Syphon Filter – Dark Mirror
Developer: SCEI
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
Words By:

The original Syphon Filter on the Playstation was Sony’s attempt to recreate the success of Konami’s excellent Metal Gear Solid but with twice the action involved. Whilst it never reached the dizzy heights of Hideo Kojima’s creation, it did have a certain B-movie charm. A Van Damme flick if you will - less brains and more brawn.

A trio of half-decent sequels followed on the PSone along with a disastrous PS2 outing, and to be honest I, like many I suspect had considered the cheesy franchise dead and buried. It was with more then a little surprise that Sony announced Dark Mirror for the PSP last year, which managed to work unexpectedly well and gain both critical and commercial acclaim. Never one to miss an opportunity to milk the game some more, it has duly been ported to the PS2.

Upon booting up the game I had an idea as to how the game would play with fond memories of the earlier games - which incidentally can be downloaded from the Playstation Network if you’re feeling nostalgic. Important things out of the way first, the game's hero Gabe no longer runs like he’s constipated, which for those who remember, was one of the originals laughable charms, but this animation has now gone along with his extremely fast delivery of dialogue. I miss them but maybe that’s just me.

From the main menu you’re given the option to tackle three training missions which teach you the basic controls and combat functions before getting into the main story mode. As such a gadget-heavy game it’s probably wise to stick it out here first to learn how each bit of your kit works. Standard issue for Gabe includes all the handguns, sniper rifles you could want complete with knockout gas, electric and standard rounds. Your goggles give you access to thermal and night vision modes allowing you to spot enemies and more importantly lots of hidden locks and switches. It can be a little fiddly switching between weapons and gadgets and considering the PS2 has a second analogue stick it does feel like the developers haven’t mad proper use of the controller.

The plot is standard bargain bin affair with Gabe and co being expected to save the world from the shady “Red Section” and their mysterious weapon. So nothing surprising when it comes to story then but let’s be honest, would you want a deep and involving storyline in a Syphon Filter game?

Gameplay consists of basic puzzles, switch pulling and shootouts - lots of shootouts. Thanks to the incredibly stupid AI you’ll find taking out the enemy incredibly easy – and FYI I played the game on the normal difficulty setting. I lost count of the times I just wandered out into the open and watched the cannon fodder stand directly in front of me only for me to line up a head shot and take them down without so little as a defensive shot or attack. There is the option to hide behind cover and fire pop shots, a feature that you may need to take advantage of later on in the game, but you’ll rarely break a sweat.

The first ‘boss’ type character I encountered for instance looked the part with a flame thrower in his hand and for a couple of seconds I did think to myself “I could be in trouble here”. An overly helpful radio transmission confirmed I wouldn’t be able to take him down with a body or head shot (Kevlar armour perhaps?) so I reasoned it must be something to do with the bright red gas canister on his back. One shot, yes one shot from my pistol to the gas tank and the guy was barbecued in 5 seconds or less. Like I say, ridiculously easy.

There are a few occasions when you’ll need to provide cover for your team and even though these sections have been done countless times before (and better) in other games, you’ll still get a buzz out of taking out that last enemy with your sniper rifle - a small victory for Gabe then.

Unfortunately despite retaining much of the PSP game, for some inexplicable reason the online multi-player has been completely cut for its big brother’s release. Granted not many people did get on the old Playstation Network with their PS2 but there could’ve been an option for the loyal few. Given the action-orientated gameplay surely a multiplayer mode should be a given?

As with the Grand Theft Auto Stories games and other PSP ports, what looks fantastic on a handheld these days doesn’t look so great when blown up onto a HDTV. The visuals are blocky, often glitchy and rather bland, but on the plus side the frame rate is relatively consistent - just don’t expect any HDR lighting or fancy effects. The music is adequate but nothing special but the voice acting fits in with the plot – the dialogue is incredibly cheesy and full of one-liners that’d wouldn’t be out of place in an ’80s Arnie flick. Entertaining though.

As a full price PS2 title Dark Mirror will struggle but as a budget purchase or rental you might get something from it. The PS2 has had something of a renaissance towards the end of its shelf life with games like Okami, God of War and Shadow of Colossus showing what can be done with the aging hardware, and whilst this game is almost certainly going to sell more then a couple of copies at retail I can’t help feeling it’s a missed opportunity. A visual lick of paint and the inclusion of online multiplayer could’ve lifted the game from being merely mediocre.

Best Bits

- Gadgets aplenty
- Simple pick up and play gameplay
- Laughably cheesy one-liners
Worst Bits

- Graphically lacking
- No multi-player
- Feels dated
- Levels are too short – designed with the PSP not PS2 in mind

by: Pedro

Copyright © Gamecell 2007