previews\ Jan 19, 2006 at 7:00 pm

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror - PSP - Preview

Introduced first on the original PlayStation, Syphon Filter developed enough of a loyal following that another two PSOne sequels were released as well as a most recent addition to the series on the PS2 called Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain. As a fan of the original, it came as a delightful surprise that another game in the series, is heading for the PSP. Having had a chance to play through the first lengthy level of the single-player mode, I can say with all honesty that Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror for the PSP is already looking like a good action game and quite possibly one of the best chapter in the Syphon Filter series.

Before there was company man Sam Fisher there was Precision Strike Commander Gabe Logan. While both men are sent on secret missions that aren’t recognized by the government, Logan isn’t often a lone wolf thanks to his assembled team and partner Lian Xing. In Dark Mirror, Logan and his team are once again ordered by Washington to investigate a terrorist group’s attack on the KenSynch Petroleum refinery in Alaska. It seems a terrorist cell known as the Red Sector have some dastardly plans yet to be revealed to the world but you can bet that Logan and his team will be ready to stop them.


Starting off with an impressive opening cutscene, Logan finds himself in the refinery armed with the usual Syphon Filter weapons and gadget kit. His arsenal, straight off the bat, consists of a Mark 25 SD handgun with silencer, a combat issue K-Bar knife and a MB-150 sniper rifle with three specialized bullet types (tazer dart, poison gas dart and an explosive). His gadgets range from a flashlight to three different goggles (night vision, infrared and an EDSU goggles that detects hidden devices) just to name of the useful items you’ll use throughout the game. And since the demo immediately pits you against armed terrorists as well as an enemy sniper, you’ll be glad Logan has come well-armed.

Logan’s actions seem to mimic those of the early Syphon Filter games with a bit of Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid tossed in for good measure (stealth kills and peeking around corners while pressed against a wall much like Fisher and Solid Snake does). Logan can also line up a shot while maintaining his cover. The good news is that the game’s default controls, even in this demo, are actually not bad at all. Multiple control layouts are promised but the default controls feel right at home on the PSP. The Left trigger button is for manual aiming while the Right trigger is for firing your weapon. The analog stick moves your character while the directional pad is used to select gadgets, switch guns, crouch or zoom a scoped weapon. You can even issue commands to NPC characters but we will get into that in a minute.

With a more than decent control scheme, the demo makes it clear that action is what this game is all about and you’ll go up against armed terrorists that have the sense to take cover when you’re firing at them. While I’ve encounter one or two bad guys that did run out blindly to their deaths, the majority of the bad guys are showing plenty of brains. Sony promises to adjust the enemy skill levels as well as the targeting lock so the action promised to be even better balanced and that good news considering the action in the demo runs quite smoothly already.

The first mission has two parts with their own mission objectives. In the first part you are tasked with taking out the enemy sniper who also happens to be Red Sector’s Squad Commander as well as open the distillation column valve that is threatening to blow. Using your sniper rifle, you can take out the Squad Commander and then make your way to the valve by fighting your way up a series of platforms. The second part of the mission (titled “Red Jack”) has you picking up your sniper rifle and picking off enemies as your fellow agent Xing makes her way to an opposite platform. Using the Select button you can issue commands to NPC characters and here you use it to tell Xing that all is clear and that she’s safe to move.


The demo also offers you a preview of the type of puzzles you’ll face in the game. The puzzles in the first level have you using your EDSU goggles to spot a hidden switch and a nearly invisible lock. You’ll encounter familiar Syphon Filter items such as med kits, crates with armor and you can always pick up your dead enemy’s weapons. There are even times when Logan performs stealth kills. You’ll also have a map that pinpoints your main mission objective as well as any nearby enemies. At the end of the demo you’ll go up against the level boss named Red Jack who, much like the first boss in the first Syphon Filter game, uses a powerful flamethrower.

Another aspect of the game that is already looking good is the game’s visuals. On the PSP, the in-game graphics look sharp with character models that look wonderfully detailed. Even the game’s visual effects, like a tanker exploding during a gunfight look particularly spectacular. While there are some clipping problems and the rag-doll effect can lead to some exaggerated deaths (one enemy I shot with a pistol flew up in the air as if I had shot a rocket at him), these are just a few issues that will hopefully be fine-tuned when the game finally ships.

While this was a demo for the single-player mode, Sony promises a multiplayer mode that utilizes both Ad-Hoc mode (for up to 6 players) and Infrastructure mode (for up to 8 players) online mode with four multiplayer gameplay modes (DeathMatch, Team DeathMatch, Objective and Rogue Agent). In the end, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is already shaping out to be an action-packed PSP game and a great addition to the Syphon Filter series.

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is scheduled to be released on March 1, 2006.

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