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Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror: Through the Mirror Darkly...
Company: SCEA

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, the series' first outing on the PSP, takes an approach similar to the first games in the series rather than The Omega Strain.

Instead of trying to make the player feel like they are part of the Syphon Filter universe by focusing on a player-created character, Dark Mirror once again puts players in the role of Gabe Logan, a black ops agent for a US agency that legally doesn?t exist. Gabe?s mission finds him tied up with a paramilitary group known as Red Section who is in possession of a next-generation weapon of mass destruction named Project Dark Mirror.

The demo kicks off with Gabe and fellow operative, Lian Xing, infiltrating a petroleum refinery in Alaska. His first objective is to open up a closed vent before the building pressure causes the entire plant to explode. As always, there is a catch since a sniper just happens to be standing right next to the switch. And, since no one is supposed to know Gabe is there, he has to eliminate him as quietly as possible.

Cool weapons have always been a big part of the Syphon Filter series and Dark Mirror does not disappoint. In the demo alone, I was able to try out at least two different sniper rifles as well as a pistol and other guns I managed to secure from enemies. Adding to the variety of weapons are a number of different ammo types that can be loaded in each gun, such as taser rounds, a nod to a weapon that has become a favorite with series' fans.

Missions return to the more linear style of the first games, though it does blend in a few non-linear elements as well. These namely show up in the form of side missions as well as using different methods to tackle some problems. While the game tries to encourage a more ?stealthy? approach, the demo levels were flexible enough that I could go through in a more run-and-gun fashion. There's no real penalty for either way other than having to face a few more guards if you choose to just shoot everyone. Of course, this may or may not be the case in future levels.

Another area has Gabe covering Lian with his sniper rifle, bringing us to one of the Dark Mirror?s make or break elements -- controls.

It is pretty well known by now that the PSP?s control setup isn?t the best for certain genres, such as FPS's, due to the lack of a second analog nub. Like other games facing this problem, Dark Mirror tries to remedy the solution by using the four face buttons to control the camera (and aiming) while the nub controls movement. This takes some time to adapt to and really doesn't lend itself to quick aiming and fine movements. This is especially troublesome during the sniper mission since you have to protect Lian or the mission is over. Since you're using the face buttons, it is hard to line up shots just right -- especially when the target is moving or there are multiple targets -- so you end up blind firing and hoping you land a hit.

Thankfully, other control schemes are available. One scheme, Advanced, basically flips the analog and face button functions around while Classic places all movement on the analog stick as well as using it to aim when the L1 button is pressed.

Targeting is a little easier when the enemy is right in front of you since you can use an auto-targeting button. The longer you hold the button, the more accurate your shot becomes. The system works well enough, even when you've got your back against the wall, but once or twice it would target the wrong person. Instances like this were rare, though, and hopefully some of the bugs can be worked out before the final release.

The D-pad is used for various functions. Pressing up reloads, down crouches (or stands). Pressing right brings up a weapons' selection screen. All weapons are mapped to the face buttons, making it easy to quickly switch weapons. Pressing left brings up your gadgets, which include IR and Night Vision goggles as well as a type of Electromagnetic goggles that scan for things (locks, wires... anything) and a flashlight. Gadgets are also used in some context-sensitive areas (press up to activate) -- such as an area where you use a zip-line to avoid getting the attention of a soldier with a mounted machine gun.

Based on initial impressions, Dark Mirror looks to be shaping up to be a solid entry for the series. All of the gameplay elements seem to be in place, so it is really up to the controls to determine just how accessible and fun the final game turns out.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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