Scheduled release date:
March 2006


To see the game in motion, click here.

One of the six first-party games due out from Sony this quarter is Syphon
Filter: Dark Mirror. Developed by the team that normally handles Syphon Filter
games, Sony promises the game will be "an immersive single-player experience
that also delivers an evolving online multiplayer experience." I recently had
the opportunity to check out a few levels of that game. It's looking promising
and visuals are impressive, but from my time with Dark Mirror it doesn't feel
like it's going to break any new ground in the stealth-action genre.

As usual, you'll play the role of Gabe Logan, a highly-trained Precision Strike
Operative, commanding a black box United States Agency that legally doesn't
exist. Gabe finds himself dealing with a beautiful woman from his past who
harbors a shocking secret while he battles the Red Section, a para-military
group in possession of Project Dark Mirror, a next-generation weapon of mass
destruction.

The demo starts out in Alaska, where Gabe is called in to execute a surgical
strike on a para-military group named Red Section, who has taken hold of an oil
refinery. A lengthy cut-scene shows Gabe's arrival and initial contact with
enemy forces, and the first level starts when Gabe reaches the refinery. Someone
has shut off a valve, causing pressure to in a tower to build to dangerous
levels. Of course it's your job to get there before it blows. Since the bad guys
know you're coming, it's only a matter of seconds before you're in the middle of
a shootout. The controls are tricky at first, but if you've spent any time with
a PSP First-Person Shooter, you'll be familiar with the basics (even though this
is a 3rd person affair). You maneuver Gabe around via the analog stick, and look
around with the face buttons. Aiming is done automatically by holding down the
left shoulder button, or you can do it manually by holding the left shoulder
button and hitting triangle to aim up, X to aim down, square to aim left, and
circle to aim right. When using the auto-aim feature, a red circle appears
around the enemy, and it grows smaller the longer you focus on that particular
person. This shrinking reticule represents your aim getting better, so it's
imperative to wait a second or two before firing, or else you'll just be wasting
bullets. At your disposal are a silenced pistol, two sniper rifles, and an SMG.
Also in Gabe's arsenal are a zip line, stung gun, night vision, infrared
goggles, and even a sensing device that detects hidden devices. These are
accessible by pressing left on the d-pad. If you hold it down you'll equip the
last item you used, and if you tap it, you'll bring up a menu that allows you to
select from your entire inventory.

The first level is pretty basic – you take out a few bad guys, climb a tower and
then use your sniper rifle to provide cover for your partner Lian, who is
setting up a zip line to help you escape from the tower. The second level begins
with you searching for a computer that will re-start the elevators, which of
course the terrorists have locked. Again, it's pretty standard spy fare to this
point. You'll have to search for a keycard, man a turret, and use your goggles
to trace an override switch. Some of the more advanced controls are put on
display here as Gabe will shimmy across a pipe, fire while using the zip line,
and use objects as cover. The level ends with a confrontation with a boss
character armed with a flamethrower. I got lucky with a headshot, so he wasn't
too tough – after I learned the hard way that Gabe is in fact, flammable.

I was unable to try it out, but the game will feature several different kinds of
multiplayer. There are nine unique online maps using both Ad Hoc and
Infrastructure connectivity, and four types of gameplay modes in multiplayer.

Now that developers have been able to put some time into their PSP
development, their games are really starting to look nice, and Syphon Filter is
no exception. Gabe's character model looks and moves realistically, and he's got
a ton of moves in his arsenal. The levels are large and feature an impressive
amount of detail. There are plenty of little touches present that one may not
expect to see on a PSP game, like falling snow, rich smoke effects, and large
explosions. The framerate was solid and the camera wasn't bad at all – a major
feat indeed.

At this point, Syphon Filter's audio isn't very impressive. The voice acting
is, at best average. The actors sound like they're just going through the
motions collecting a paycheck. For some reason, Sony has added profanity into
the mix, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It didn't add to the game;
rather it stuck out like a sore thumb. Sony seems to be pushing the series in
the direction of the Splinter Cell franchise, but throwing in foul language for
no reason isn't going to make that happen.

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is scheduled to be released in early March, and at
this point it's shaping up quite nicely. The gameplay was entertaining, the
visuals were very nice, and the multiplayer modes sound intriguing. It's
doubtful the game's going to break any new ground, but it's certainly shaping up
to be more enjoyable than the last Syphon Filter game on the PS2.

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