Next month Sony plans on celebrating the one-year birthday of the PSP with a whole host of brand new games in a number of different genres, including Pursuit Force, a Jak & Daxter spin-off, and this much anticipated portable Syphon Filter. Originally released on the 32-Bit PlayStation, the Syphon Filter series is known for its dark storylines, strong characters, and imaginative use of gadgets. Next month you will be able to fit all that action (as well as a few surprises) into your pocket when Sony releases Dark Mirror, the very first game of the franchise to grace the PSP.
I had an opportunity to sit down with the first few minutes of Dark Mirror and have come back with some mixed feelings. On the positive side the game is gorgeous, featuring well detailed characters and environments. It looks like just about everything fans have enjoyed from other Syphon Filter outings will be retained in this portable game, including the top-secret gadgets, weapons, and goggles (night vision, infrared, and thermal).
But all of this comes at a price, and from my short time with the game I have to report that the bulk of my frustration came from the awkward controls. Last year SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo proved that you could make a solid shooter on the PSP, a system burdened by its lack of a second analog stick. By giving up a little control (and allowing for a much-needed auto-aim button) SOCOM managed to provide a fast and entertaining experience without giving up too much, but the developers behind Syphon Filter have decided to go a much different route.
The control in Syphon Filter is similar to that of Konami's Coded Arms; a first-person shooter that had you using the face buttons (the square, triangle, circle, and x) as if they were the second (right-hand) analog stick. This means that if you're going to aim, you're going to have to do it by using the buttons … which is hardly the ideal set-up for a game of this type. Even after you've gotten used to it this control scheme is just not accurate enough, and led to a number of frustrating situations.
Thankfully gamers won't be forced to use this inadequate (and frustrating) control set-up. If you search the options menu you will locate a number of different control schemes, including one that is almost identical to that found in SOCOM. Instead of always aiming your weapon, with the "classic" set-up you can aim at the touch of a button, leaving you to focus on the story and action. This classic set-up comes with a few quirks (instead of there being a single strafe button, you are required to use two different face buttons to strafe left or right), but it's nice to see Sony addressing this concern.
When you get past the control options you are in store for one heck of an exciting ride. Dark Mirror starts out by explaining that a group called the Red Section has attacked an oil refinery in Alaska, it's your job as Gabe Logan to go in and figure out what is going on and what these evil doers are up to. For obvious reasons Sony has been very hush-hush about the story in Dark Mirror, but if it's anything like the previous adventures you can expect a whole bunch of twists and turns and a lot of exciting, Hollywood-style action sequences. There is no doubt in my mind that if you can get past the control issues you will find a deep and interesting story worth playing to the end.
The game also comes packaged with a lot of variety. Not only are you forced to take down enemy combatants, your job description has you solving puzzles and even playing as multiple characters. Infiltrating the enemy will require you to use all of the gadgets at your disposal, often giving this game a feeling all its own. There is a genuine sense of accomplishment when you can use your toys to help you sneak up on enemies, especially when it involves you looking through walls (and the ceiling) with your thermal vision goggles.
Along with dozens of missions and a couple of different playable characters, Syphon Filter will feature a unique online play that will allow you to live out specific scenes from the game with your friends. Unfortunately I was unable to get a hands-on with this portion of the game, but it's certainly one of the most intriguing aspects of this game.
With tons of weapons, cool looking areas to explore, and plenty of espionage action, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror could prove to be another winning entry in the franchise. Only Sony knows for sure where this game will lead us, but if you're the type of person who loves a good spy game then Dark Mirror might just be the title you've been waiting for. Expect a full review of this PSP Syphon Filter around the time of its release.