It’s hard to describe to someone what makes a game memorable, what makes a franchise last so damn long even after having some less-than-stellar sequels. To be honest with you the Syphon Filter series has certainly seen its ups and downs, from the absolutely stellar first outing to the extremely substandard Omega Strain for the PS2 there is plenty to love and of course loathe about the franchise. Thankfully developer Sony Bend has taken all of this into consideration and done everything in their power to craft a title that will rekindle everyone’s love for the series. What you get is a title that could easily define the PSP as a system, like Halo and Tetris before it, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror could easily be the PSP’s first killer app.
So you may be wondering how ZT could make such a claim. Well for starters the developers have covered every base imaginable and taken great care to ensure that SF: DM took full advantage of everything the PSP has to offer including eight player wireless multi-player online including voice chat. All of you PSP owners out there know that this is not common for most games even though the system supports it most developers simply do not take the time to include it. Sony Bend has also done the impossible by creating a truly 3D title that is easy to work with only having one analog stick to work with. Now if these few reasons alone do not convince you just how damn good this game is, I don’t know what will.
The plot behind Dark Mirror is not going to win any awards for originality, but the way it is presented definitely deserves to. The cut scenes are directed so well that they simply draw you into this world chock full of cliché terrorist stopping antics and women who wear entirely not enough clothing to be walking around the arctic, you know the typical spy movie type of stuff. The voice acting and dialogue is also top caliber which really help you take the game seriously. The cut scenes also use the flashback technique to progress the story along; they are also overlaid with a documentary style camera shaking to really accentuate the overall feel of the story. Basically what this all boils down to is a game that actually makes you care what happens next and really draws you into the world you are fighting around in.
The biggest accomplishment that Sony Bend has made with Dark Mirror though is its accessibility. Crafting a title with so much complexity and making it work so well is a task that is not easily perfect, yet somehow the development team has really done their homework when it comes to making a game fun and deep at the same time. This is evident in the fact that it is a 3D shooter that doesn’t scream for the need of a second analog stick, in fact most players will find comfort in the default controller layout before the training ends, it’s that user friendly. No more wrestling with several layouts before deciding on the one that best suits your needs, however if you do need to tweak them Dark Mirror has plenty of options to make navigating Gabe and company easier than any other PSP title to date.
For those of you who haven’t read our preview let me give you a quick rundown of the fundamentals. Most of your basic functions and moves will be done with the d-pad. For instance holding down right on the pad will bring up your weapons menu which you can then select using one of the four face buttons. Holding left will bring up your different vision modes. Once either one of these are selected you can simply tap left or right to equip them on the fly. You can also reload your weapon by tapping up on the d-pad or by simply emptying a clip and allowing your character to do it automatically. Finally tapping down on the pad causes your character to change positions from prone to standing and vice versa.
As for the basics of maneuvering it’s actually quite simple, it uses a sort of context-sensitive function that makes most actions extremely simple to achieve. For instance if you press up against a wall you can stick to it and even peek around the corner by simply moving to the edge and aiming the left stick in the direction of your desired peek. Things such as zip lines are all manipulated by tapping the X button when in range of them. All of these little touches make the game accessible to anyone and everyone and really eliminate the need for overly complex controls that make you feel more frustration than enjoyment.
All of this is certainly key for the single player portion of the game but you will really learn to love it in the multi-player section. Dark Mirror easily contains the most robust multi-player function of any PSP title to date. It uses both the Ad-Hoc and Infrastucture modes of play for up to eight-person matches. There is also game sharing, which is more to let players try out the title and not for joining in matches unfortunately, but none the less a very cool feature. There are a total of four online modes including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Objective, and Rogue Agent. The first two need no explanation, just know that they are your typical frag fests. The other two are more team and objective based which include anything from stealing items to sneaking into the middle of the base to diffuse a bomb. Needless to say they are a welcome addition and a nice distraction from the typical frag fests of most online shooters. All of the modes run extremely smooth with little to no lag which is quite impressive for a game that supports so much. There are also several Xbox Live-esque features packed into the online including buddy lists, message centers, and even leaderboards where you can check your standings. All of these are welcome additions and we hope to see them implemented into all future PSP titles; however we will not hold our breath.
As for how the game looks I am sure you can already tell by these screenshots this is one fine looking game. The environments are all nicely detailed and each one feels unique giving the game a massive scope. The character models are also very nicely animated for a PSP title, in fact to the untrained eye this game could easily be mistaken for its big brother version. The music is also outstanding thank in most part to Mark Snow who some of you may remember from his work on the hit TV show The X-Files. It is very atmospheric and adds that extra layer of presentation that takes the game above and beyond the norm.
What this all boils down to is simple, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is the reason you bought a PSP. Finally a developer has taken the time to craft a game built specifically for the system and not simply porting from the PS2. The controls are damn near flawless, the visuals are stunning, and the multi-player will have you coming back for months on end. If you only buy one PSP game this year, make sure it contains Gabe Logan and company; I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Highly recommended for all PSP owners.