a little repetitive, and the top-notch third-person-shooter gameplay is a little less impressive now, given that it hasn't changed much since early 2006. The important thing is that Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow is hands-down one of the best action games on the PSP, and if you're any kind of shooter or stealth fan, you won't be disappointed.

More Info

Release date: Oct 02 2007 - PSP (US)
Available Platforms: PSP
Genre: Action
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: Sony Bend
Franchise: Syphon Filter
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Language, Violence
PEGI Rating:
16+: Violence, Bad Language


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