Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror

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Electronic Theatre ImageThe PSP has been on the UK market for over a year now and, although there have been some flashes of inspiration, there have not been any must have titles. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is still the best-selling PSP game, despite its subsequent port to PlayStation2, which has lead many to think of the PSP as simply a way to play games you already have portably, albeit with a worse Control System. If the PSP wishes to catch the NintendoDS, which currently outsells SONY’s portable in all major regions, it will need its own must-have exclusives. Tekken: Dark Resurrection could be considered a good start, with many agreeing that it is easily the best Handheld 3D One-On-One Beat-‘Em-Up released. With the PSP heavily marketed toward action-hungry teen and twenty-something males, one genre that it should do well in is the Third-Person Action game, however, the omission of a second Analogue Stick has unfortunately crippled the PSP in this regard, with many titles requiring more precise Camera Control. Despite this, the PSP has been chosen as the platform of choice for the newest iteration another trademark PlayStation franchise, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror. Will the Control Scheme be sufficient for a game traditionally placed with a system with upwards of ten buttons?

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is a Third-Person Stealth/Action game in which the player once Electronic Theatre Imageagain steps into the shoes of Gabe Logan, a secret agency type with a penchant for cheesy one liners. Your character’s movement is controlled by the Analogue Nub, while the Camera and aiming is undertaken via the Face Buttons, whilst firing is governed by the R Trigger, similar to the system used in Coded Arms. To help with the inaccuracy of digital controls during run-and-gun style tactics, the L Trigger allows players to Lock-On to enemies. However, both Gabe and his foes can use cover, meaning that most players will find more realistic tactics preferable. The Cover System is almost glitch free, with Gabe able to use almost any flat surface as cover, and animating realistically while firing. Due to the Face Buttons being used for viewing, the D-Pad is used for most other actions. Up on the D-Pad is a context sensitive action button which performs many tasks, including pushing buttons, taking cover and reloading. Left and Right allow the player access to the Visor and Weapon Modes respectively, with the Face Buttons and Triggers confirming the player’s choice. Down is used to crouch. Any other required actions, such as telling allies to take cover etc. are covered by Select. Although the Control System may sound fairly complicated, which it is, it does work very well for the title and after a half an hour’s play, will become almost second nature.

In-fact, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is a lot better than expected on many fronts. Enemy AI is way above average for the PSP, with foes regularly using cover and occasionally throwing grenades to flush the player out of hiding. This, together with the good cover scheme, makes play more strategic and ultimately more engrossing than the in-your-face style of many Electronic Theatre Image Third-Person Shooters, even on the home platforms. The variety of Vision Modes allows for some fairly inventive puzzles and tactics. Alongside Night-Vision are Thermal and EDSU Goggles. Thermal-Vision allows the player to see organic targets through walls whereas the EDSU Goggles allow the player to locate various electronic devices, including laser trip-bombs. Alongside these, Gabe has access to an arsenal of different weapons, with all the usual Action game gun types available. However, it is Gabe’s Sniper Rifle that most gamers will find the most interesting. As well as firing bullets, a variety of darts are available; Gas, EDU and Explosive. Gas darts release clouds of incapacitating vapours to take down groups of enemies silently; EDU electrocutes a single enemy, whereas Explosive, well, explodes. After firing, each dart’s ability is activates by the player, allowing for some inventive tactics.

One of Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror’s finer points is that its story flows more like a polished Action film than simply filler. The game is full of in game Cut-Scenes and FMV’s that flesh-out the story and all are very slick; making the player actually interested in what the outcome will be, as opposed to just finishing chapters to see what the next big weapon is. These interludes, as well as the generous amount of Checkpoints, keep the game going at a good pace throughout.

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is easily one of the best looking titles on the PSP. In fact, the level of detail and animation is above par for most PlayStation2 releases. The in game Cut-Scenes are very nicely done using edgy directorial techniques similar to those heavily used in 24: The Game and the like. Electronic Theatre Image The FMV sequences are also suitably over-the-top, and impressive. There are very few glitches within the game and the presentation of the title overall is inline with that of other AAA First Party releases. In short, this game looks good.

The weakest aspect of Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is probably its sound, but that’s not to say that it is particularly bad, just that it is not quite up to the level of quality present throughout the rest of the product. Although the story is well directed and the Voice-Acting both plentiful and of decent quality, it has to be said that a lot of the dialogue is very corny. However, if you approach the game in the same way as a film featuring the King of Action B Movies, Jean Claude Van Damme, you’ll find the script quite amusing. The music is militaristic in nature and linked to the action very well, further immersing the player in the experience. However, the sound effects, aside from the credible radio chatter, all seem a little tinny, with the guns not sounding anywhere near beefy enough in the games many fire-fights.

Although the Single-Player Story Mode is only around eight-hours long, the longevity of the title is increased significantly through Infrastructure and Ad-Hoc Multi-Player Modes similar to the ever popular SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals, collectibles and a few nostalgic Bonus Missions. Instead of unlocking the usual pointless Electronic Theatre Image Cut-Scenes and sound effects, the collectible Secret Documents actuallydetermine what weapons you can use in Multi-Player, allowing dedicated players to show their superiority though revisiting Missions and finding every last Secret Document.

With its superb graphics, engrossing story, fully-functional Multi-Player and excellent gameplay, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is easily the best game of its ilk on the PSP, and gives Tekken: Dark Resurrection, Infected, Daxter and LocoRoco a good run for best PSP game. In-fact, it’s probably one of the best games in it’s genre to be released in the last year. Admittedly, it is not for everybody, but anybody looking for a portable, adult Action game can stop looking now, because Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is the benchmark for all other PSP Action games to be judged. Electronic Theatre Image

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