Alrighty, some of you may recall from last year (you might have been the ones throwing tomatoes) when myself and others at eToychest picked Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror for the PSP as our game of the year
. That's not the point of this discussion though. What is, is that the game is making it's way to the PS2, and will be released next week.
I have been playing the game for a little while now and figured I'd offer up some impressions just posted up on Another Castle. If you don't have time to wait or read, long story short is that it's still a great game, but it has nothing new to add if you played the PSP original, and has no multiplayer as well (PSP version had a really fun multiplayer mode).
Anyway, on with the long version...
Sony Bendâ€™s Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror was arguably the single best reason to pick up a PSP in 2006. In many ways the game felt out of place on the struggling handheld, offering an uncommon measure of polish and a stylish blend of action and stealth, all of which helped lift the game up as one of the yearâ€™s best titles. So when Sony announced that it would bring Dark Mirror to the PlayStation 2, it seemed like a no brainer, but more than a year after the originalâ€™s debut, and with multiplayer completely removed from the experience, this latest adventure in the line of absurdly titled third-person shooters canâ€™t help but feel a bit dated.
Dark Mirror once again thrusts you into the boots of elite superspy Gabe Logan as he investigates a string of curious attacks on chemical plants by a mysterious para-military group calling itself Red Section. From icy tundras and rural jungle outposts, to even a gun fight in a Russian casino, the game follows an elaborate plot that plays out like your typical spy thriller. Thereâ€™s double crosses, arms dealings, secret weapons development, and even a run in with Gabeâ€™s old flame, but thereâ€™s little here that hasnâ€™t been seen or played a dozen times before. However, as with the PSP original, the narrative is told with such a perfect mix of style and cheese that always manages to be compelling.
While the PSPâ€™s single analog nub interface has spelled the downfall for many games in its library, Dark Mirror was lauded for its innovative controls, which made the best of a less than ideal situation. The controls were not perfect though, and in bringing the game to the home console, Dark Mirrorâ€™s controls have been significantly improved thanks to the addition of a second analog stick and a pair of previously unavailable shoulder buttons. Now instead of using the face buttons to aim, this is accomplished with the extra stick, while the buttons take over the role of switching between the gameâ€™s many available weapons and selection of cool gadgets.
However, as good as the single player game is, multiplayer was one of the gameâ€™s biggest draws for the PSP, or at the very least a chief reason why the game remained spinning in PSPs long after the book closed on the gameâ€™s short seven mission campaign. While it would have been a stretch to expect the same eight player online romps from a console whose online faculties could at best be described as impaired, itâ€™s jarring to not even have so much as a split screen two player mode to fall back on in a pinch.
Also questionable is the fact that the game still refers to its campaign as the Single Player mode, as if multiplayer was at one time considered, and then dropped from the project at the last minute. Without anything else to offer why not call it the â€˜This Is All You Getâ€™ mode or the â€˜Donâ€™t You Wish You Were Playing On The PSPâ€™ mode? Itâ€™s bad enough when ports leap platforms and come to market months later without anything extra to show for the added time in development, but when features are axed without any compensation thrown in to balance things out, things go from sloppy to embarrassing.
In addition, the trip in bringing the game to the PlayStation 2 seems to unearthed a handful of bugs that were not so prevalent in the PSP original. For instance, during one of the gameâ€™s many escort missions I found myself wedged between a wall and a nearby bench, unable to move. Stuck fast between the two objects, I resigned myself to shooting poor Private Janzen just to end the mission. Donâ€™t look at me that way, you would have done the same thing. Another time found Gabe hovering above the ground ala Chris Angel as I tried to change goggles while being lifted up to an upper floor. None of these gaffs are game breaking, but as with the lack of multiplayer and new content, it seems a shame that things like this are a problem for a game that has essentially gone through two development cycles.
Even so, the six or seven hours it takes to see Dark Mirror to conclusion are exhilarating, and there is added incentive to revisit these missions later on in order to perfect your Agency Rating, which nets a number of bonuses including extra missions, weapons, and abilities. This was a high quality game when released for the PSP in 2006, and while Gabe Loganâ€™s latest escapade has lost some of its luster over the last year and a half, it still delivers a weighty techno-thriller with sound presentation and enough spy paraphernalia to choke a government mole. There isnâ€™t anything new here for those players who experienced Dark Mirror already, but for those who missed out, and especially for those without access to a PSP, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is still a worth picking up, if only for a rental.